This week, I sat at the feet of my leadership minor students and watched them give presentations on the historical changes of South African Apartheid, Women’s Suffrage, Interracial Marriage, and the Cold War. To say I was moved is an understatement. All of these movements changed the world and there were people who fought and died without even seeing a result. The students demonstrated justice in telling their stories.
At the end of the presentations, my heart was beating like a drum as I looked out on their faces, “I just want to say thank you for the hard work you did on these topics. And I want you to realize that more than any other class, your topics speak to issues we are STILL facing today.” A lump caught in my throat. “You see, my husband works for World Vision.” Their faces turned from relief of turning in their research papers to looks of pity, awe, and confusion. Tears formed in my eyes. Some knew what happened this week, others didn’t, but regardless, my message didn’t change.
“This week is an example where there are no winners and poor leadership still exists. This is why I believe in this class full of leaders more than ever. Maybe you are not called to change the world, but the idea of radical love – of pushing into complexity and seeking to understand each other is more important than ever. People say things, especially in internet comments, and this week they were pretty personal to me and my family. I’ve woken up every morning and told Thatcher, ‘I love you,’ because I don’t know what kind of world we are giving him. So I encourage you to not take the work you have done lightly at all, but use it to be intentional leaders.”
As I said this, in the back of my mind was a fresh comment I had read, “Don’t you think the gays and lesbians are the anti-christ?” But I as looked out over my students’ faces, they are so far from this. The people they see are their friends, their family members, and themselves. They could not comprehend calling someone the “anti-christ.” How quickly we judge what we fear and do not understand. How quickly we jump outside of ourselves because it’s easier to project than look at our own fractions brewing deep inside our souls.
Speaking of souls, John Piper offered to pray for my husband’s soul this week (in an indirect way). Now the log is in my eye – I so quickly want to shout back, to throw stones, to say, “My husband doesn’t need prayer over this!!” But the truth is we all do. Nothing was solved in the past 72 hours, hardly anything was gained… but so much was divided and lost.
It has been heart wrenching and important to recognize my own privilege being white, heterosexual, and protestant – to realize, I can bow out of this conversation. But my faith tells me I can’t. My faith says, “and the greatest of these is love; to love my neighbor.” Is John Piper my neighbor? Oh boy, I don’t want to have to think about that. However, I must.
It’s also vital to remember that love doesn’t mean tolerance. I actually hate that word. I don’t want to tolerate people. I want to understand. I want to sit over a meal and have a conversation and we just.can’t.do.that. over the internet! So instead, comments are written in between meals and meetings without ever seeing someone’s face or eyes. Accountability is null and void for the sake of saying my piece. Words are exchanged and stories are left out. Neighbors we are not, yet my faith tells me we are supposed to be.
So how do I move forward? How do we heal when a band-aid is placed on a gashing wound? I must pray for my own soul to love.
There are no winners this week because left to our own privilege, we remain chained to our own ignorance. There are no winners this week because to deny someone to tell their story, is to not treat them as a neighbor. There are no winners this week because to return to platitudes is to return to a place out of fear and safety. My faith never said it would be easy; my faith pushes me to the cross. Would I die for someone different than me? Jesus did. And woe to me who thinks I know so much. For with every day, I find out how little I actually know of God and this amazing earth.
This is not a matter of agree/disagree. It is a matter of learning from those whose stories are not allowed at the table. Certainly hearing someone’s story won’t hurt me, I just hope they can hear mine, too. So my table is open. Seriously, I will cook.