The last things I say to my children before they head out for school are always the most important pieces of information they need.

“Don’t forget your folder!” 

 “Here’s your lunch box!  Eat the carrots first!”

 “I love you!”

My last ditch effort to give them everything they need to be their best selves when they’re not with me happens before they step off the security of my porch and into the vulnerability of a new day.

This is probably why I pay special attention to Jesus in his last hours in the Gospels.  From the last supper to the cross I know that these were  Jesus’ last ditch efforts to give the disciples (present and future) everything they need to be their best selves when he’s no longer with them.

If everything Jesus said and did in those last hours had the same earnest intent I have when I send my babies off to school, then I’m convinced he modeled non-violence when he healed the Roman soldier in the garden of Gethsemane .  With that one act, Jesus taught the Kingdom principle of peacemaking: when there’s a clear justifiable opportunity to hurt, choose to heal.

“Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords. Don’t you realize that I am able right now to call to my Father, and twelve companies – more, if I want them – of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready? But if I did that, how would the Scriptures come true that say this is the way it has to be?” Matthew 25:52-54 The Message

Can you imagine the impact Jesus’ non-violent resistance made on that soldier’s life?  Can you imagine how he looked into The Savior’s eyes as his ear, bloody and jagged, from Peter’s blade, miraculously rejoined his body?  Can you imagine the love he found there? The acceptance? The forgiveness?  The peace?

I can, and that’s why for years I’ve committed to non-violent resistance.

That is, until violence visited my beloved city and left three dead, many injured, and most terrified.

Then the suspects killed a man, hijacked a car, and took the police on a high-speed car chase that ended just two miles from my home.

Then the younger brother, injured and desperate fled for his life into the adjoining neighborhood.

Then newscasters warned us, “stay inside”, “exercise caution”,  “he is armed and dangerous with intent to hurt others”.

Then I questioned: if this man who is intending to harm, finds his way to my porch will I, can I, choose to heal?

Honestly, I didn’t think I could because I’m a mama who loves her babies something fierce.

And Lord help you if you hurt them.

Case in point: I once gave a kid who pushed my son around on the play ground the evil eye.  I just stared that baby down,  waiting for his mom to say something to me. The whole time I told myself  ‘if he doesn’t stop messing with my boy or if she doesn’t say something soon… it’s  about to get really real by the merry-go-round’.

Don’t mess with my children!

So I sat and watched the news with my husband, equal parts readying for battle and conscientiously objecting.

But loving the Lord with all my strength requires that I lay down conventional strength of force, so that I may love my neighbor as myself.  

My husband went to bed. He was confident of our safety.  I wasn’t.  I just had donuts with my kids at the very Dunkin where they were reporting.  We knew that street where the gunfight took place!  We pass it on the way to the library. The manhunt was real and I had three sleeping children who needed someone to keep vigil. So I stayed up.  And like Jacob wrestling with an angel, I wrestled with Jesus that night.

Praying and pacing, at one point I began to make plans:

Ok, so if he bangs on the door we just won’t open it.  But the kids will probably wake up so I’ll have to hide them someplace while T.C. and I deal with it. He could shoot the door or window and force his way in, though. What should I grab to protect the kids? Oh!  Tyson has a bat someplace in the coat closet.

But, then I knew I’d be tempted to beat the ever living daylights out of him, which is responding violently, so….no.

Okay, okay, so no bat.  What about bug spray?  That’s right, when he comes to the door, he’ll bang on it.  I’ll hide the kids.  T.C. will reason with him, but if that doesn’t work, I’ll spray him down good.

But, then I knew I’d just escalate the conflict with a man who had a gun—not smart or Christ-like at all.

 Fine!  So no bat, no bug spray, what else can I use?  

Then I sensed a convicting response to my manic musings:

“Why do you need ANYTHING?  You have Me don’t you?”

And that’s the crux of it. I wanted a clear, step-by-step, for every action there is an equal reaction guide for conflict.  And there isn’t any.  I can’t accurately predict the behavior of sentient, free will beings. The only sentient, free-will being I can control is myself, and knowing Jesus saw non-violence through—even to an excruciating end—I had to release my need to defend, control, and predict.

I needed to put away my sword.

Non-violence requires a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit that’s rooted in a conviction that he is real and he is resourceful.

It trusts that there’s enough creativity in Creator God to extend to my moment of crisis.

It believes that if somehow my children watch me die because I chose to heal when someone meant to harm—there’s resurrection power for their loss.  My death will breath life into their faith to love like Jesus, live like Jesus, and die like Jesus—because their mama did.

I wish I could tell you I was filled with a renewed sense of purpose at the moment. I wasn’t.  I sat for hours watching the news and crying because I knew Jesus was all I needed and yet he didn’t feel like enough.

At some point, sore and crippled where He touched my source of pride, I went to bed and prayed until I fell asleep, “Jesus, help me be okay with you and only you.  Help me be okay…help me be okay…help me be okay…”

I woke up with the sun streaming into my room and my children asking for Cheerios. We “sheltered in place”  that day while SWAT teams, helicopters, and police searched for the suspect. Thankfully we were on the opposite side of their searching radius so my children were spared from the trauma of determined men with readied guns invading our home.  But, all day long I prayed, “help me be okay…help me be okay…help me be okay…”.

Now weeks later, I’m almost there.  I’m almost okay.  Following Jesus and responding the way he responds to violence is a process of daily putting away my sword but it’s one I’m committed to seeing through.

There will be more opportunities to trust in my own abilities.  They won’t be as sensational as car chases, gunfights, and a terrorist, but they’ll still matter.  They’ll help me shape the legacy I want to leave for my children.

A legacy of stubborn love and redemptive peace.

A legacy of a mama who was troubled but took heart because Jesus has overcome the world. 

A legacy that’s Kingdom Strong before Boston Strong. 

 A legacy of a woman that consciously depends on the Holy Spirit because Jesus is enough.

So I pray, and will continue to pray, “Jesus, help me be ok with you.  Only you. No matter what comes. When I want to resort to my own devices, help me remember to put my sword away. Help me heal when I want to hurt.  Help me be Kingdom Strong”