“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
~ John 13:34 - 35
During an interview yesterday, the person interviewing me asked, "How do you want to be remembered?"
It's the first time in my life that someone has ever asked me that question. It made me realize I have moved beyond the youthful question of, "Where do you see yourself in five years," and into the role as an older person entering the later years of life.
It caused me to stop, catch my breath, and wonder. I thought of the many times that I have thought less of myself. How I struggled for years to understand when Jesus calls to us as, "beloved." Instead, I thought of the times when I struggled with my own identity, the times that I have been depressed, and bought into an identity that someone else created for me. All I could think about was a man who was both wounded and broken who tried to recognize the same in those whom I have met, and that through my own life, perhaps there was healing for those I encountered. Even when there were moments filled with doubt.
We seem to be living in a place and time in history where what we say and do are impacting so many people. I want to express how I really feel about things, but know that I risk persecution and comments noting how "disappointed," the person may be if they truly knew how I felt about something.
For most of us, our own brokenness and woundedness comes with an element of shame, and affirmed by a voice that is not our own, or the loving voice of the One who created us.
A dear friend of mine this morning shared that she could not accept the death of George Floyd as a martyr because he has a past that included the convictions of criminal acts. All I could think about was a man that I call "Savior," who was also publicly murdered, and included a statement about his mother as well as he hung dying. I question whether it was right of me to associate the death of Jesus with one of my brothers?
My soul is restless. This woundedness and brokenness is both paralyzing and dividing us. We fail to hear God's voice, calling us all "beloved," because we believe the voice must accompany a preconceived understanding of who God is.
There are scriptural verses that remind us that the kingdom of God came with Jesus but that the fullness of the kingdom won’t come until Christ comes again. I am also reminded that we must continue to work to recognize the "beloved community," with us, while acknowledging that it won’t reach its full completion until the end of time.
For each of us, when we fail to recognize the "beloved," in one another, we are inviting self-rejection of the spiritual life. As Jesus reminds, the shepherd was worried about the one sheep that strayed, while the other ninety-nine remained safe. We must have empathy and compassion for those who have lost their way, and a sense of gratefulness when we have been kept safe.
We all seem to be struggling to make sense of so many things right now, and as we do, these things are undermining our ability to experience and accept the spiritual life that God has for us.
We seem to be living in a fearful land, and that the bulk of nativism, elitism, racism, and discrimination is fueled by fear. Fear has infiltrated the society and the church, as well as, my own ability to share how I am feeling. If we are to be the humans we are created to be and the Christians we are called to be, we must confess our fear and pray for grace to overcome it.
We must lower the walls of self-imposed isolation and dropping the rhetoric of supremacy. We must allow for God to move us from fear, to empathy, and eventually a place where love can exist.
While it may be a lot to expect, it is not more than what God can do.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.