I’ve been friends with this month’s “Friend Post” blogger for over ten years! (That can’t be right, I’m not that old. And yet…hm…) From the time I met her, I’ve watched Audrey Beatty pour her heart and passion into helping others in community. She’s very active in “Epoch Arts“, a theater/ arts community for youth that fosters hope, positive change, and creativity. (Please check out their page to find out more about summer classes, their giant yearly tag sale, and ways you can get involved!!) Having been involved since Epoch’s early years, she’s proud to have helped with everything from acting and grant writing to working on their garden! I’ve also experienced Audrey’s deep heart for social justice while working alongside her with Love146, which seeks to end child trafficking and slavery. Her beautiful heart continues to shine through now as a wife and mother as well. But beyond all her volunteering and all around enthusiasm to make a difference in the world, Audrey has always been one of the greatest people to have an all-in conversation with. She’s open-minded and genuine, not afraid to talk about things other shy away from, and always leaves me with a perspective I desperately need. I believe you’ll agree with me after reading this timely post…so here’s Audrey:
by Audrey Beatty
43 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I have a confession to make.
I am not perfect.
Phew, it feels good to get that off of my chest! But truly, it’s something that’s hard for me to accept or admit. I try to keep a perfect home. Be the perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect woman, perfect person. I obsess. I fret. I fall short. Every. Damn. Day.
But in the fall of 2016, I decided it was time to be the perfect citizen and activist too. I, like many others, have all of the answers and obviously people in positions of influence need to hear from me. Time for me to rise up and take my rightful place among the change makers in the world and make my mark! So I started to attend meetings. I started to join groups. I started to take copious notes and do my homework.
I started to realize I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
If you are hankering for a nice big slice of humble pie, I would strongly recommend becoming involved with local government. And I don’t mean showing up at a town council meeting with an agenda or something you’ve already determined you’re fighting for or against. I mean just sitting attentively in a town committee meeting, prepared to learn about and engage with the process of running a community. It’s often dry, bogged down in systems and traditions passed down through generations, and, frankly, soul-crushing.
But what began to unfold in my mind as my eyes glazed over and I started praying no one would try to engage me in any serious kind of conversation, therefore discovering I was really a total noob and out of my element, was the strangest and most crystal clear revelation.
This incredibly awkward, uncomfortable space is exactly where I’m supposed to be. This is perfect.
Now hear me out.
This revelation may have started in a town committee meeting, but the thought wasn’t entirely fleshed out until I was attending church one Sunday. I brought my son to his church school classroom and was settling into a pew. I’d missed the readings entirely (shame) and don’t even remember most of the sermon (double shame), but on that Sunday in late winter the new associate minister spoke a short but simple phrase that pinned me into my seat and hasn’t let go of me yet…weeks later. The words have become tattooed on my heart.
God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust…and we know not which we are.
She said it a second time and left pregnant pauses between each word:
We know not… which… we… are.
I felt my throat clamp shut and my eyes well up. She wasn’t even looking at me, and yet in that moment I felt stripped down to my inner most being and in the spotlight.
I know not which I am.
The truth of it shook me to my core and I realized…it’s not something I consider nearly often enough.
I could be, and often am, downright wrong in my thinking.
So what does this have to do with the town meeting? As I learned more and more about government and became increasingly involved, I made some observations.
- Most people find politics scary or, at the very least, off-putting…at least when they’re not on Facebook. And honestly? I can’t blame them.
- Things are rarely as simple as I thought. If a problem seemed to have an obvious solution, that solution likely has negative repercussions I hadn’t considered. Either that or the reasons for the problem are far more complex than I realized.
- If it’s hard for me to understand why someone is so worked up about something, it’s usually because they have a history that is different than mine or their current life circumstances are different. Not better or worse. Just different. It is rarely because they are, at their core, a bad or even irrational person incapable of hearing reason or holding a productive conversation when treated with respect. Furthermore, to diminish someone else’s pain and suffering, regardless of my feelings about it, is to forever erect an obstacle to understanding between us.
- No one is ever going to get their way all of the time. Not even me. And if I can’t think outside of myself and take the needs and desires of others into consideration—even others that I disagree with on a fundamental level—I am never going to have peace or happiness in this life and likely won’t accomplish much.
- “Just” and “unjust” are a heck of a lot more hazy than I would have liked to believe.
Initially, these thoughts made me want to throw in the towel. I thought, “That’s it! It is impossible to know everything about every issue and understand every angle. How is anyone supposed to do anything about…ANYTHING! I’m going off-grid and I’m never speaking to anyone outside of my immediate family ever again. And maybe not even them. WHY EVEN TRY.”
But then I realized something else. Committing myself to learning, growing, and being flexible in my understanding of the world and people in it doesn’t mean abandoning my convictions. In fact, it’s in line with them. Leaving room for others and their beliefs at the table is not a threat and there is no need to feel offended if others don’t agree with me. I do not really know who is right and who is wrong and, in the end, it isn’t up to me anyway.
We are all just and unjust, righteous and unrighteous, evil and good, perfect and imperfect. At the same time, all of the time. And seeing that truth – it was such a necessary dose of humility for me. Not only that, but it was liberating and strangely empowering. When I’m able to let go of the need to be “right” or the fear of being “wrong” (it’s not easy…actually it’s a devastatingly hard, continual process for me), I start to experience life differently. I stop seeing myself as better or worse than anyone else. I start being more open to people and ideas without feeling insecure or defensive. I stop hating and wanting to hide from the world…and find love and compassion in the space left behind. I find hope for the future, whatever it may bring.
And do you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to keep at it. I’m going to keep showing up even when I’m dead tired and used up. I’m going to continue arguing and getting frustrated and feeling embarrassed and screwing up and learning to do better. I’m going to get mad and butt heads and hold signs and give up and start again. Becoming woven into the fabric of a community and choosing to be a conscious, active member, however stomach-churning or complicated, is the most beautiful and authentic form of love for my neighbor, and my enemy, that I have ever engaged in.
Were you impacted by Audrey’s story? Please comment or share to spread the conversation a little further! And don’t forget to check in Monday for the first week of “Gray Faith” study!