Last week I was having a conversation with a friend about the term “ordinary radical”. Some of you may be familiar with this term as it has been used in recent years to describe much of the emerging (for lack of a better word) Christian movements that have been seen. This title is normally used for people like Shane Claiborne or others that are radically living the way Christ has called us to live during His ministry on earth. We were talking about this label and what we thought it truly meant, which to us doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be living in an community somewhere, or give up all you own, or wear Toms or anything like that [not that these things are bad, I just feel that different people are called to different things and that this phrase shouldn’t just be used to describe the people doing these things....also, I own some Toms...yeah son.] but that being an ordinary radical should be used for those that are simply loving others in whatever way they can, according to the Gospel when we are told to love others as ourselves which, by worldly standards, is a pretty radical thing to do. The next day I had a conversation with someone who completely is showing this kind of love to someone who they don’t really have an obligation to, and I would like to tell you about this “ordinary radical”, she’s my mom.
I don’t think that many of you know much about my sister, or what she’s doing with her life or anything, so I’ll fill you in. My sister left at 18 to go to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where she studied History. She was always a decently good kid as far as actions went, was pretty quiet, spent most of her time reading or watching TV and such, but my sister also had another side. Amanda would get into these moods where something would set her off, starting an argument between her and my parents and would eventually slip into an all out tirade of screaming, cussing, breaking stuff, whatever. This was something that she started in high school, carried on throughout college and continued even in her life after college when she moved back home. One of the more prevalent subjects of arguments that happened post-college was the fact that Amanda, at 21 years old, was dating someone over twice her age. He was also our next door neighbor. These arguments continued until one day, when she told my parents that she didn’t have to take it anymore as Ed, her boyfriend, had given her a key to his place and told her that she could move in whenever she wanted. This hurt my parents more than it angered them, even more so when she actually moved in.
The next year, I obviously was 16 and my parents were still the two strongest people in my life. I had seen them both lose siblings, seen my mom lose her mother and even in these times they remained stronger than I think I will when those hardships come for me. That’s why on my sisters wedding day, the things I saw hurt me more than anything I had really dealt with up to that point. While sitting at my sister’s wedding, I watched as my parents both broke down in tears. This was not a joyous occasion for either of them. No parent hopes that their daughter will marry the rude 45 yr old city councilman from next door, they hope for prince charming.
Now back to the conversation my mom and I had. I still haven’t really forgiven my sister for the trouble she put my parent’s through. I’ve done some pretty bad things to them as well, but just seeing them hurt like that and knowing that I can’t do anything about it, well that’s something that I had almost deemed unforgivable. I still see my sister from time to time and talk to her every now and then via the phone or AIM, but I don’t like talking to her husband that much. I Just never was able to hold a conversation with him that well after all this. Anyway...when my mom and I were talking, we happened to get on the subject of Amanda and Ed and their current situation and everything. During this conversation we had recapped some of the events of the months after she moved in with him, some of the disrespectful things he said to my parents/ relatives and I told her how I still haven’t really forgiven him. My mom went on to say that she is just happy that Amanda’s happy, that she is thankful that Amanda has someone who loves her, is good to her and that things could be worse. Because of this, my mom says that she just wants to see them have a better life, get out of debt and live happily with one another. To me, this is being an ordinary radical. My mom is embracing and showing love in any way that she knows how to someone who has never really deserved it, someone who has disrespected her. I have a lot to learn from my mom.