“Excuse me, sir,” I interrupted, doing both of my least favorite activities: talking to strangers and bothering anyone for help. “Can you point us to the wheelchair accessible entrance?”
“Um, well, I don’t think… um, let me, um, check… I, um, just don’t, um, know…” he stammered as he picked up his walkie talkie. I stepped back a bit, knowing I probably didn’t want to hear whatever he was saying to the other person.
After a wait – short yet long enough for my children to lose any chill they had – a man escorted us all around the building to a doorway next to the dumpsters, where he had to move a table blocking the only ramp so we could enter the Chinese New Year celebration. I smiled and thanked him. I knew I would make the kids angsty if I showed my real emotions, plus it wasn’t that poor guy’s fault. But make no mistake: I was both blinking back tears and desperately wanting to tell someone off.
We enjoyed the event, and we’re used to this. But it stings a little each time.
When I pointed out the lack of accessible entrance, was I the problem? Was that divisive? Did I undermine the unity of this cultural event? No. That’s obvious, right?
The problem was that we couldn’t get inside. The problem was the lack of a ramp. The problem was all the barriers to Zoe and me – her in a wheelchair and me with a cane – being full participants in an event for which we already had tickets.
I was not the problem. I simply pointed out the problem.
Like a thermometer measures temperature, I measured the situation at hand. Like a weatherman uses observation to forecast the chance of precipitation, I did the same to judge the chance that Zoe and I could enter the space. Like a windsock shows the direction of the breeze, I showed the event staff the absence of accessibility.
The thermometer does not make a fever. The weatherman does not summon the storm. The windsock does not direct the gusts. I did not position the ramp or block the door.
The thermometer, the weatherman, and the windsock simply reveal what’s already happening. So did I.
So it is with those speaking out about police brutality. So it is with those tweeting #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear or #ThingsOnlyBLACKChristianWomenHear or #ThingsOnlyChristianWOCHear or #disabilityinchurch. So it is when any of us is brave enough to say “this hurt me.” So it is when we reveal effects of abuse, only to be called wolves for it.
When we reveal what’s already happening, we do not divide. We do not create disunity. We are not the problems.
We are simply pointing them all out.
Once upon a time, the Pharisees took issue with Jesus healing the sick on the Sabbath, saying “aha!” to any violation of the letter of the law as they interpreted it. Meanwhile, Jesus – the author of the law – modeled that the spirit of the law trumped the gnat strainers. He healed the man, pointed to the problem, and challenged those who cried foul.
You can nit pick all you want. That’s your choice. You can emulate the Pharisees if that’s your thing.
I’m going to choose to follow the example of Christ. I’m going to do the work of healing, which begins with a naming and acknowledgment of the hurts. I’m going to pay attention because I know God doesn’t plug his ears and sing lalalalalalalala in response to the cry of the needy. I won’t ignore the walls and unbiblical structures and unjust realities, even the ones that don’t hold me back personally. I’m going to declare that if our gospel isn’t good news for everyone, then it’s not really the gospel.
Basically, I’m going to love my neighbor, for the good of all and the glory of God.
How about you?