It was a rainy day. I watched over the balcony as the rain fell over the mountains, and I looked down at the exact door I walked through over five years ago on our honeymoon. We had a perfect view of the room we stayed in. It felt a little surreal to see it from up high as my three boys ran around the room behind me, my brother and his children doing the same.
Last week, we vacationed in Gatlinburg, TN with my family. We go every other year, and each time our family has grown. Each time we have had an additional boy. (That’s not a clue, in case you were wondering.) Each time we arrive differently than the last.
I’ve been watching my boys differently in this past week. I’ve been praying to keep my eyes unclouded, available to see what could be and what I cannot change. Everyone who is anyone tells you it happens too quickly, they’re grown before you know it. And each day, I see it. I’m looking at them now, thinking of how soon they will be men and if I will be that mom who just wants to snuggle her teenagers. (Probably.) The point is, our children are not keen on staying close to us forever. They were never meant to.
And within the past week, while I was resting and relaxing, enjoying time to do as we pleased, a lot of chaos was happening elsewhere in the world. It’s nearly impossible to escape reality when social media is awake at all hours. So I watched from afar as African American men were shot, police officers were killed, and my Facebook friends, people I follow on Instagram and Twitter, took to their platforms and went on their rants, tangents, and opinions. Some touting Bible verses. Some begging Jesus to return. Some mourning. Some hash tagging. Some mixing truth with opinion. Some just saying whatever they could because there was no other way to be of use. Sometimes just saying “I stand with you” was all that could be said.
I watched my children. I watched them, thinking of this earth they will inherit, and felt heavy. I think it is my duty to acknowledge that I must trust them with their own future. I think it’s my duty to pray for my own heart, to give up my fear, and to believe that whatever I do to raise them is enough. I think it’s my duty to let them go when the time is right.
I hate the violence. I hate the racism. I hate the privileges that I will always have because of the color of my skin and the color of my sons’ skin. I hate that the world is a dark, hard, sick place, and that my sons will inherit it when I’m gone.
But there is hope.
The challenge is in me. The challenge is in raising children who are not afraid because I lived that way first: unafraid of other races or religions or sexualities. The challenge is this: Be who you want your children to be.
I watch my boys, and they learn their behaviors from me and my husband and the family and friends that surround us. And I want them to be strong men. Not strong men who exhibit force; rather, men who stand strong in their knowledge of truth, love, mercy, compassion, respect. Less privilege, opinion, prejudice, fear. I want them to be men who know who they are because they know Who bought their life. I want them to be men who lay down their opinions so they can walk alongside those who live in fear. I want them to be men who are unafraid to get in the middle of the issues and find ways to love those who need it, to serve those who just want to rest, to give strength to those who have fear.
So that means I have to be in those trenches too. I can preach all day on what I hope they become. It’s only worth it when my actions match my words.
I want to be there. I want to get in the thick of the messes and problems and find out how I can love people better. I want to understand better what it is to be an African American in this world, because I am a white woman. I can’t understand if I don’t ask the people who live it. I want to understand better what it’s like to be a police officer in this country today. I want to understand better why people shoot people, why people hate people, or why people are hurting. I can’t understand unless I get to those people. Unless I get into the trenches, walk through the muck with others, seek out truth in the darkness. I am not above it. I cannot be above it.
There is hope. It starts with you and me. Let’s show, if only for our children’s sake, what it is to have compassion, mercy, and love at a time where hate and fear threatens to overtake.