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Cultivate a courageous heart

Sunlight through mountains

How are we to respond when witnessing the painful ways humans treat each other? Naomi García looks within to unlearn passive behavior and to cultivate a courageous heart and grace-filled actions.

Michigan Conference Associate Director for Congregational Vibrancy

My heart cracked.

A group of God’s favs laughed together. Bonding over a cutting remark about one among them. I did my best to remain unreactive. Refusing to participate in the deprecating cruelty. I fixed my gaze on the target, attempting to convey my solidarity with the victim. My passive resistance may not have been received. I know it was painful for me. It generated an acute helplessness within.

My heart broke.

Long-time teenage friends gathered in person for the first time in two years. The jubilation suddenly turned. Insults vehemently hammered two of the “friends” with them. The two targets hung back; eyes darting between “friends,” each other, the ground between them, and somewhere beyond the present in search of immediate cover. These teenage “friends” were in their late 50s.

My heart split apart.

Sometimes I find myself lulled into a deep comfort of calm and being with my peeps. People with whom I can be the real me. I know I’m loved. I’m seen. I feel open. Breathing comes easily. I’m present. More often than I care to remember, I’ve been surprised by offensive references to The Holy One’s favs. Hearing words like “girls” (referring to women), “kids” (referring to teenagers or young adults), “those people” (because disrespect doesn’t bother with names), “homosexuals” (in reference to an assumed inerrancy relationship with scripture) and “freak” (among the most stick-it-to-you insults) shuts me out. Most frequently the words are delivered with inhospitable tones of voice and disapproving body language. Together they annihilate the comfort and ease of my being.

Suddenly, I feel threatened. The safe place for being brave has evaporated. I shut down. Anger and disappointment devolve into taking cover and being defensive. It’s more accurate to say, “I have left the building.”

These expressions of fear and anger keep happening all around. I’ve witnessed many variations of these scenarios among “Christ-followers.” Even the memory takes my soul back to reaching for refuge from the depths of a dark isolation. I catch myself agonizing over how could these divisive ones be favorites of The Holy One. I fear my experience of The Divine One could be next.

In my discomfort, it’s often a long while before I consider the fact that maybe their divisive behavior doesn’t make them bad, wrong, or less Divinely designed than me.

The ongoing, covert, passive-aggressive bullying is unacceptable to The Holy One of Boundless Love and Generous Assumptions.

My recovery depends on my work to resist ignoring the horrors of how humans treat each other. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with the confidence that this intentional forgetting is more common among us than our survival can bear. It’s not the same as forgiving.

Unlearning is our primary task. Unlearning is cleaning away what prevents one from choosing grace over convenience, fitting in at the moment or avoiding our God-created selves. We already know and feel what needs to change inside to be perfected in Love outside. Only when we intentionally choose the center of The Holy One’s intent for each one of us—and us together—will we be more like Jesus the Christ.

There are other ways to be in the company of others. I have experienced these other ways many times. I know what it can look like. How it feels. I want it to be our normal way of being.

I ache for us all to live the courage of a universal optimism credited to Ray Bradbury: “Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings in the fall.”

Choose grace. For yourself. For others. For all of creation.

Changing the world one relationship at a time is an option worth choosing.