Two things happened on Saturday that turned me into a riled-up Mama Bear. First, I learned of the thousands of white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville and the heartbreaking tragedies that resulted. Second, I learned that my son’s car broke down as he and his husband traveled across country. My fear for their safety far outweighed my concern for their financial burden and inconvenience. I had to distract myself from the unbearable thought that someone would attack them- simply for being who they are.
Along with our four children, Jim and I have loved and “adopted” many other young people over the years. On Sunday, this Mama Bear cried tears of frustrated anger for all of our precious ones- young people of different races, faiths, cultures, orientations, and genders. I cried for the way many of them bravely and compassionately stand up for justice and equality, even as they put themselves in danger. I cried for all the ways my heart hurts and worries about them in this world of judgment, discrimination and hatred. I cried tears of anger that our country is regressing and dividing, instead of progressing and growing in unity.
Fierce and defensive Mama Bear had taken over my gentle and contemplative soul. I looked at the photos of the men carrying hate-filled banners, yelling racist slurs, beating people, and then one man driving his car into the crowd. My heart breaking, I knew with certainty this one thing: I hate them. I hate ALL of those white supremacists.
And so I’m no better than they are.
When I begin seeing individuals as a group, when I forget they are all people loved by God, when I disregard their names and personal stories- I become one of them. When I label them as vicious, racist, bigoted people- I am as judgmental as they are. When I don’t stop to learn why they feel compelled to be part of this group, I am as one-sided as they might be. When I justify myself by saying that surely Jesus is sad and dismayed by this group, I’m forgetting that Jesus is also sad and dismayed with ME. I am part of the problem.
As a follower of Jesus, I AM called to stand up to injustice, to protect the freedoms of everyone, and to help the oppressed. But I am called to first examine how my life is contributing to these problems (even by my silence).
I AM called to try to transform hearts one at a time into loving vessels. But I am called to do this with my own transformed, loving heart.
I AM called to stand firmly against policies, attitudes and behaviors that hinder or harm others. But I am called to stand firmly with the strength of a loving and peaceful countenance.
I AM called to defend other lives. But I am called to freely and lovingly give my own life away.
Jim and I went with our daughter to a candlelight vigil for Charlottesville last Sunday night. At one point we were invited to greet one another with the words, “You are loved.” Tears and hugs flowed freely. As I held my candle, I said a silent prayer that this love would become more visible, beginning with me. I prayed that God would transform this Mama Bear into a courageous Mom. A human woman who works for healing and justice, carrying only a banner of light and love.