Before you’re a student, before you’re a mom, before you’re a widow, before you’re a CEO, before you wear any label to identify yourself, remember who are before you say what you do.
When we forget our identity, we lose sight of whose we are. And sometimes, a reminder of who we are is stronger than a rebuke of what we are not.
It was her voice. Breathy and seductive, but trying... trying too hard. The coquettish laugh and flirtatious intonation conjured an image in my head of what the woman standing behind me looked like. Her conversation made me ill and I teetered on the verge of an instantaneous and angry FleshFlash in terminal two of the Oakland International Airport.
The security line wrapped in continuous S formations in what seemed to be the longest identification checkpoint I've ever stood in. As serendipitous sovereignty would have it, I stood in front of a woman engaged in an adulterous affair with a married man. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, I just had nowhere to go.
Her breathy voice and gait changed while I was having an internal monologue with myself, debating whether or not to turn around and body-check her MMA style for pilfering from a possession that wasn't hers.
Her laugh changed. Her breathy voice became vulnerable, even nervous. And before I could be Judgy McJudgerson and throw stones at this woman, I heard it. I heard desperation as thick molasses in her voice, shocking out her words.
“But you said you would leave her. You promised me,” she said into her cell phone. The conversation continued intensely until I heard a male voice yell through the phone obscenities I could never speak to another human being. The anger I felt subsided as I heard the silence of the breathy woman stop breathing. In the oddest turn of events, the woman who was demeaned and belittled and crushed apologized to the man on the other end of the phone.
I had to do it. I had to turn around. I had to see with this woman looked like. I had to.
I peered over my shoulder to see a buxom blond, middle-age woman with a low cut shirt and sparkly purse hang her head in broken pain. And shame. And isolation. And I felt sympathy for her in the way Jesus probably felt sympathy for the woman caught in the act of adultery. She stood confused and conflicted with eyes peering at her, silently judging, and it was shame on display.
Before reaching the agents at the airport security checkpoint, she explained that she didn't want to make him angry, she was sorry, and she would call him back after going through security. I told myself not to say anything, this wasn't my business, I can't care. But I had to do it. I had to turn around. I had to let this woman know who she was. I felt impressed to remind her that she was a child of God.
Me: You don't know who I am, but I just really need to tell you that you are a child of God and you don't deserve this.
Me: I'm not trying to be all up in your business or judge this situation. I just heard how you were spoken to and the names he called you. I need to tell you that you are a child of God and no one—NO ONE—should ever speak to you like that.
Her: He says he loves me, but then he treats me like this. Oh my god, I just don't know what to do.
Me: Yes, you do. Child of God, you know what to do. You don't call this fool back! You delete his phone number and you find that woman inside of you who is strong and bold and worth more than his sloppy seconds. Listen, if he treats his wife like he treats you, he's a jerk. You are worth more than that. Do you hear me? Child of God, you are worth more than that.
Her: I know, I know. I just wish I had the chip that's inside your head and put it in mine so I can be strong.
Me: You can do it. God can help you. You know, that I know, and we all know, including yourself, that what you are doing is wrong. But even though what you are doing is wrong, God wants to help you.
The security agent waved me forward and the buxom blonde began to cry. Before moving forward I touched her hand and told her that Jesus loved her more than anyone ever could. And left.
When we forget our identity, we lose sight of whose we are. When we don't know where we came from, we won’t know where we're going. And sometimes, a reminder of who we are is stronger than a rebuke of what we are not.