When I was new to motherhood and could hold you in just one hand, I would sit looking into your eyes and rock you back and forth. My heart swelled from all the love I felt. A full heart was new to me. It made all things seem possible. Then, I heard a hiss from the corner of the room. “What if?” fear interrogated over and over again as a shadow cast itself across the room.
To keep you safe, I ran in circles, swatting away threats real and imagined. As time lengthened and one became three, exhaustion grew in my arms and legs, but I kept running and swatting because I believed this is what good mothers do. Yet fear continued to hiss its interrogation ever louder, as the shadow of “what if?” grew over us no matter how fast I ran circles around you three.
One day, tired from all the circling, I asked myself, “Can I stop?” I heard a tiny whisper from somewhere inside, “just love.” This whisper was faint, nothing like the loud hiss of fear. Had this whisper been here all along? I loved on this day instead of ran. Fear recoiled. I rested.
I could sit in the presence of you, my three, and see joy in your smiles when we stopped for ice cream; generosity when brother helped sister tie her shoes; love when bother shared brother his video game. I could revel in our amazing little life without controlling every minute to keep you safe.
The next day, fear returned louder and stronger. My habit of running in circles was hard to break. I wanted to protect and control. Then I heard the whisper once more, “just love.” I stopped. Fear recoiled.
Fear, love and I do this dance still today. Fear never gives up. It is always in the corner hissing, ‘what if?” Love never gives up. It whispers and teaches. I never give up. I strive to balance the two learning that each has their place.
A week ago I watched the events in Charlottesville unfold from my vacation spot. I am white and a Christian. My younger years were spent in Louisiana, the land of David Duke. Although I am a thousand miles from UVA, I know people on both sides of the protest. But, I have been afforded the privilege of choosing to go on with my life unaffected by either side greatly because of the color of my skin, the God I worship, and the physical distance to the events. Yet, as I watch video and read the reactions, I am deeply affected. I am reminded what happens when fear remains in control of our lives. I realize we are all affected no matter our privilege of choosing to go on as if we are not.
I have spent so much of my life learning to battle fear for my kids and myself and although it is not the same, I can use this lesson. I know the allure of allowing fear to take over life is strong; because I know what it is to ask “what if,” and then find the answer we can control toward our needs.
White supremacy is fear based and fear does not come from God. Fear is not life giving. When we allow fear to rule us, we end up running in circles swatting our arms at all the threats we believe are out there. Exhaustion makes us desperate. Desperate is not a place God wishes us to be.
There are hundreds of ways I know this to be true, but I turn to my favorite scripture:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord our God will be with you wherever you go.”
– Joshua 1:9
I have written before about how the base of the word courage is the latin word –cor which means heart. It literally means to put your heart into something: to have heart, to give something your heart, to live in your heart (what you love).
God commands us to have heart; to not live in fear or live outside of our heart space or the real you. When the battle with fear gets real, God commands us to remember the Lord will be with you to add strength and heart (encouragement) wherever your life path takes you.
You do not need be a Christian to find encouragement from scripture. For me, what is encouraging for the peaceful activists in Charlottesville, no matter their religion, is this scripture was written 4000 years ago. The human battle between fear and heart is nothing new. Humans have been making the choice between a fear based self and an authentic self since the beginning of time. We don’t always get it right, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. If you are a Christian or a Jew, then you can take from our shared text above, that God wants us living with heart, not fear. God does not want fear based White Supremacist rhetoric.
As a mom, I have work to do. My job is to raise my kids toward kindness instead of hate. My job is to teach them to balance their fear with love. With teenagers in the house, this is no easy task! Just when I think they may be lost in self-centered fighting with each other forever (summer is long!), they surprise me with generosity and bring me hope for the future.
To my kids: Fear and love are with you all your life and it is how you achieve the balance between the two that determines who you really are. I am proud of you three. You often choose kindness and generosity over shame and scarcity. Remember you do not need to go into battle alone.
To my readers: Prayers of continued courage for all those who continue to march for peace on the streets of Charlottesville and everywhere, for they are choosing courage. May we all choose courage in big and small ways each and every day. It is only through loving our neighbor, no matter the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or the God they worship or don’t worship, that we can truly make this country heal.