I watched baby Samuel slip so naturally into his uncle Nick’s big strong hands. My little white son nestled into the crook of his ebony arm. He hung there, suspended in perfect peace, with little legs dangling down and big eyes looking up into the face of this new person. I hadn’t thought of it before this moment, but this was the first black person he’d seen up close. This was his first gaze into the full beauty of God’s human creation. This was his first experience of community and friendship and love that crosses cultural and ethnic boundaries. It was his first glimpse into the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotion that welled up in me. The pride that my son might be held by my dear friend, and that we might all stand as equals together. Things were not always this way. My heart leapt with the desire that Samuel might grow up surrounded by those who look different and think differently than he does. People who will push him and challenge him to see and understand the vastness of the world in which we live.
I pray that he will experience an integrated church where the walls that have so long separated us in American Christianity are torn down. It is not enough to wish and pray these things for my son. It is not enough to imagine such a church as if it were an impossible but beautiful vision. Samuel’s future begins now with me his father. It begins in this moment with those I choose to surround myself with. It begins with the visitors that we welcome into our home and the places we choose worship.
It wasn’t long before Samuel was fast asleep sprawled out in complete trust. He did not care that the arms that held him were black. Only that they were safe and filled with love. He does not understand the long painful history of our peoples. He knows only the soothing sound of Nick’s deep voice and his swaying and bouncing. He knows connection not color. He hears a human heartbeat near his ear mimicking his own.
There are no barriers. No walls. No hatred. No fear. Just love.