“Show me how to do that.”
“Can I try?”
Those are some of my favorite words out of a kid’s mouth. Little guys want to do everything (especially crack eggs into the cake batter…God help us.) Yet as the years pass, the requests lessen and become more selective. Bigger kids get smarter and have a better track record at dissecting the fun things from the mundane things–begging to learn how to drive or use the band saw, while showing mildly less interest in learning how to iron a crisp shirt or sort the lights from the darks.
So when I got this blog prompt about “What is God teaching you,” I had to admit, I felt a little like a teenager. There are some things that are simply more fun to learn than others. And there are things that feel too uncomfortable to be taught. Or, better said, to actually do anything about.
Kinda like what the last few weeks in America have felt like.
What am I supposed to learn from this eruption of fear and hatred and division?
“Teach me!” I asked.
And, God sent me back to a simple verse that has always resonated with me.
“What does the Lord require of you? Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.” Micah 6:8
Do. Love. Walk.
This has always been one of my favorite verses. It’s so succinct. So clear. And I’ve always appreciated how love is nestled there in between “do” and “walk.” In this verse love gets legs. It’s active. It’s verbish. And I think that’s what God has been telling me in light of everything that has been happening in the nation and around the world.
“Sweetheart, I want to help you figure out how to Do the Love Walk better.”
So this is what I’m wrestling with. How to fight for justice when I’m lazy and content in my educated white privilege. How to shell out mercy for those who pick up guns and turn them on others because they harbor fear and hate, or haven’t been loved, counseled or held. How to walk humbly into the world, raw, questioning, willing to be absolutely without answers and gently and non-judgmentally ask for people’s stories.
And even though I hate this particular story, it’s the one that comes back to me in moments like these. Moments in which I’m reminded that I need to “do my love walk” better.
This story is from ½ a lifetime ago. But I still get a knot in my chest when I remember it.
I was a 22 year old girl attempting to navigate the freeways of Southern California after learning on the back roads of north Georgia. And a friend had asked me to pick them up at the airport.
If you live here you know, LAX is one of the most terrifying places on the planet even before the threat of terrorism. There are cars and people and buses and taxis everywhere, and then more show up. I had a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel, heart rate around 206, attempting to rationally follow signs that were guiding me through the center of the airport to reach Terminal 6 in order to avoid going around the whole loop.
I found myself stopped at a stop sign at what I thought was a one way street. And I looked the one way I thought traffic was coming. There was none so I proceeded to cross the street.
The sound was deafening, the pull against my seatbelt harsh. And when I looked up I saw a green cab with both driver’s side doors completely concave and the front bumper of my 1989 Ford Probe dangling like a loose tooth right outside my window.
I was able to hobble out of traffic and sit there, in the light March mist, working to recover my breath and my heart which seemed to no longer be inside of me, but rather hovering in an intangible place called pre-accident land.
The taxi driver appeared to be uninjured, and he emerged from his car slowly to run his fingers over the ridges and grooves that held fragments of blue paint amidst the bright green of his devastated cab.
He had olive skin and deep dark eyes. I think he might have been from the Middle East. But I am not certain of much except for the fact that he spoke very minimal English. Really, no English.
As we were attempting to exchange insurance information, a police officer arrived.
(Please know, I have no idea what this police officer was thinking, and I don’t blame him for what happened. He might tell this story from a very different perspective. But I am telling this story because of how I have been convicted. Because of how I interpreted events. And because I don’t want to do the same thing again.)
The officer was kind to a very clearly shaken me, and after gathering both of our stories he came back over to my car and said, “The roads were pretty slick, weren’t they ‘mam?” I simply nodded my head.
And that was that. It was considered a no-fault accident. Because the roads were slick with the misting rain.
For the last 22 years I have asked myself the question: Would that have been the course of action if the guy I had hit was an English speaking business man in a sporty BMW? And I will never know. But what I do know is that I felt slimy. I felt relieved and slimy all at the same time. I accepted the “mercy” without hesitation, and I didn’t “do justly.”
Because doing justice is sometimes uncomfortable. It means not nodding when the officer says, “The road was slippery” when you know good and well that you failed to look in the direction of traffic because you thought it was a one way street. It means telling the truth and saying, “Well, sir, the road was a bit wet, that’s true, but I also failed to scan the intersection appropriately. I’m fairly certain that I AM IN THE WRONG HERE.”
Why is it so hard to say that? Why could I walk away from that encounter loving the mercy that I received without fighting for the justice that had slipped away into the nebula? Did I consider the family of the man who was attempting to live in a foreign country learning a foreign language, who had just been sideswiped out of the blue? Whose source of income was demolished? Because…and this is still hard for me to say, but I believe at my core that this is why it happened….because I am white.
And if that doesn’t bother me. Well then, Susan, I don’t even want to know you.
I don’t have answers for the problem of racism. But I do have Jesus and he knows a lot about being treated unjustly. And he has a lot of great advice about how to Do my Love Walk better. The story of the Good Samaritan being a primer of sorts. I could continue to pull up my robe and walk on the other side of the street, or I could get down on my knees and bind up the broken.
I was in tears when I listened to Dallas Police Chief David Brown give his answer to the great dilemma before us. He was speaking to young black men, but he could have been speaking to every one of us when he said, “Become a part of the solution. Serve your communities.”
If I’m going to Do this Love Walk better, then I have to serve my community. I can’t just bemoan the problem of fear, hatred and division with my hands thrown up in the air. So I’ve decided to take some solid action steps.
I have been finger printed and background checked so that my husband and I can be mentors to a family in the foster system–a sweet young man and his “arms-wide-open” aunt who has cared for him for years. I will play with him. Laugh with him. Remind him that he is valuable no matter what the world might say.
I will continue to value, tears-running-down-my-face, desperately value, the marginalized and disabled children of the world and will never stop working to assure that the special needs kids in my life and at my church are seen, valued, respected and most of all absolutely ADORED exactly as they are.
I am also going to get trained as a first responder. I am doing FEMA courses and will be taking a 14 hour class in October so that I can respond as a chaplain in an emergency situation. I can’t just show up after a tragedy and say “I’m a therapist. I work with trauma. I can help.” I need to have credentials to be viable and usable in the field. And I want to be viable and usable.
And finally, I vow, that in any situation in which my whiteness finds me a back door escape route out of a situation that is not mine to escape from. I will turn back around in humility, speak up LOUDLY for justice, and seek not only mercy for my own soul, but grace for the world.
I am blogging with dear friends who teach me so much every single day! To read more about what Megan is learning click here!