2024 FPC Directory Updates

Radical Love

Posted by First Presbyterian on

Here's the next installment in our Immeasurably More blog series.


A couple of weeks ago, I shared a version of this reflection on my personal Instagram page:

I've been silent but heavy-hearted this week… listening, pondering, praying, grieving. It started with a migrant detention facility for minors opening unexpectedly in our community and the overwhelmingly hateful response that almost immediately spewed out from people all over town. I know behind all the anger is a lot of fear, but I still struggle to understand the easy dehumanization that casually rolls off the tongue, especially from the mouths of those who follow Jesus.

And then right behind that news came the mass shooting claiming overwhelmingly Asian lives, another instance of the sharp 150 percent increase in crimes against Asians this year. The shooter’s precise motives might be complicated, but every Asian I’ve talked to feels vulnerable in our culture today. I'm left wondering if those people around me who so casually say things like "the China virus" or "Kung Flu" realize they are planting bitter seeds of hatred each time they speak? Could you understand why I don't want you to be around my children if you say such things? That the line between political and personal is fragile and heart-breakingly thin for me?

Two young Asian women live in our home and under our care. Alea is legally my daughter and Du is the unofficial daughter born of my heart. (And then of course there’s Cora, my biological child, who feels proud of the fact that she was born in China. Now, at 10 years old, she’s already discovered she needs to be careful who she tells.) I do not know how to live in between two worlds -- the world where me taking issue with these kinds of things is labeled as "liberal" or "over-sensitive" and the world where the shape of my Asian daughters’ eyes mark them as permanent outsiders and they are expected to laugh off these barbs that undoubtedly prick their sense of self-worth. I do not know how to be the mother and role-model they need. I do not know how to protect them in this world. 

Yesterday I helped arrange for some art supplies for the migrant camp and spread the word about an upcoming meeting for the local Asian community with the DOJ. I wrote a letter to a local acquaintance who says vile things on facebook and then believing it would be futile, I deleted it. I cried a lot and resisted the urge to pick my children up from school so I could pretend they were babies again. I took a hot bath. And then I tucked my littlest girls into bed and let them sleep without yet hearing the truth of the world they are inheriting.

Since writing that, not much has changed in my internal landscape. I’ve felt a lot of confusion, sadness and frankly anger towards the whole world. But especially towards my sisters in the church universal. For it is these women, these fellow mothers, who I feel should most intuitively understand a mother’s tender perspective on these matters.

You know what it’s like to stand up for your white son who was blamed unfairly for some infraction at school. Can’t you imagine how it might feel to tell your black son how he ought to behave in a routine traffic stop with the police? You know what it feels like to hold your little girl after she cries for being teased for her weight. Can’t you imagine how it might feel to hold your child who cries because she’s teased for the shape of her Asian eyes? You know how many times you’ve told your children to be kind. Have you so easily forgotten your own instruction when you enter the realm of facebook’s comment section? You share my desire to raise up children who follow the teachings and ways of Jesus. Do you share my fear that our children won’t be able to hear what we’re saying over the sound of our actions? (Thanks, Carolyn Price, for giving me that line last week.)

Most days, I’m still obsessively turning these questions over in my mind, like a Rubik’s Cube that I might still be able to solve. It’s as if I somehow believe the real problem is that I haven’t yet figured out a way to clearly communicate what the terrain of life looks like from over here. Because I want to believe that if we could understand what the journey looks like from someone else’s perspective, we’d no longer insist that our lived experience is the only definition of reality. But as I’ve puzzled over these questions, I confess that lately the raw and tender place of my confusion and hurt and anxiety has hardened into something that looks more like anger and resentment.

And that's what I carried with me as I walked into the Maundy Thursday service last week. And though I feel as though I’ve heard the story of Jesus’ Last Supper at least once a year for the last 39 years, this year as Pastor Walter talked, it seemed like I heard for the first time two critical points:

  1. Jesus shared a meal with and washed the feet of his betrayer.
  2. When it came to his disciples, Jesus “loved them to the end” and left them with this directive:
     “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

I came away from that service so deeply convicted that the answer to the pain and divisiveness in the world is not more tribalism, which is the way of the world, but more radical, barrier-breaking love. And it must start with me. I came away from that service deeply convicted about the spirit of violence festering in my own heart.

Father, forgive me for falling short of your standard of love. Forgive me for letting my pain metastasize into resentment. Forgive me for mistaking my indignation for being righteous. Forgive me for judging the “nice church ladies” whose silence I deem to be complicity. Forgive me for my own hardness of heart and fears that I use to justify building walls.

Jesus, help me to love as you love. This is a radical love that I do not know how, in my own strength, to embody. And it is the very sort of love I hope my daughters will inherit.

Father, renew a steadfast spirit of love in me. 

This is my heart's cry. Who is with me?