Today we embark on our first mission trip together. We’re not traveling to Africa or China. Our service will be in the mountains of West Virginia.
I don’t believe loving someone is ever easy, especially when it’s a stranger.
Yesterday, I shared a piece I wrote the day after Election 2016. Emotions were high, much of our nation was baffled, and experience reminded me that loving people is complicated.
But, just three days later, the hand I was dealt was angry, white, and male.
And for the very first time, I absorbed hatred in the presence of my children.
It all felt like a drug deal gone bad.
There I was, in the dark of night, driving to a gas station to meet someone I barely knew. An exchange was to occur.
Only, this time, I was the supplier.
Motherhood will make you do crazy things.
You are a daughter, a sister, and a mother. To the greater world, however, you are largely known as a college football coach’s wife. When we first met, you chose not to volunteer the latter. You positioned yourself as a preschool mother ally and, in doing so, earned my deepest respect.
I know today must be difficult. When your husband’s team wins, the world laughs with you. When they lose, you fear for your life. Last night, the points did not fall in our favor. I didn’t see you at pick-up.
When life hands you a free milkshake, you say “yes”. But, the truth is, the last thing I wanted was more food.
For several moments, a scene had been eating away at my thoughts. A homeless man – not more than 30 years of age – waited on a curb of desperation outside of our local Walmart as we drove past. To help or not to help? The restless toddlers in the backseat only encouraged the excuses my mind so effortlessly generated.
No. Not tonight.
So we stayed the course to Chick-fil-A. The kids would share a “happy” meal, I would enjoy a leafy green salad, and the sunset would end a perfect evening.
Only I ordered fries I couldn’t eat. Then my son’s order was wrong, which resulted in four free chicken nuggets. And, perhaps most surreal of all, a cashier placed a free milkshake in my hand: “We forgot the whipped cream and cherry. Here!”
As my son’s ice cream cascaded down my wrist, I pondered the sticky dilemma. Light was fading, and so too was an opportunity.
My struggles weren’t too different from Job’s, but my questions were not existential. I simply wanted to know the secret to feeling good. Lately, the kids had been driving me into the ground.
While Job may have reached out to questionable friends, my choice – like every toxic relationship – was one I swore I would avoid forever.
And so began my caffeinated month of craziness.
“Whatever you do, don’t drop it!”
Such was my silent prayer two weeks ago when my husband and I braved a new world: keeping our son with us during an entire worship service. With the flip of a toddler wrist, a Walmart gift card – the only “toy” I could locate in my purse – held the potential to fly over the balcony and inspire a heart attack in an elderly member below. Would Jesus forgive us?
The fact is, we didn’t plan ahead. On Sundays, our goal is quite simple: make it to church with two children clothed and fed (Mom and Dad being such is a bonus!). For a few months, our son had joined us for 30 melodic minutes of praise before the inevitable wiggles ensued. But, as his behavior improved each week, we gained confidence and perhaps grew overly ambitious.
How difficult could it be to keep a toddler occupied AND quiet for just a little longer?
The first time I met a transgender person, I wanted to take her home. I wanted to teach her how to walk in high-heeled boots, and I wanted to tell her that young women do not wear tank tops in Virginia winter.
I don’t remember this classmate’s name, but I do recall how others looked at her. I can only imagine how often she wished she were invisible. And yet, she persisted – with her hormone drugs, with her disheveled attempt at feminine beauty, and with her confidence.
In many ways, I envied the guts it took to live her life. But I always wondered, where was her safe place?
One of my favorite things about the life of Jesus was his commitment to being countercultural for the furthering of God’s kingdom. He listened to the ugly and broken; he embraced time alone at the height of his popularity; and he was guided by long-term benefits. If Jesus walked in human form today, I am willing to bet that he would have been interested in discussing more than red coffee cups last week.