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Just Mercy

(my Instagram)

That's Esquire, which I don't think of as breathless or overwrought when it comes to book reviews, praising Bryan Stevenson for "doing God's work."

If you think of doing God's work as doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly, then it's clear from page one that this is Bryan's work indeed. And that he's embraced it fully. This isn't paycheck work-- it's his expression of his own most closely-held beliefs.

It's also what I think many would call prophetic witness, meaning he's speaking ‪truth‬ and lots of people in power aren't going to like it. Many more aren't going to understand.

But that's the case no matter what we do. There's no "safe" path on which we won't ever encounter the friction of misunderstanding, of dislike. It's not simply that there's no point in trying to live in a safe comfort that only exists in our imaginations, but not in reality. It's that by trying to do so, we may inadvertently perpetuate harm. The great irony is that the less I wish it were another way, the more ease and courage and integrity I experience.

And it's tempting, it's really tempting, to say that it's better to not write, to stay silent because that makes life safer or easier for my children. But it doesn't. Sacrificing integrity not only sets a bad example for them, it doesn't protect them, either.

And how terribly stifling to stay silent. It reminds me of Joy Harjo's enduring poem, "I Give You Back":

I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear. I release you. You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don't know you as myself. I release you with all the pain I would know at the death of my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the soldiers who burned down my home, beheaded my children, raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.

I give you back to those who stole the food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold these scenes in front of me and I was born with eyes that can never close.

I release you I release you I release you I release you

I am not afraid to be angry. I am not afraid to rejoice. I am not afraid to be black. I am not afraid to be white. I am not afraid to be hungry. I am not afraid to be full. I am not afraid to be hated. I am not afraid to be loved.

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash. You have gutted me but I gave you the knife. You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear. You are not my shadow any longer. I won't hold you in my hands. You can't live in my eyes, my ears, my voice my belly, or in my heart my heart my heart my heart

But come here, fear I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

How much better to live a life of honor and integrity and service! We're not all going to be lawyers protecting the Constitution and freedom the way Stevenson is. But we all have opportunities daily to live with the courage of our convictions.

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