“It’s what’s inside that counts.” The words were embroidered into the framed cloth, along with a cartoon teddy bear gazing down at his own visible heart.
For years, the little wall-hanging traveled around with me, from bedroom to dorm room to first home. Though it’s been replaced now by others, the words have never left me.
At times, we all lose sight of them. And, as we’ve discovered through recent U.S. tragedies, sometimes it takes us being broken open and bleeding through to remember how alike we all are.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece Alveda King, during a TV news broadcast the night of the Dallas police shootings, was first to remind me that despite our different coverings, the blood that flows life within each of us always pulses red.
From Acts 17:26, she quoted: “And from one blood he made the whole world of humanity to be dwelling on the whole surface of the Earth …”
Images of people torn up physically and emotionally were weighing down on my soul when I heard a replayed online message from a Dallas pastor, recorded just moments after the shootings there, calling for prayer.
I stopped to listen because I, too, believe that what we need more than anything right now is a returned gaze to God, the most fitting of healers.
The impassioned voice of the Rev. T.D. Jakes also drew me. He seemed like a big teddy bear reaching out through his words to give everyone a hug, which I needed then, too.
Jakes said he’s pastored people from all angles of the hurting. He’s stood with the mothers of slain black men, and families of murdered police officers, and everyone in between.
“At the end of the day, the blood shed on the streets is not black, white or brown,” he said. “It’s red. It’s the one thing we all have in common.”
And as he’s pastored the grieved, he’s come to see that “pain is pain,” no matter the color of the one who bears it.
Jakes, who is black, said his own grandfather was murdered in Mississippi “through atrocities like this,” investing him greatly in current happenings.
But he cautioned us to be careful with our slogans. I share his worry that, by the words and ideas we choose right now, we may inadvertently perpetuate the very hate we’re trying to eliminate. We have to walk so tenderly, and be so aware that each of us is broken in some way.
He also said we need to recognize the real enemy, which is spiritual and seeks division.
“Jesus came to Lazarus’ family and he wept with them,” he said. “I’m shocked when people want to argue at a moment we need to grieve together.”
Despite our deficiencies, I find it amazing that God saw it fit to put us all on the same Earth, tasked with trying to get along, so that we could find our way, together, back to him.
There’s something big going on here. It’s both spiritual and earthly, and we’re all connected to it, moving together toward something incredible.
And despite what it looks like right now, that something incredible is also infinitely good. We can either seek that good in one another, or destroy one another and ourselves in the process.
Thankfully, we have a road map to lead us rightly, and a fitting guide if we choose.
“This is a time for the church to stand together,” Jakes said. “It can’t just be the black, brown or white church. It has to be the church Jesus Christ shed his blood for.”
The success of the civil rights movement, he said, came from “all of us recognizing the pain and brokenness” of our political, criminal and our own interior systems.
Jakes said that what happened in Dallas is “what happens when angry people lose their heads and don’t channel their anger appropriately.”
It’s not that people don’t have reason to be angry, he said, but that we need to find a better way to release it — one that doesn’t end in bloodshed. “We cannot allow people in the streets to start speaking for us.”
Jakes pleaded for prayers “for the children who are heaving and sobbing and not able to sleep tonight,” and for people to turn again to the “God who sits high and looks low” and “has all power in his hands.”
“Whatever’s wrong he will make it right,” he continued, “and he will use us to make it right, but he doesn’t need our guns to do it, or the blood of our sons.”
In a concluding prayer, Jakes said we don’t have to agree on everything in order to walk in peace and solidarity.
“… let justice flood our streets again … let God arise and his enemies be scattered … I ask you, God, to comfort our country and give peace to this infectious disease that perpetuates itself. Heal it now, in the name of Jesus.”
Preach it. Amen.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on July 16, 2016.]