The overabundance of my life I carry between my hands. It is the color of summer and the sweetness of the season of my life. In a week, we have eaten only half and because I cannot abide the thought of losing such a gift of the sun & dirt I carry that ice-cold half watermelon between my newly tanned Florida vacation hands to my neighbors renting the house next door.
They arrived yesterday. A big family spilling in and out of the peach colored house with mint shutters. The sound of laughter and Spanish chatter filling their porch and spilling over into the night air as we grill burgers and wash off sandy feet under the outdoor shower.
I randomly ring their doorbell wondering if they will answer, wondering if they are down at the beach or pool, but a boy of tenish with a flat top haircut and large brown eyes eventually answers the door, opening it only a few inches and giving me a quick once over.
He is hesitant to get his momma, scared of a woman like me, with dollar store flip flops and a Target tank top on, bare faced with her teenaged daughter in tow. He reluctantly agrees ducking his head quickly and shutting the door completely leaving us to mill around the porch awkwardly.
In a short minute, their momma appears with a tiny bag of Fritos in her hand and smiles warmly. I introduce myself and offer my gift of Summer which she takes with kindness letting that smile stretch far across her face. For a moment, we exchange thoughts and we are just two mommas on the porch sharing the goodness of the season with one another.
As we walk the twenty steps back to our rental my daughter wants to know why the boy seemed so afraid. And I am hesitant to tell her. I am hesitant to break the spell of warm nights, long swims, kindness shared, and neighbors being neighbors.
I am hesitant to break the Spell of Summer.
But pretending a thing isn’t there doesn’t make it go away. It doesn’t make it less a threat, so I take a deep breath and try to explain in the best way I know how the intricacies of immigration and the possibility that the family may not all have been legal residents of America. My fourteen-year-old found it hard to understand how our government would deport people who had no criminal background and were no risk to other citizens. I ran out of good words trying to explain a law that gave them the right to deport moms, dads, students, and solid working people.
There are strong feelings about immigration in our country today and rightfully so. America was founded on the belief of immigration, it is deeply embedded within our societal DNA that everyone has the right to seek out for themselves, on this American soil, the life they choose to live in peace. But everywhere I look peace seems hard to find and I believe there is a great misunderstanding about the realities of immigration and the pursuit of the American Dream. And this misunderstanding is in direct conflict with the teachings we hold as Christians.
We are taught as Americans that our dream should be life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And many of us have come to equate happiness with more, more money, more vacations, more cars, more clothes, more comfort, more stability, more of everything. And with everything we gain our appetite is not quenched, it is stoked. The fire for more becomes a drive we cannot control.
Eventually we believe we are entitled to a life without sacrifice or sharing.
And when Satan makes our lives hard we are angry. We watch breathlessly as economies fail, jobs are lost, and savings accounts dwindle. Often the life we imagined never appears, or worse, our dream comes true and we lose it.
And we want someone to blame, the government, immigrants, Republicans, refugees, Democrats, our boss, or our neighbor. It doesn’t really matter who we pick, we just need to share the pain because it makes the burden easier for bearing.
As Christians, we need to consider the source of our anger and discontent. Satan is the Master at convincing us we need and deserve comfort in this world. Often, we tell each other that it’s human nature to crave this comfort and stability in a fallen world. Perhaps, but it is not God’s nature and we are called to his standard, not our own.
If we are Christians then we must examine the American beliefs we hold so tightly to our hearts, the beliefs that would allow us to settle for a life in the pursuit of more at the expense of others. Are these beliefs more precious than the commandants Christ has given?
Are we loving our neighbors as we love ourselves? (Mark 12:31NIV)
I don’t think we are.
I don’t think we are concerned much for them at all because we are too concerned with how to achieve our own American Dream. We are not asking the hard questions about why legal immigration is so incredibly difficult because we don’t want to know. It is far easier to point fingers and simply state, “If they want to come here, do it the right way.”
But what if the right way is nearly impossible?
Do we as their Christian neighbors bear a responsibility to speak out and change the immigration system to make it fair & navigable? Or are we afraid of more than we can speak aloud? Is the real beast of the problem even deeper and darker than we dare whisper?
“Am I really against immigration or am I afraid that another’s presence will diminish what’s available for me? Will I lose my identity as an American if it’s flooded with people who look and speak differently than me?”
Those who stand firmly within God’s cleft know each of these questions originates from anxiety from people who do not yet understand the safety and security of the Father. Our identity doesn’t stem from our country, our citizenship is in Heaven. Another’s presence doesn’t diminish who we are, it enriches and strengthens who are becoming as a country. And when communities share resources no goes without. We must remember that each of us is considered valuable by God and none of us will be lost in the crowd neither here or earth, nor later in Heaven,
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7NIV)
This week our White House Administration proposed changes to the current immigration system that would cut legal immigration in half and create a merit based system, making people prove they were good enough to enter our country. They would also need to be proficient in English. My first thought was,
“Thank Goodness Jesus doesn’t make us comply with a “merit based immigration system” or speak Hebrew before he lets us into Heaven or we’d all be destined for Hell”
Jesus doesn’t think the way we think, he doesn’t love the way we love, he doesn’t forgive the way we forgive, he doesn’t give the way we give, thank God above his heart and his ways are perfect.
And if we are daring to call ourselves his followers, if we are bold enough to invoke the name “Christian” then shouldn’t we be asking ourselves if our hearts towards our neighbors are aligned with the one who made them beat to the rhythm of the Heavens? Do we have the right to withhold our help, our support and our love from those who need it simply because it makes our lives here easier, especially when the Father calls us to so much more?
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40 NIV)