This week has been hard. My city was in the headlines for more than good ole country music. It has been the newest cast member in the National Media’s presentation of “The Great Race Divide”. News organizations latching on to sound bites and tidbits to fan a spark into a ratings firestorm. Good people who love God and love His people attacked by people who have never visited here. Had judgement pronounced upon them by people they have never met. Been convicted in the courtroom of Social Media by the judges of John and Jane Doe. Our city has had hatred spewed over social media from people of every faith, both sides of the aisle, and every color. People launching arrows of Verbage that no one would say face to face, but are emboldened by the seeming anonymity of a keyboard. No one feels they can say anything right. No one has hope of healing these wounds. The more progress we feel has been made, the more we realize how little we understand the pain and reasonings of others.
This week has been hard. It marked the 21st anniversary of my Aunt Vicki’s death. I love her name. Every time I bring up a story about her, I see her smile. I can feel her hugs. Her voice saying my name plays in my head even now. She was a rare light in this world of darkness. She still makes my heart smile after all this time has passed. Grief is hard. It is heavy. It is an awkward burden to shoulder. I miss her, y’all.
This week has been hard. Yet another massive storm has affected thousands. People have lost everything. Families have lost loved ones. People have lost contact and have found themselves in the terrible reality of waiting to know the fate of others. No electricity. No water. No food. Difficulties in delivering supplies.
This week has been hard. My city again launched to the front of the stage. A shooter attacked helpless people whose only ‘crime’ was attending church. As I stood laughing and trying to decide where to have lunch, not 5 miles from me… A nightmare unfolded. Families torn apart. Traumatized. Forever changed by one man’s decision.
This week has been hard.
I wish I could fix this. I wish that we, as humans all sharing DNA, could have conversations without resorting to name calling. I wish that I could hug my aunt. I wish that I had enough money and resources to rebuild what Harvey, Irma, and Maria have taken. I wish that I could erase the sight of blood and bodies in a sanctuary.
I don’t have big answers. I don’t know how to solve world hunger, global politics, pandemic diseases, human trafficking, racial tensions, mental healthcare, etc. I believe the following quote holds a ‘small’ answer.
”Every woman, whether rich or poor, married or single, has a circle of influence within which, according to her character, she is exerting a certain amount of power for good or harm. Every woman by her virtue or her vice, by her wisdom or her folly, by her dignity or her levity is adding something to our national elevation or degradation.” —John Angell James
What I know is that I have the power to love the people in my immediate circle. I have the power to use my words to build up people and God’s Kingdom. That my daily choices to love or not have long reaching effects. I know that the patterns I am laying out now, my children will likely follow. I know that Jesus teaches us that we have two great commands:
- Love God.
- Love Others.
That’s it, y’all. Summed up all nice and tidy. Scripture also tells us that:
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (emphasis mine)
And that we are to:
“….seek peace and pursue it…” 1 Peter 3:11b
I know, because I have been there, that this seems so trite. That it can’t possibly be this simple. That you may have some doubts as to whether I have any idea what I am talking about… Let me share my family’s pain.
September 1996, I was a know-it-all teenager. I had just started my junior year of high school. For the first time in my life, there was no older sibling whose shoes were too big for me to fill walking around campus making me look like the family slacker. I had my license, a job to make gas money, and use of my dad’s truck. It was a good life. And just like that, one man’s choice changed my whole world. I got a phone call that my aunt had died. The details weren’t shared with me. I tried to hold it together and make it through the school day. It didn’t happen. I eventually made it home to my mama, shell-shocked and glazed over. Over the next few hours I learned the truth of Vicki’s death. She was bludgeoned, tied up and left as the man came in and out of her apartment taking her things and selling them for crack. He raped her and then he took her bedding and shoved it between her legs and set fire to it.
This week has been hard. I have cried myself to sleep and been in gut wrenching prayer for the people involved in these situations. I know the hearts behind the words. I know the pain felt by the very people being reamed for not caring. I know the strength it takes to stand for something even when being mocked for being so soft and easily wounded. I see my pain on others’ faces. In my mind’s eye, it is my aunt’s picture on the evening news. I am taken back to a time when it was her body bag being shown on the TV. Her murderer’s name and picture being plastered everywhere. I know the torture of “Why, God?” haunting every thought. I know the road ahead as the judicial system does its best to be impartial and just with mere humans at the helm. Y’all, this week has left my heart on a repeating cadence: “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”
My friends, don’t get lost in the sorrow. There is more to these stories than sorrow, if we allow Him to complete His good work in us. So, let this be a call to you. Go to your neighbor, seek peace, use your circle of influence to elevate our nation, and keep your tongue (or fingers typing on Social Media) from evil. We are called to a higher standard when we put on our Savior. We are the ones with the Answer to the pain of this world. We are the ones who can stand in a courthouse, as my grandparents did, with our daughter’s murder trial in session, and give an interview full of grace and sincere hope that the man who took her life would find the Lord. We hold the keys to the Kingdom. Do not neglect your duty to be the Light of the world.
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.