taking the words of Jesus seriously

“Smile!” I said as they both squeezed into each other, my older son, swinging his arm around his younger brother. They had the same bright eyes, and indulged me with one too many first day of school photos.

Smiling at them I felt my heart ache. Two bright smiles, brothers to the end and the best parts of our family. The world doesn’t see their bond or my fierce mother’s love for both of them. My youngest son’s ebony skin throws them off. Color hides from their eyes our family ties. When they were little it choked me up, robbed me of my breath when  someone caught me off guard me with the question, “I know he’s your son, but who is he?”

The same day I took that smiling first day of school photo of my two sons, I read it was the 60th anniversary of Ruby Bridges integrating the first all white elementary school in the south. Six years after Brown versus the Board of education ruled segregated schools were  illegal in America. Sixty years ago, my sons wouldn’t be allowed  to attend the same school. Segregation was America’s morality. Who do we have to thank for liberating and freeing our country from the dehumanizing practice of “whites only” water fountains, schools and churches?


My mama heart is indebted to those in the past who marched, those who protested, those who allowed themselves and their children to be beaten and jailed. Because they believed in bending the arc of the universe towards justice. They believed that we needed to break free from the poison of practicing white supremacy.

READ: 2020 is the Year of Religious Women Voters

When I see pictures of those marching and praying and resisting in Minneapolis, Kenosha, and Louisville, I see hope. My eyes well up with tears of gratefulness. These are the ones who are bending the arc, still. These are the ones who are committed to an unseen reality of justice and peace in our country.

I am indebted to Protestors from the past who sacrificed their safety, their security, and even their lives so that my sons, sixty years later, could throw easy smiles at the camera on the first day of class . . . because they can walk into the same school together . . . because they have never felt the sting of segregation. Ruby Bridges was a stepping stone in the years of struggle, protests, jailing, beatings, and failed lawsuits on the road to convince America that segregation wasn’t brave or free. It was bondage.

Segregation didn’t curl up and die on its own. It took the protestors persistence, their sacrifices, and their vision of freedom. They carried Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s faith and burden of challenging the laws and the majority of Americans who couldn’t envision their way of life or their country without segregation.

When we see Protestors, may we pray for more of us to pour into the streets and join them. May we fill the air and our lungs with songs of hope, like “We shall overcome” and “This little light of mine.”

When we see those Marching, may we watch for justice to roll down like rivers.

When we see those raising their voices, their fists, their signs and prayers, may we look for a glimpse of the Beloved Community.

May we envision those children sixty years from now, throwing their arms around each other, living in peace and protection from police brutality because we believed that the love of Christ compels us to work for justice today—that it may make all the difference tomorrow.

About The Author


Soldier turned peacemaker Diana Oestreich heard God’s call to love her enemies in the most unlikely place: on the battlefield of the Iraq war. Diana is an activist, veteran, sexual assault nurse, and relentless practitioner of peace. Speaking across the country, she empowers us to identify our own rural, urban, political, or religious divides to cross our own “enemy lines” in order to heal all that’s tearing us apart. She’s appeared on multiple podcasts — including For the Love with Jen Hatmaker — discussing justice, faith, peacemaking, activism with kids, and how her posture of love shapes how she parents and shows up for her neighbors. Her first book was Amazon’s #1 New Release in War and Peace. "Waging Peace" exposes the false divide between loving our country and living out our faith's call to love our enemies — whether we perceive our enemy as the neighbor with an opposing political viewpoint, the clerk wearing a head-covering, or the refugee from a war-torn country. By showing that us-versus-them is a false choice, this book will inspire each of us to choose love over fear. Diana, her partner Jake, and their two sons, Bridger and Zelalem, live along the shores of Lake Superior on Ojibwe land. They are an Ethiopian-American family woven together through adoption and a shared love for bad jokes and competitive card games.

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