The State of the Union address reminded us of what a divided society we are, such different reactions to the same speech. Yet no one person divides us, but rather, people in our lives can bring out our better or less admirable instincts.
Sid and I are heading back from a wonderful visit with relatives on my father’s side of the family most of whom I do not know. Sadly, many of these relatives lived in the same community where I grew up and some are my age. I went to school with these cousins and was told not to speak to them. All of this related to a perceived wrong done to my mother by their mother/aunt when she was 12. So no contact was allowed with her four siblings (my paternal aunts/uncles) or their children.
I actually began reaching out to my aunt “offender” when I was about 50 years old, coincidentally about the same time that I began my journey to understand the truth of our Messiah Yeshua. She and her husband live in Florida and they are both delightful people. Over the recent years we have stayed in touch and all of our families’ lives have been enriched. It truly feels that a wrong is being righted.
This week while we were visiting we met another first cousin who I so would have loved to have known over our lives but am content with what time we have left. She, as all of our relatives, was raised Jewish but when she married a Christian, she converted. She was fascinated to talk with us about Messianic Judaism, a new concept for her. Similarly, my aunt received a Jews for Jesus pamphlet from a good Christian friend and was highly offended (she’s pushing 90 and has the typical world view held by Jewish people of that age). She thanked us for giving her another way to look at Jews who believe in Yeshua and to understand how her friend who sent the information to her was not meaning to offend.
Hearing about deceased relatives with illnesses and emotional challenges helped me to see connections and issues in my family that can help us heal this generation. All of this would be lost information were it not for these times together. Not to mention the outpouring of love we receive as the relatives they always wanted to know and love, and my sisters are starting to connect with them as well.
On our way back we stopped at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth dedicated to those who served in this early air force in WW2. One story in particular grabbed our hearts. On December 20, 1943, young American pilot Charlie Brown set out on his first B-17 bombing mission over Germany when his gunner was fatally wounded. Luftwaffe Ace fighter pilot Franz Stigler, seeing the situation, pulled alongside in his bomber plane and when Charlie did not surrender, Franz actually escorted the damaged plane and its wounded and dead crew to safety past the German anti-aircraft guns they flew past that were stationed on land. Had he taken down this one more bomber he would have earned the coveted Knight’s Cross.
In 1986, Mr. Brown ran an ad in a German pilots’ magazine and described the pilot who spared his and his crew’s life. Miraculously, Mr. Stigler, who then was living in Canada, responded. They met again and became the best of friends. Mr. Brown and his crew had their children and grandchildren meet the man who had spared their lives so many years earlier. Forty years later the men found each other to bring full circle the beauty of such an act of compassion under the most unlikely circumstance – a battle of enemies during war.
The choices are ours: to judge or to understand; to hate or to love; to live based on those decisions. My mother and our family missed many years of love together. I missed knowing my paternal grandparents who are gone now. I missed the many years of childhood and young adulthood of close cousins, aunts, uncles some now gone. But I choose to live the rest of my life in love to know better these beautiful people, and they to know Sid and me, and our families. If a German Ace pilot in the heat of battle can act with compassion, how much easier for us. If Yeshua can love and forgive us while dying on the cross, how much easier for us.
I hope this week brings you opportunities for redemption and love in some of the less lived corners of your lives.