When I turned 40, I suddenly needed glasses. I suppose the day before I turned 40 I might have needed them then as well, but looking back (snort), it didn’t so much seem like it. It actually kind of amazed me – they did all the testing and measuring and the clicking with the machine where you have to decide if you incrementally see better now, how about now, now, and how about now? And I wondered in the midst if I was actually seeing worse or better with the clicks here or there and the lenses changing differently with each eye.
But then when the actual glasses came, I put them on and when I walked outside, I could tell that there were actually separate leaves on the limbs on the trees and not just sort of a nice green blob swaying back and forth in the breeze. So yes, Dr. Weltmer, you did know what you were doing. That part was pretty nice, being able to see and all. Sorta made me wonder what I’d been missing, I mean besides some road signs, speed limits, and a few curbs perhaps.
So it seems important to me to let some folks know that I see them really clearly, especially today.
My friends with disabilities, and your parents and families? I see you. I see the struggles you face that most of us don’t. I know ADA says you can now get to all the places that folks with other abilities can get to, but I think it’s still not that easy most of the time. I know you’re not supposed to be discriminated against in any chosen vocation or calling, but I’m thinking sometimes there are informal methods of intimidation that attack your self-image and attempt to keep you from living into your dreams. I see you and want you to know that I will do my best, as will this grace-filled place I serve to empower, to be present beside you so we can move together into our best future.
My friends who are women, and the spouses, partners, children and extended families who love you? I see you. I see and feel and hear the moments that you are objectified because you’re too beautiful or not beautiful enough according to someone who feels they have more power and can catcall, whistle, judge, verbally condemn, or physically assault you. I see the moments where your decisions about your own life are held suspect and your ability to discern the best way forward questioned. I see when your intellectual depth and creativity are downplayed, your ideas are usurped as someone else’s, and you are then vilified if you attempt to claim or reclaim your own voice. I see you and want you to know I refuse to give in or give up in seeking justice for your place in the world and space for your leadership to grow without threat or risk to your safety – physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
My friends who are persons of greater melanin in skin tone than those who have less and the family, friends, and colleagues who love and live and walk beside you? I see you. I see the fear you have at the possibility of being pulled over, perhaps for speeding – a fear I don’t have the same amount of in the same situation. I see the fear you have when your teenage son walks out the door to go to a movie, or a sporting event, or just shopping. Who will accost, accuse, or confront them with assumptions of thuggery without cause? I see you and want you to know our Grace community will remain untiring in our efforts toward living and advocating and upstanding against prejudice and hate and bigotry.
My friends who are part of the LGBTQI community and the spouses, partners, children, and extended family who love you? I see you. I see the celebrations and affirmation that come with the freedom and acceptance of legal marriage. And I now see and hear and feel the fear of an open door of prejudice regaining strength where violence, open hatred, and threats to home, family and livelihood are again tolerated and celebrated by those choosing to remain ignorant of the diversity of God’s creation. I see and hear and feel the defeat in your body and soul at the hard work accomplished and the sacrifice of many to open a new trail of understanding and acceptance that seems now suddenly and all too easily closed and locked. I see you and want you to know we followers of Jesus in this grace-filled community will not abide retreating back to believing the false and heretical doctrine that God creates you and then calls people of power to decide for God that certain children are not beloved or allowed to love one another and live safely in faithful covenant.
My friends who work in public safety and law enforcement and the spouses, partners, children and extended family who love you? I see you. I see the integrity in your words and actions and your deep desire for the community to understand that you want not to be judged by the worst among you. I see the calling in your hearts and hands to serve your cities and counties and communities who rely on your courage to run toward situations from which the rest of us are running away. I see the compassion and concern with which you say goodbye to your families each day knowing the situations you face will sometimes break your heart, sometimes scare the living daylights out of you, and most times call the best and deepest care and ability from you to help and console folks in acutely dramatic and life-changing situations. I see you and want you to know we who are your grace-filled family will love you into your best selves, and work with you to break down walls of fear and resentment.
My friends who don’t fit in any categories but are unique and lovely and witness to the beauty of God’s world in differing religious systems, countries of origin, educational systems, immigration status, economic need, returning and active in military service, and simply the wide array of perspectives you have on the world? I see you. I see the journeys you’ve taken to protect your families from violence, to provide a foundation of health and healing, to add your unique gifts and abilities to work for the common good of all God’s people in the places where you live and hope to survive and thrive. I see the fear in food insecurity and lack of adequate housing. I see the distant hope that life will be better for your children and grandchildren. I see the embrace of the original welcoming words to our ancestors entering our harbors – an invitation to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free… I see you and this grace place will work most diligently to be a safe space, even a sanctuary where your fears may be, if only for a moment, allayed and peace may again rest in your soul.
We need to see each other today and every tomorrow. We need to see beyond the labels and the angry words and reactions and the divisions and polarizations and the taunts and the threats and the fears. We need to see deeply into what is our common desire for good, kindness, mercy, humility, and yes, grace.
My glasses are now tri-focaled. You know, so I can see three times better – so I don’t really have a way not to see God’s beauty in every person. Will you see me? And will you see with me into a world of hope and promise? It may seem a bit blurrier today for some of us, yet I believe the vision of hope and promise will remain until we all may see it most clearly again together. It is for that day that I continue to pray and work with you in this place called Grace.