What do you see when a young man takes a knee during the National Anthem? Disrespect? Entitlement? Do you see red?
I think this topic has become more divisive than it should be. For me personally, taking a knee during the National Anthem wouldn't even occur to me as an option, for spreading awareness for my cause or belief, whatever that may be. I have two grandfathers who were war vets; one who earned a bronze star for a heroic act he never even remembered, and lived with shrapnel in his back until the day he died. I will always choose to stand and honor their service to this country. However, as I talked about last week, that is because I am me. I cannot know the inner workings of every other person in this world. I cannot ever know what it is like to be a black man in this county but I can try to bridge the divide. I can try to understand.
I believe that forcing someone to stand for the flag, or punishing those who won't, is in direct conflict with the freedoms my grandfathers fought for. I don't believe a person should be condemned for protesting in exactly the peaceful way protests should be done. He's not hurting anyone. He's not burning the flag or destroying it in anyway. He's not looting or rioting. He is peacefully taking a knee to effect change in an area he believes our country could improve upon. I don't have to agree with his methods to try to understand the heart behind it.
See, when I prayed about this message, God showed me this title immediately. I thought, what if he were my son? What if that young man, taking a knee before his NFL games were my son?
Would I hate him?
I can answer all of those with a resounding no.
I would hug him and defend him when all the world is against him. Even if I didn't agree with the way in which he protested, I would appreciate his act of peace in an otherwise violent world. I would acknowledge the strength and bravery it took to stand up against a majority for the rights of the minority. It may not have been how I would have proceeded, but should I condemn a man for protesting in exactly the peaceful way in which protests should be done?
This blog is not the place for politics, and I didn't set out for it to be. However, it is a place for grace. It is a place for love. It is a place for encouragement. Maybe sometimes it has to be a place to for difficult topics, to bring forth growth.
Not all of us have the luxury of personally knowing celebrities in the limelight. Maybe that makes us feel a little too comfortable judging them. But right now, I would encourage everyone to extend some grace, and try to understand the decisions of a stranger, as you would someone you know and love. You don't have to agree with someone's ways to try to understand the heart behind them.
"A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other." ~ Charles Dickens
When I was a young child, perhaps too young to be having such profound thoughts, I remember thinking how odd it was that I was me, and that no one else ever would be.
I remember playing one afternoon with my cousin. Our families had gone to a local campground for picnicking and hiking that day. At one point I retreated from the group and found myself sitting in the open trunk of the station wagon, coloring rocks. I was enjoying myself, in the quiet of it, when my cousin found me, and her feelings were hurt.
"Why did you leave?" she asked me.
"I wanted to be alone."
"But why? I want to play with you."
"I just did."
It turned into an argument because neither one of us could quite understand the other. See, she was an only child. I was not. I had a little sister who followed me around, a lot. I meant no hard feelings when I stepped away. I just seized the opportunity to do so.
She yelled, "I don't have any brothers or sisters. I'm alone all the time!"
And I argued back, "Well, I never get to be alone!"
I do not remember if a parent intervened, but I do remember her asking me if she could color with me. Within minutes of our misunderstanding, she simply joined me, and we quietly colored rocks together.
I remember thinking though, in that moment, she will never know what it feels like to be me. She will never think my thoughts or feel my feelings.
Likewise, I could never know what it was like to be her.
People often throw the terms unique or special around until they've lost all meaning, but this, to me, is what it is to be unique...each and every one of us. No one else will walk our walk, dream our dreams, feel our emotions, not entirely. In a world where God has made us all so intrinsically unique, why do we ever expect that we should see eye to eye?
My cousin and I never saw eye to eye on this matter. I will never know what it feels like to be an only child, and she will never know what it feels like not to be, but we sat down together and made pretty things.
Prior to these verses the Bible says, "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?" (1 Corinthians 12:17)
The fact is, we don't have to see eye to eye in everything, to be who Jesus calls us to be. We were created to be different, with different thoughts, different emotions, and different gifts. Those gifts were designed to work together as the body of Christ, to glorify the Lord.
Like leaves on a tree, we all stem from the same roots. We may never have the same perspective from where we stand, but we can come together and make something pretty.
A couple weeks ago, when we were praying for Texas, and those in the path of Hurricane Harvey, my children asked me, "Mommy, why did God even create hurricanes?"
It was one of those questions that causes most parents to stutter around until the children forget what they were asking; the kind of question that makes you wish you had all the answers. I am not the mom with all the answers. I don't even pretend to be. I can't even tell you the amount of times I say, "I don't know," to my children, daily. I don't know a lot of things, and I couldn't even pretend to know the science behind a hurricane, let alone such a loaded theological question.
This time was a little different. I did hesitate, but responded fairly confidently with, "God doesn't create the storms."
Folks, I am still wrapping my own brain around this response, but I continued with, "God doesn't create them, but He did create a universe and an atmosphere in which they could be allowed."
God created this entire universe. It is more complex than we can even comprehend. Many people think faith and science are two completely different things, but I believe God created science. Much like human beings, given the free will to make their own decisions, to create peace or chaos, He created an atmosphere which supports both beautiful natural phenomenons and natural disasters.
There are a lot of side dialogues that can evolve from this topic, and one of the many retorts might be, "Why would He allow them to occur at all? If He commands the seas, why wouldn't He just turn these storms right back into the ocean?"
Real answer? I don't know.
However, look around you. Watch your social media feeds. What do you see or hear most about during times of hardship? During times of difficulty? During times of tragedy?
I will tell you what I see. During a time when our country, arguably our whole world, is more divided than I have seen in my lifetime, I see people praying for one another. Instead of concern for others' political opinions, I see concerns for their welfare and well-being. I see people generously giving of their homes, their hands, their time, their money, their food. For a brief, yet tumultuous moment, I see people putting aside their differences to help one another in times of need. I see unity instead of division. I see the news media covering stories of great courage and generosity. Isn't it ironic, how it takes inexplicable tragedy, to get the media to shift to more positive stories about humankind? I see, that contrary to all that has been reported in recent events, humanity does have a great capacity for love and kindness!
What would this world be like if we always treated people the way we treat them during catastrophic disasters?
What if we were always as kind, as generous, as courageous as we are during the storms?
Y'all, someone you know is always battling a storm. What would this world be like, if we always prayed for others as though their lives depended on it?
When I was growing up, my dad had a saying, "God helps those who help themselves." Since the age of the internet, or more accurately, the age of angry, offended bloggers, has occurred, this saying has made countless lists of "things Christians should never say," and "things that aren't actually in the Bible," etc, etc. It has caused quite a tizzy.
But here's the thing, and I can't stress this enough, no one ever said it was in the Bible.
This saying, along with the idea that one must "work as though they depend solely upon themselves, and pray as though they depend solely upon the Lord," have never been represented as quotes from the Bible, that I have seen. That's the thing about sayings. They aren't direct quotes. They are things that people say. Now, does this saying apply to absolutely everything? Like most sayings, no, it does not. I was raised to believe that it is specific to working toward a goal, or working hard. Does this mean that God will give you anything you want, as long as you work for it? No, and I was never led to believe that was true either.
You can take from it what you will, and people may still be upset and offended by it, but let me tell you what it means to me.
It means that God is not a genie in the sky granting wishes. It means that God has given us free will, gifts, talents, and abilities to take action and carry out the plans He has for us. It means that we must not sit, idly by, in hopes that God will make all our dreams come true. There are most definitely times to sit and pray, and wait on the Lord. There is great power in patience and great wisdom in waiting.
However, when God has given us the gifts/abilities/resources to take action, and we sit on our hands waiting for Him to do everything for us, we cannot cry that He hasn't helped us. We cannot blame Him for our failures, if we do nothing. The Bible may never specifically say, "God helps those who help themselves," and it may not always be an applicable saying, but there is no shortage of verses referencing labor and hard work, and the pitfalls of laziness.
Labor Day has a very interesting history, if you want to look it up, but ultimately, it is a day to celebrate the workers of our nation.
"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." ~United States Department of Labor
For centuries, people forced changes into the world, their country, the economy, and their own lives by working. There is something to be said for hard work and dedication.
Have you been asking God to change something in your life? Or help you with a goal? Try asking Him how He would have you work toward that goal or that change. I would never tell you to act without Him, but pray for guidance. He may have already given you the gifts you need to take action.
Don't miss your blessings while waiting for God to do it all. Sometimes God answers our prayers, by requiring us to take action. Action can be hard work. Hard work can sometimes be painful, but like the blessings of childbirth, life can spring forth with abundant blessings!
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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