I used a line to describe this blog when I started it last January that goes like this: trying to love the world one person at a time. And I have tried to use the words that I put down to tell stories of people I have loved and who have loved me. People who have made love real in my life. In my own dictionary, their faces would be illustrations for what love looks like and feels like. They are people I have met in travels, in school, at church and in my family. Receiving that kind of love makes me want to return it as the gift it is.
I spent this last weekend with some of those very special people, two sisters and a brother: Susan, Sally and Mike. We made a journey to speak with the district attorney who is handling the murder case that will one day be tried in Riverside County, California, for the rape and murder of our baby sister Cathy. We have walked this journey as a family for the last twenty-two months and we will walk it every day for the rest of our lives, because it won’t end when the trial is over. Cathy has been taken from our family in the most heinous way and her loss is unbearable.
But we have walked this journey together as a family with love for Cathy and love for each other. It is the kind of love that is forged like hardened steel in a fiery forge. It’s unbreakable. Unbendable. And I know that not every family experiences that kind of love. The six of us siblings who survive Cathy have this deep, deep love. And I am grateful for that.
But the scripture that I base my faith on, the one that gives witness to Jesus, says that I am to love my enemies. As someone who avoids conflict and seeks peace, I don’t consider anyone my enemy. I know there is hatred and violence in the world, there is oppression and suppression and just downright evil manifested in this place we call home. I have prayed for the enemies of my friends in Iraq and Syria; prayed that they will see the light of what they have done, recognize the wrong in the slaughter they have committed, and repent. I have prayed that same thing when our government commits those same kinds of acts in what they say is a defense of our country.
I have prayed for reconciliation on many fronts. That is what I am called to do, compelled even, because of who commands me to.
This is the hard part for me now. I have an enemy: a man has killed my sister and I have been introduced to him in California. I met him in the photos the DA showed us. I met him in the video they made of him on the night he was arrested. I met him in his words transcribed in the report of a psychologist.
I have seen his face. I have heard his voice. His words describing what he did are things no one should ever have to hear. And this is the only way I know him and it causes conflict in my heart and my head to think of him as my enemy, but he must be. He killed my sister.
But I have also learned something about him. He is the son of a mother who went through the same nine months of carrying him in his womb that my mother and Cathy’s mother went through. She felt the same pains of labor as she delivered this beloved child. He has a mother who has surely lost a son in a way that no mother plans for.
He has two sisters and a brother who are caught in the same life sentence that me and my sisters and brothers are, for we cannot escape the consequences or the loss that we experience on this side of heaven. (There will surely be consequences for his actions. This I do believe!)
I haven’t gotten to the level of loving this man who is my enemy and only with God’s grace will I, but I have been praying for him since his path crossed paths with my family. And now I am praying for his mother and his brother and his two sisters, as surely as I pray for my own.
I have just finished reading Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be. And the thing that sticks with me is his exposition on Jesus’ command to love my enemies. Not loving them – not seeing their humanity – will eventually dehumanize me, and I will become what I hate. Becoming what I hate will only feed the powers and continue a cycle of violence. And yes, I believe hate is violence.
I am tired of hate. I am tired of violence. I am tired.
And so I pray. I pray that God will redeem this story, as surely as he will redeem everything in his time.
And I love. And I am loved. And I feel it from every side and it gets me through each day: yesterday, today and all the tomorrows to come.
And finally in this week (I am so thankful for the timing!) our church staff got to the part of the book of Revelation that I have been waiting for:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5)
No more death.
No more mourning.
No more crying.
No more pain.
Everything made new.
For God so loved the world.