Seeing what is not yet, but we hope will be

June 12th marked the 53rd anniversary of Loving v Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court case that made interracial marriage legal nationwide.  In 1967, just a few years before my parents themselves married, it was still illegal in 13 American states for whites and nonwhites to marry.   I’m starting to come to terms with the circumstances and privilege built into my life that made it so I have not learned about it until this far along in my life, much less ten years into my own interracial marriage.  But another interesting thing is where I learned this from: a picture book.  

Ellis and I recently read a book about Ruby Bridges, which also is how I discovered the fact that Ellis is the same age that Ruby was (six) when she became the first black child to enter an all-white school in 1960.  The books about the Lovings, and the story of Ruby Bridges, and the other we’ve read together in the past few months impacted me on a lot of different levels. There's something remarkable about a children's book to distill difficult topics into a few concise and easy to understand words and pictures.    I have a lot of grown-up books to read, and I have a lot to learn in my own grown-up time, but these children's books have been an entry point (not just for my kids, but also for me) into some of the more challenging parts of our history.  My generation has a lot of work that we can and need to do, but we will soon be passing that work onto our children.  Books like this enable them to step into other people's shoes and recognize that there's good and bad in all of us. I think adults need a lot more of that sort of empathy, along with a child-like faith that good can and will win, but not without a fight.  I think that we're at the crux of a story right now in our culture, and the second half is full of uprooting, dreaming new, building, and planting seeds in a place that reflects God's true kingdom.  Maybe it seems like an idealistic fairy tale, but if anyone can get us there, it's our kids bringing God's dreams to life.  How can we walk the long road to change without imagining what lies at the end of it?  How could have Richard and Mildred Loving fought nine long years for a right to be married, if they didn't see a future where legal interracial marriage was a possibility?  Why would the Bridges have sent little Ruby to school without an imagination and a hope for a time when she could sit in a classroom full of other inquisitive six-year old minds, even if they didn't look like her?  And if our kids are reading of the likes of the Lovings, Ruby, and the many other lives captured in stories we have the privilege to read, what isn't possible for them to dream?  

It brings to mind a quote from The Green Ember by S.D. Smith.  It's a YA novel about warring rabbits, of all things, and I actually posted it a couple of years ago for Advent.  I'm revisiting it here because I think it is a beautiful and fitting ode to the power of imagination and the kind of faith we need to carry us through these seasons of pain and heartbreak and longing for the world to be made new:  

 "...This is a place dedicated to the reasons why some must fight.  Here we anticipate the mended wood, the Great Wood healed.  Those painters are seeing what is not yet, but we hope will be.  They are really seeing, but it's a different kind of sight.  They anticipate the mended wood in our various ways.  We sing about it.  We paint it.  We make crutches and soups and have gardens and weddings and babies.  This is a place out of time.  A window into the past and the future world.  We are heralds, you see, my dear, saying what will surely come.  And we prepare with all our might, to be ready when once again we are free."  
-S.D. Smith

Stories are where impossible things happen.  Where the mightiest of dragons are slain, the unlikeliest of characters become heroes, and where we gain the courage to stand up and fight - for ourselves yes, but especially on behalf of others.    Isn't that what we want for our kids?  

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