Spring ventured out of hiding this week, and our little family has been welcoming its arrival with walks to the park, bike-riding adventures, and sidewalk chalk sessions.
It has felt so good to come out of hibernation, to let my boys replace their heavy winter coats with lighter zip-up hoodies.
The Midwest weather has been been kind of warm, but still breezy. As I helped Joseph zip his black sweatshirt, I chased after him, flipping up his hood before he happily bounced out of the door into the adventures of the backyard. I’m his mommy, and I didn’t want the breeze to make his ears cold.
And then it happened. My heart sunk deep, heavy into a hidden recess of my soul. In such a sweet and happy moment, I realized how innocent and carefree my little 3-year-old is, but how some in our society won’t always see him the way I see him. I think the hot tears started to well up in my eyes when I wondered, at what age do I have to stop putting his hood up, in fear of those who might see a black boy with a hood up as a sign of something to be scared of?
This stuff is hard, and it’s hard to talk about. When race comes into conversation, things get political, things get hurtful, things get heated. Tensions rise and defenses pop up and it just gets messy. But you know what? Life is messy. And if we don’t talk about things, if we stuff them down and pretend they don’t matter, we’re only hurting ourselves.
I let these thoughts leak out of me at the kitchen table when Jonny was home for lunch today. Tears slowly streamed down my face as I let the what-if’s take over, a dark cloud covering my protective mama heart. I know I’m not the first mama to wrestle with these tensions, to have a sunny day covered with a forecast of a lingering cloud that won’t seem to dissipate. I did not have a Pollyanna belief system when I said yes to being Joseph’s mom, but I don’t believe anything can prepare any parent for the stabbing pain that comes from worrying about your children.
I’ve thought and re-thought and thought some more about how to write this, because when you become vulnerable, when you put your heart on the line and write about things that matter so deeply to your core that when you think about it you have to catch your breath…when you write about that stuff? It opens you up to getting hurt.
I am so incredibly thankful to have a husband who encouraged me that these experiences matter, and sometimes we have to be brave. Brave for our kids. Brave for our communities. Brave for God. He held me in his arms and reminded me to breathe and assured me that for whatever hate we read about in the news, love is stronger and more prevalent and love always prevails. He encouraged me to talk about it. To write about it. He reminded me of people throughout history who have used their voices to stand with and for others, and that conversation always moves the needle, no matter how small. And that matters. My urge to heal wounds by letting them breathe? It matters. My dream of conversations leading to a more compassionate body of believers? It matters.
It matters because it’s not about me. It’s about two feet shaky but firmly planted, standing against fear and lies and standing for truth and justice.
I do not have answers for all of the hurts our world has. Oh, how I wish I had a balm to soothe every tear in our fabric of society. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could erase racial tensions and power struggles? How I wish I could.
But you know what I can do? I can have conversations, even if they are hard. I can root myself in love, even when love means being uncomfortable. I can educate myself for my children, and I can use my voice to say hard things, because I believe I serve a God who cares deeply about it.
I ache for that day when we can truly hold hands and see the Kingdom of God for what it is — a beautiful, diverse tapestry of brothers and sisters of every Nation, all deeply loved by their Creator who hand-designed each one. And while my fears for Joseph are real, I know that hope is not lost.
I am so thankful that I don’t have to wait until that perfect day to catch a glimpse of heaven. I am so thankful that we can be part of His renewal here on earth. That we can find value in learning from those who are different than us. That brown hands and black hands and white hands can get dirt under their fingernails and cultivate something beautiful. That pain is real but so is hope.
I’m thankful that when we shine light on the dark spots, that darkness suddenly isn’t so scary anymore.