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Portraits of Christ: LeShay and the Sins of Our Fathers

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Editor’s Note: For her year of service as part of DC Service Corps, Lizzy Balboa volunteers with Little Friends for Peace, a nonprofit organization in the DC area that promotes inner and inter-personal peace skills within children and adults. In the second installment of her “Portraits of Christ” series, Lizzy shares a story of brokenness passed down through generations and how she witnessed a moment of triumphant peace in this cycle. 

I watched with curiosity as nine-year-old LeShay’s entire body tensed. Fists clenched at her side. Her head bowed down and shoulders raised in alertness as she registered the pain delivered her.

The verbal provocation by her peer was more poignant than usual, and I expected LeShay’s reflexive eye-for-an-eye—or, to be fair, eye-for-a-head—response. I stood poised to intervene in the potential fray.

Instead, I feasted on the beautiful fruits of the Spirit, watered and cultivated by Little Friends For Peace.

With flawless precision, LeShay executed LFFP’s signature move: stop, think, act. She turned around, even as Tristan continued his verbal assault and capped it with a merciless laugh at having apparently triumphed. But LeShay proved stronger. She walked away with forced calm and marched quickly to where I stood.

With quick breaths and anxiously darting eyes, she said, “Please call my mother. I need to go home.”

LeShay was making progress. As an instigator of fights who never failed to throw the final punch, she was now ready for peace. She was ready to break the cycle of violence by which she had suffered—and perpetuated—great pain and injustice.

LeShay is a product of her spiritually impoverished community. She is verbally cut by her mother, who scrapes from LeShay’s spirit to fill her own crevices left by the gougings of her own mother. The desperate chain is traced back generations—and is complicated by the introduction of other damaged characters in their community who also bore into their spiritual deficits.

It’s a web of holey individuals striving to restore wholeness with the wrong spackle. Instead of turning to the infinite spackle of Christ’s love, each victim has filled her holes by carving equally deep, equally dense, equally destructive holes in another.

This isn’t just the history of LeShays. This is the history of Lizzys, and, in present LeShay, I see present Lizzy.

As much as I try to ignore it or maintain a façade of completeness, I, too, am wounded, broken, corroded. I have agonizing cavities ripped and torn by others, and I have, in my desperation, sought to restore wholeness by gleaning another’s spiritual excess or snatching from another’s spiritual poverty.

I have spent too many years mindlessly spackling my cuts and cavities with the flesh of others—by withholding forgiveness, by casting judgment, by speaking ill of competitors, by refusing to share. I have carved too many other holes and have too long survived this lineage of sin in which I unwittingly find myself.

I don’t want to anymore. Neither does LeShay.

By her example, I have hope that I, too, can escape the timeless chain of injury, rooted in the sins of our fathers, and finally embrace the truism that love begins with me.

Reflection Question: How can you implement the practice of “stop, think, act” into your own life?

*Check back on Monday 6/27 for the next installment in the series 

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As a member of Franciscan Mission Service's DC Service Corps, Elizabeth spent her year of service at Little Friends for Peace, a nonprofit organization which promotes interpersonal and inner peace to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent manner. Elizabeth has a passion for leadership and service and was one of the inaugural members of DC Service Corps. This opportunity allowed her to pair both of these passions for the good of others. Prior to her arrival at Franciscan Mission Service, she spent time with an AmeriCorps program in Michigan. Elizabeth graduated from Grand Valley State University with a double major in journalism and biomedical sciences and a minor in religious studies.