The mother settles the baby on her hip and smiles at her three-year-old daughter, snug in the grasp of one hand. We’re waiting on drinks at a local coffee shop, and her expression is filled with joy at the children filling her arms and clearly, her heart.
The little girl’s head presses into the mother’s sundress, shyness at the bustling crowd all over her small, round face. The mother leans down, reassures her with a few whispered words. Baby boy, perhaps three or four months old, shoves a chubby fist into his mouth and stares at me with big, dark eyes.
I smile, wink at him, enjoying fresh new life and remembering. Looking at my own two children, their heads matching mine in height and their growing, strong bodies.
I remember the busy, tiny, difficult years, when one of them was always, in some way, connected to me physically.
I gaze at the little girl clinging to her mother, at her cherubic face. Because I know that feeling. I know that tight little hand-held love, and my heart tweaks because it is just a memory now.
But there are things this mother knows, already, that I don’t know.
Because she and her children are black, and her daughter and son will face looks and attitudes and prejudice that stubbornly lingers in creased crevices of the human heart, squelching grace and growing hatred.
Because while I know the grip of tiny hands, the feel of a child’s breath on my cheek, I don’t know the grip of racism, the tidal wave of terror that one of my sons will be taken down just because he’s reaching for a wallet and his skin is the color of the dark earth we’re ALL fashioned from by our Maker’s hands.
What I know is the grip of God’s grace. God’s word. All created equal, all sinners in need of grace by a Savior who is color-blind.
I hope she does, too.
He pulls up beside my truck at a red light. His broad shoulders are slumped and one hand grips the steering wheel, the other checks his phone. Without seeing his eyes I know the weight of the world lingers over him like a heavy cloak.
He glances my way, assessing, always aware of his surroundings.
There’s a ring on his finger, and I wonder…does this burdened man have children, a family at home? A wife praying for his safety?
Because he’s a police officer. And his squad car is shiny new and decked out with thick bars in the back seat and a computer and gadgets throughout, but his face is simply weary.
How can he not be thinking of it?
Five fellow officers down.
A dear friend works in law enforcement, and through the years he’s shared snippets of the thankless, difficult, frightening situations and angry perpetrators he’s dealt with. His wife has called, texted to pray for her husband while he’s on midnight suicide calls and SWAT team drug busts in the middle of the woods.
The light changes, and the police officer pulls forward. I do, too, and we merge onto I-75 until the shiny squad car melds into traffic.
Minutes later a red sports car flies past, driving at least eight-five. The noise and sudden motion shocks me amidst the steady-flowing interstate.
I glare at the speeding car then glance at my boys in the back seat, grumble at the reckless driver’s irresponsible weaving.
Then I see the squad car a few hundred yards ahead.
And the red car sees him, too, and slows to what the law allows. Seventy-five, like me? For the next ten miles, the racing red car impatiently glides along beside the squad car.
Just by the officer’s presence.
And I’m grateful for it.
I don’t know the pressure, the hatred, the stress that law enforcement officers deal with daily. I know they’re not perfect because none of us are perfect.
But I know God’s grace, and that its grip saves lives. Redeems lives. Believes in each one.
I hope the burdened officer does, too.
After the shootings last week, my heart was so very heavy, just aching, for the pain in our country. For the deep and wide rift that should be closing but still widens. I’ve prayed about what to write, what to contribute to the thousands of words and opinions already out there.
I don’t know the black mother’s fear for her children’s lives, or the police officer’s daily burdens or the dangers his job entails.
But I DO know–I am certain– that Jesus is the only Way to peace.
I hope you do, too.