Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Love Your Neighbor


Who Said Loving Your Neighbor Is Easy?

A guest post by Rev. Angelle M. Jones

“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
– Luke 10:27 (NIV)

A few months ago, a dear friend started having what she thought to be a simple physical challenge. Living in separate cities but talking regularly, for weeks she shared how she was experiencing ongoing sinus problems. Because the city where she lived had been determined to have an abnormally high pollen count, she attributed that as the reason for her reoccurring misery.

Doctors prescribed several doses of antibiotics and steroids but she just kept getting worse. With COVID-19 lurking and some of her symptoms seeming relatable, her family persuaded her to go to ER. What she and doctors thought to be a simple sinus infection turned out to be a life altering illness, completely turning her world upside down.

Once hospitalized, her mode of communication was limited to texting and selfies to explain what was going on. Although most of it was more than my non-medical mind could begin to translate, I thought I had the gist of it. What I did understand was the diagnosis was a life-threatening autoimmune disease that with flare-ups, causes an insurmountable surge of deadly inflammation to spread throughout the body.

Prior to the diagnosis she had experienced an unusual amount of hearing loss in both ears for someone her age. Once diagnosed, they found this to be the reason not only for the hearing and minor memory loss, but for other symptoms as well. 

After being hospitalized for almost three weeks, when time to be released, unmarried and no children, aware that her family were all employed or out of state, I offered to help her transition back into her home. Of course, I had no idea what to expect but having served as a professional caregiver off and on for the past twenty years, I really didn’t give it much thought. It couldn’t be too difficult I reasoned, after all, I’m a natural caregiver! I raised two generations as a single parent, and consider myself pretty intelligent. Moreover, it was the least I could do since this friend of over thirty years had been there to help during some of my toughest times.

As I write this (and yes, I am publishing with her permission) I wish I could report that everything has been as easy as one, two, three, however, and I’m sure she’ll agree, it’s been a far cry from easy. Through tears, anger, and days with little to almost no sleep, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that my professional caregiving skills and sincere desire to love “my neighbor as myself,” were challenged immensely.

After the first week, I realized I hadn’t truly grasped the brevity of her illness, or the level of care needed to help with the most basic needs. The idea of an autoimmune disease coupled with the threats of COVID alone were enough. Add having to become someone’s ears to communicate phone calls, shop, manage medicines, and never ending doctor’s appointments were unimaginable.

Perhaps with my own age-related limitations, when told, I obviously missed the full scope of the diagnosis. After a few weeks in the battle, I guess I expected my friend to be able to immediately pop in some high-powered hearing aids and quickly get back to life as normal.

Our first few days were probably the most difficult either of us had ever encountered. After the first week, we both woke up every morning tired not only physically, but our spirits were being tried in the fire and our minds were battle fatigued. I finally had to admit that even being quarantined for months before, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional battle involved with facing this new reality. Embracing the new, called for me to now accept that the two young women who used to share the art of listening to one another’s deepest desires, were no longer.

To say I have just undergone one of the most transformative periods of my life would be an understatement. If honest, most of us offer ourselves to serve in capacities we’re either passionate about or feel we’re qualified and gifted to do. However, every now and then we find ourselves called to enter into a transformational space of sacrifice. Often God has a way of calling us to a level of giving that warrants more than what we feel we can do on our own. Truth is, we really never do anything without His grace, and this experience proved it more than ever.

After a short period into my caregiving experience I had to question whether this particular case of loving my “neighbor” was possibly harder not only due to her circumstances but also because my friend is White and I am Black. In the midst of one of the most racially tense moments in America I found myself having to check my heart. Although I could pretty easily acknowledge my limitations, and admit how hard caring for her was, what I wasn’t ready for was the possibility that my anxiety might also be attributed to our racial difference.

Could it be that her excessive demands were based on her imposing her privilege? Was it her, or was it me that made me feel almost diminished to a modern-day slave by the daily tasks I was being asked to perform?

I knew the thought that my friend might be doing anything intentionally to discriminate against me was improbable. However, as a racial reconciliation facilitator, because of my work, especially in this season, I had to admit my thoughts moved there quickly. 

Thankfully, because my work focuses on building authentic race relationships, after deep introspection I moved past the thought quickly. Having to check my heart for racial bias toward my friend taught me that the work of racial reconciliation is ongoing. More importantly, I was reminded, it takes intentional work from both races, and whether friend or not, Black or White they are still my neighbor.

Through this experience I have come to realize that my neighbor is the one who I not only sympathize with, but the one with whom I may also have to empathize. What I’ve learned most, is that to love my neighbor as myself means, no matter how difficult, if at all possible, I will not allow them to experience loss alone. 
Instead, as in this case I must embrace my friend’s loss as mine. If my neighbor is suffering, so am I. If my neighbor grieves, I grieve. Most importantly, just as my friend is called to endure this trial, we may be called to endure it together. 

Simultaneously, God revealed to us one day in a divine moment of transformation that no doubt, we were called to share this sacred space of loss and grief together. Embracing, we cried and prayed, committing one another’s pain to the One who invited us to share this space of learning.

Instantly, we both knew it would be the place where we would learn how to truly “Love our neighbor as our self.”

~*~
Author Bio:

“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words” 


Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively.

Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc. she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012 Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.

In 2016 Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.

Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.

1 comment:

  1. Angelle is an example of the difference between being friendly and being a friend. A friend will not leave you or forsake you, a friend, like Angelle, loves at all times - through the good and bad. Love and blessings as you allow God to use you.

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