It was the late Eighties-early Nineties. Hair was big. I mean BIG.
I listened to music on a cd player….FOR the first time. Cell phones were the size of laptops (OK— not exactly!)
There was a CONCERT to benefit every need….. Farm aid , Live aid….
A” Band-aid” for every cultural hurt.
Seems like those concerts- those benefit tunes- were supposed to CHANGE things… did they? I don’t know- I remember feeling like i WANTED to change things. I cant definitely say, they TAUGHT us things.
We learned about Africa, the illnesses, the starvation. We learned about farmers being a lost segment if our history- about poverty in our own backyard.
I guess what impacted me the most- was AIDS. Probably because it was so deadly. We learned about safe -sex, we learned that you could DIE from sex. (a pretty new concept at that time) Aids was something, that you could “catch” without knowing, pass along to others- for YEARS, and THEN get sick from and die. You could also “Catch” it from sharing needles, you could catch it form un-protected sex… there were other “ideas” about how you could and couldn’t catch it….. in a culture that “knew it all” there was a lot of fear over this one.
It was sadly interesting to see the “Churches” response to HIV. It seemed like there was a prevalent “judgement” that the people who “GOT HIV”, “deserved it”. At least those were the only people to ever get on TV. I don’t honestly know how prevalent the attitudes were.
Sometimes, I wonder if people responded this way, from fear. Like it was a protective denial… if they determined that they were “safe” because they were “good”… and, if they kept themselves separated from it, then, they wouldn’t have to be afraid.
They would be safe- from both illness and the fear.
Maybe I’m just trying to find – some excuse for the fear, ignorance and prejudice.
I remember thinking this was stupid. I remember thinking Jesus would treat an aids patient like he did a leper. He would reach out, love them, touch them. I remember thinking I would do the same.
Then, I met someone with HIV. Actually, full-blown AIDS. A married, Christian man. He was dying. He had a wife. She sang beautifully. They sang beautifully together. We worshipped together.
Suddenly, HIV, and my response to it- was no longer THEORETICAL. It was now, real, and in my face.
And, I felt afraid. I didn’t WANT to be afraid. I tried NOT to be afraid. But, I was.
I also knew- what Jesus’ response would be, and somewhere, in my heart or spirit or soul… something “clicked”. I had a choice. I FELT afraid, but what was I going to DO? We knew this couple casually, they were a part of our church family, they were hurting and rejected by well— in a lot of ways -the world.
Our Pastor, gently encouraged the congregation to come around this young couple with love, however you could.
I was a young mom. I was scared. And determined. So was my husband.
We visited. She cooked (A GREAT cook-) Enchilada’s like you wouldn’t believe. He could barely eat, and I remember his meds invading the space in the fridge, and being served along side the meals…
We laughed… we brought our little guy- (now my 16 yr old) he was entranced with their fish tank. I remember having moments where I looked at the silverware- before eating— when I looked at them each- lovingly touch my son, when we held their hands to pray—- moments- of fear-sometimes intense fear- would tear at me. I had thoughts like: Would loving them… make me sick? Am I putting my child at risk? Those moments were overcome, with love, and with courage to do the right thing, that could only have been from God.
I remember the tender care that “she” took of him. I remember looking at her eyes and wondering, could I do the same, if it were my husband? I remember being afraid for her, for her future.
Did I do everything I could have? No. I wish I had loved them better. After “his” death-especially–Honestly- I think her grief scared me as much, if not more than the disease. I didn’t know how to handle it. At some time, “she” left the church…. I’m not sure why- it may have just been grief. Grief that stabbed her heart, every time “she” went where “they” had. I don’t know.
I don’t know where “she” is now, I don’t know her “HIV status”. I know I did what I could. And I wish I had done more.
HIV treatment is different now. It is worlds apart from the experiece I had in the eighties-early nineties. It seems to be much more understood- and less feared.
HIV was my first experience with “cultural lepers.” There are always “lepers” in every culture. Whether determined “unclean” by a behavior, by a dependancy or by a disease- whether physical or emotional, there have always been “untouchables.” People “we” (whom ever your WE may be) seem to think- “deserve” what they get, or may spread it to us.
People who scare us. People who cause us to think we could BECOME like them. It could “rub-off” or be “catchy”….
I guess I think we already ARE. Alike, I mean.
The bible says the wages of sin are death. End of story— there isn’t anywhere in the Bible a “God’s top ten unforgiveable sins” list. I’ve looked- there isn’t a “if you do this you get that—- and DESERVE it” list. The bottom line- is we all deserve death. Hell, actually.
My sin is NO Better- or worse- than yours. “All have sinned and falllen short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say “some fall further than others- so give them up- stay away from them, or you’ll become like them”
The other day- when I was walking down the stairs- I realized—- it doesn’t matter how MUCH I miss that bottom step by—- it will ALWAYS HURT when I land on my butt. I can’t say… “I BARELY missed it— so my butt’s not bruised”. It doesn’t matter.
I guess I see sin the same way. Miss the step- land on your butt- it doesn’t make a difference how MUCH you missed the step by, it hurts. It requires treatment. Treatments for HIV have changed- but the treatment for sin- hasn’t. It’s Jesus. (and yes- I guess that’s Christian jargon /cheese— but, it’s true all the same.)
Jesus challenged us to – “Love others as yourself” If I were one of “the untouchables” what would I desperately need? A touch, and hope. The Bible tells me that God loves me even when I am in the midst of sin. When I am at my worst. And I should love others the same way.
Jesus didn’t say it would be easy. He didn’t say- don’t worry about loving others- I’ll do that for you. He said to do it. Jesus also didn’t say “ignore sin”. He confronted it pretty hard. He also loved the sinner.
In the eighties— I did it as well as I could. With a fearful heart, and Big Hair.
I was young, it was scary. My attempts were imperfect and messy. But, my faith grew thru the experience. I learned to trust God- and put my FAITH into ACTION…. it wasn’t about theory or personal conviction.
It was about people.
It was about doing the RIGHT thing- regardless of how afraid I felt.
I’m feeling challenged- to do the same now. I’m looking around- where are the “lepers” in my life? How can I love them better, NOW?
How can you?
Dear Jesus- please help me to see the “lepers” in my life— I know you’re talking to me about them— but I just am having a hard time identifying them, and knowing HOW to love them. I do know- that I love you Lord- and want desperately to love others- even when I’m afraid. I love you lord, Amen