I sit peacefully alone in the cozy, ever-welcoming living room of two friends and their son. There are beautiful, rich brown curtains that graze the floor, walls and a lively tree-and-bird mural in panoramic view. An elaborate family tree, photos of treasured destinations, lovely artwork, and a sturdy hutch dedicated to coffee and tea blossom in this space, there to facilitate intimacy even when my walls are up. This house pulls in a sparkling tide of memories: my parents’ homes, our friends’ dwellings, the choir room and sanctuary of previous churches, my single-life apartments after work, and that magical cradle one can fall into to be whispered to and sung over by God. This is my hope. My hope! I sing this strongly, not to dismiss the tragic cries of the wounded in our election or grieve incorrectly. I don’t brush dirt over a bleeding wound, but pray to press on the salve. Christians, when are we ever without hope?! Who would believe the Perfect God we owe allegiance to exists, if we completely despair over jerks in power? Hear me: we fight injustice, we call people out on their hatred on all levels but we don’t give up on God. Yank up the loins! Don’t let the world distract you from the conquered, gorgeous, magnificent, mighty works of God! Count on Him, despite disappointment. We fail at this often, but let’s make it our default. I much preach this to moi-même, often and bluntly. Three stories.
Vibia Perpetua was newly married, nursing her infant son, enjoying the relationship in her fairly nuclear, privileged family, and living her twenty-second year on earth. Christianty was enjoying growth in the local community, and I conjecture their love for others was highly visible. Again guessing, but I wonder if she felt the same occasional euphoria I did in these new roles as wife and mother. Difficult tasks, but goodness helped soothe the hardship most days. Then, it was 202 or 203 CE in Carthage, modern-day Tunisia. Emperor SeptimiusSeverus (not the cuddly yet emo Alan Rickman version) arrested her to kill her. Her elders from the church bribed soldiers to let her nurse her son—what?!! At even being arrested, I’m already crying foul to God. Perpetua’s father pleads to her to forsake Christ to keep her life, is beaten viciously, and he is distraught like few daughters wish their Dad to be. She marched into an arena to be torn apart by wild animals because she would not give up on God. When probed by her father to abandon her faith, she said:
“Father, do you see this vase here, for example, or waterpot or whatever?…Could
it be called by any other name than what it is?…Well, so too I cannot be called
anything other than what I am, a Christian.” (The Acts of the Christian Martyrs,
Girl. Message received.
Martin Luther King, Jr. went from rural Georgia to all across the nation, promoting God’s gospel and the peace that diffuses it. Though he served Jesus first, that work culminated in placing equal, heavenly value on all humanity. He tempered passion versus wildfire, dangerous emotion. He thought and he acted. He walked, marched, dissented, encouraged and loved his fellow man. Though he’s by no means a human savior, he stood by God’s convictions and let his mouth accurately portray his heart. I used to think it was cheesy to sing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” song in our mostly-black elementary, but oh that we would celebrate such labor across races also! Instead of staying quiet to appease the majority, I pray to always reflect what God sees when He looks at our people: joy and tear-rimmed pride in the Christ-like traits we showcase. One timely musing from Dr. King:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort
and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Two industrious, fun-loving scholars dated at Howard University. They fought through
segregation and the temptation to live in wealth and personal glory for themselves. They remained loyal and happy in marriage, and raised two daughters to worship Christ with everything in them (insert real tears). They endured illness, financial stress, bratty children, discrimination, tragedies and pain to give my sister and I love, life, and safety. Mom and Dad deserve so much more gratitude, but in their paraphrased words:
“God loves you more than we ever will. And we will always love you. If all we
have is a box, we’ll roll over and make room.”
I’m going to request that now we all move over in our boxes. It’s not silly to seek unity. It’s not emotional throw-up to pursue it in everything. Jesus brought division naturally because people didn’t and don’t want to listen to His teaching, yet in resurrection He orchestrated harmony. It’s the beating heart of Christ echoing in us.