(This blog will take the average adult roughly 4 minutes to read.)
“Indifference is the opposite of love.”
The pastor of the church I attend spoke on this some weeks ago. And I’ve been ruminating on it in my head and my heart ever since.
I wax indifferent when the storm tide rises. I can be a very calloused, apathetic person. It’s nothing shy of a defense mechanism. It’s how I’ve learned to deal with the storm surge in my life that has yet to recede.
The other day I was sitting with a friend, looking out over the ocean, talking about how we met, when she told me that all she remembers is that I was talking about something that was going on in my life, and she was thinking (about me), “Wow. She’s been through a lot of hard stuff.” The conversation shifted a bit at that point, as I mentioned that it’s only gotten worse. The shit I was going through then was just a foreshadowing to the shit I’m going through now. It was the tide drawing out, removing the ground below it with the rip current, for miles before the tsunami rushed in. That was about five and a half years ago—and we didn’t talk about how I started feeling the riptide draw the water from my shores when I was six. That drawn out tide changed direction and became a swell about a year ago, and it’s still crashing on my shores today.
Having that conversation brought back to the forefront of my mind that, “The opposite of love is indifference.” I’ve been using sandbags of indifference to build up a wall around my heart for decades—perhaps even since I first started feeling the sand wash away beneath my feet as a little girl. What you don’t care about, can’t hurt you, right? It feels safer to be behind the wall, rather than in the wave with the loved ones who are drowning in it.
Or at least, it feels safer to pretend you’re behind the wall, than to realize you’re being tossed in the waves, too. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve got to realize that my pathetic (or apathetic) sandbag wall failed me a long time ago. For me, indifference has been wholly about protecting myself—and I’m realizing now that I am wholly incapable of that. I built that wall, and found myself caught in the tidal wave anyhow.
I started writing this blog on July 3, thinking about my own callous indifference—unlovingness—toward people who’ve been directly involved with situations that have caused me pain. Then I wrote a bit more on it on July 6—and have left it open in a tab on my computer since. It’s been sitting there begging me to complete it, and I didn’t know how. It was supposed to be about how Jesus is the protector, and we are wholly protected when we are being tossed by the waves. Maybe someday I’ll finish the blog this started out as.
Then, this week, any hell that hadn’t already broken loose in this chapter of American history broke loose. Two black men died at the hands of the police—seemingly unjustly. Protests broke out across the country—as is custom at this point (and wholly understandable, in my opinion)—and at one of them a lone gunman opened fire, specifically targeting police officers, shooting eleven, and murdering five.
As I watched the news break—my head and my heart erupted into the words, “Jesus Christ. What the fuck?!”—and that was a prayer, a lamentation, a question. Everything felt so dark, and I felt sick to my stomach. As a white woman, I felt at first that it was better if I kept my mouth shut and took this time to listen—to my black and brown brothers and sisters. (Thank you, to those of you who voiced your fears.) While I’ve never actually experienced what my black and brown brothers and sisters experience—I’ve seen some of them experience it. I’ve been alongside them while slurs have been hurled at them, I’ve seen the blatant discrimination take place. I’ve known for a long time the reality of racism in America, without really understanding the weight of it because I don’t carry the weight. It’s like looking at a bar with those heavy iron plates on them in the gym, thinking, “I can tell those are heavy.” But I’ve never had to lift the bar.
Meanwhile, while all of the horrors are playing out in the media (and in real people’s real lives), this blog has been taunting me every time I open my laptop. On one of those occasions that I opened my laptop, a Facebook friend posted a poignant status (read the whole thing here) that included the words below—and synapses fired—and I understood indifference as the opposite of love in a whole new light:
To my friends of color—especially my Black friends and neighbors and sisters and brothers—I am also so so sorry I went so long without saying anything. There’s cruelty in that, a callousness in me willfully staying silent and letting a wrong go by, and I repent to you of that. I am here with you and here for you in whatever way I can be, however small.
If any one of us lives in fear, none of us is free. We’re not all living in the same America.
Black. Lives. Matter.
“You hear the desire of the afflicted. You will strengthen their heart. You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”
It’s like I’ve been standing on a cliff, watching that tide rush out and the tsunami rush in. I never had to build my sandbag wall of callous indifference because it was built into my vantage point. I’ve watched my brothers and sisters tremble in fear as they feel the riptide beneath their feet, and I’ve watched some of them flail and tumble in the waves, thinking that tsunami wasn’t one I would be caught in. And it’s not—I will never find myself at sea level with the sand ripping out from underneath my feet—unless I intentionally climb down off my cliff and get intentional about loving my black brothers and sisters in the tsunami they’ve been caught in for centuries.
To stay atop the cliff is indifference. To stay atop the cliff is the opposite of love.
To get down off the cliff is a wholly imperfect and incomplete reflection of Christ. I do want to clarify that this is not a “white savior” reflection of Christ—we are not getting off our cliff to save. We cannot save. We are getting off our cliff to join our brothers and sisters in the in the tsunami, to say, “As long as these waves crash, I will be here with you because I love you.”—like Christ does for us.
I’m largely unsure what getting in the tidal wave looks like—but I’m ready to repent of my indifference and climb down from the safety of my cliff and grapple with the waves and the riptide with those who I love—I will not be indifferent.
To my black brothers and sisters, tell me what love looks like for you here. Tell me what it would look like for me to join you in the tsunami.
(And if you didn’t read Holly’s whole Facebook status, do that now that you’re done reading this blog.)