I see there is going to be an ongoing theme about lessons learned as I put my thoughts together for this week’s entry. To continue on that theme, I feel the need to write about two women who have taught me a couple of lessons over the past several weeks.
I am proud to be a Virginian, born and raised. I am honored to say that. Just ask anyone up here in Massachusetts. I keep reminding them where I’m from. Though this last week, I hate to admit it, but I was ashamed. I was ashamed to know that my home state executed the first woman in over century, Teresa Lewis. The state saved the lives of the people who masterminded and killed the victims, and the state killed the person who didn’t know what she was doing and never took a life.
I was angry and wished I could have been at the vigil. I read the articles and watched interviews. I listened to testimonies of families and friends. I learned about the missteps taken to get to this tragic end. The story made international headlines, as well as earning comments from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He wondered how the US could feel righteous enough to make judgment on their awful punishment of women and not do anything about the cruel and unusual punishment of one of our own? I don’t have an answer for that. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/09/21/world/main6887502.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody
Then, I went beyond the anger and fell into the compassion, when I met Rev. Lynn Litchfield Divers in my research. Well, I met her again. We met a long time ago in a land far far away and we both went to the same seminary, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. God bless that place. Lynn was Teresa’s Chaplain at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women until May of 2009. Lynn was Teresa’s minister, her angel, her friend, and her face of Jesus Christ. Lynn gave Teresa time. She gave her prayer. She gave her love. She gave her hope. She gave her a voice. She gave her life – a life in Jesus Christ.
Lynn was judged and punished for her actions. Even though Lynn heard and felt the ridicule and hatred being thrown at her by people who judged her for standing with Teresa, Lynn continued to speak out for Teresa. The judgment didn’t change what Lynn was called to do, who she was called to be…the face of Jesus Christ to provide love for the least of these.
As she faced her own death, Teresa was courageous. Teresa found life. She found love. She found life in the compassion of a chaplain who loved her as Christ did. She found life in the scriptures she read every day. She found redemption and mercy; forgiveness and grace. Teresa found love for the sisters of Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women and became ministers for them. She found love for Lynn. She found love for herself and life in her heart again. She found love in her belief in Jesus Christ.
Please don’t get me wrong. My heart aches for the victims of that day in 2002. They lost loved ones in a horrific way. They will never be able to hug again or hold hands. They won’t be able to laugh or cry or even say hello. I ache for the family and pray for them as I pray for Teresa and her family. What hurts about Teresa is that she was a victim of a broken system. She was the victim of a punishment that has proven to do more harm than good for the commonwealth, and will never bring the victims back. I grieve and have compassion for all of them; three lives gone and families and friends are left to deal with the pain and suffering.
What have I learned from Lynn and Teresa? My personal injustice is minuscule compared to what they faced, and look at how they handled it all. Look at what they did for one another in their last days together. Look at what they did for all of us. Facing judgment, ridicule and death, these two women showed me strength beyond understanding. Lynn reminded me of what God called me to do and who God called me to be. Teresa showed me that undeniable faith will overcome the darkest of days. They both showed me what compassion looks likes, what courage stands for, what redemption means, what faith will do, and how God’s love can truly conquer all.
As I wipe the tears from my eyes, I cannot help but wonder if I just witnessed how God’s love is meant to be shared. Another lesson learned.
PS – I still love Virginia and I thank Lynn for making that so.
You can read more about this story from the links below.