The Day I Was Relentlessly Pursued

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P_Osheta

Of course I noticed her. There aren’t very many of us black stay-at-home moms in my apartment complex. But more terrifyingly, I knew she noticed me.

She was bouncing her chubby and clearly biracial baby on her hip when she approached me while I checked the mail.

Shoot! I thought. She’s coming to talk to me. Must smile. I’m a Pastor’s wife, after all—it’s in the job description. And black, too—can’t ignore the solidarity. Ugh … there’s no way I’m getting out of—…

“Your family just moved in, right?” She switched the baby to her other hip so she could extend her hand. “I saw your daughter playing with my girls yesterday and wanted to come say hi.”

“Hi,” I stammered quietly, reaching into my mailbox. Please, let there be a package or card or something I can use as an excuse to rush away …

Nothing. Not even a brightly-colored cable TV advertisement.

“Yeah, we moved here from Boston.”

“Whoo! Boston, that’s pretty far. Different weather, huh?” I could tell she was trying to find an easy conversation starter. I simply didn’t want to let her in though. Black girls scare me.

I once wrote about how some days I don’t feel black enough. How not too long ago a well meaning white friend stopped me in Target to enlist my help in a racial justice project and how I didn’t think it was a good fit for me, because my identity as a black woman is tenuous at best.

I told the story about my first best friend who happened to be black. How we spent our summers playing in the pool and watching movies. How she made me feel beautiful in my black skin because she was beautiful. I also told about how that friendship was fated from the start.

She was rough around the edges, her background unstable, and my father worried that she was rubbing off on me. When I got a bad grade in school, he chalked it up to lack of focus because of this friend. So he told me to take a break from her.

“No more Zina,” he said, holding my progress report in his hands.

Losing her friendship meant I lost my one validation that I am black and beautiful, and empowered too.

After that conversation with my dad I stopped sitting with Zina at lunch and when she realized our friendship was over, she rallied a group of black girls to terrorize me on a field trip. They threw hair gel on me while play sneezing to make me think they were raining mucous on me. They taunted me when my hair tie broke and my hair was a mess, they chased me down on my walk home, pushed me down on the concrete and surrounded me, calling me a “white girl.”

“Are you a stay-at-home mom, too?” The black neighbor woman interrupted my stumble down memory lane.

“Yes, I am.” I hesitated, irrationally afraid of this nice black woman. I guess when a black woman tries to befriend me, I see Zina, and the broken girl on the concrete begs me to not let her back in. I’m scared of not being enough. I’m scared of being reminded of how I’ll never fit in.

“Oh, good! I’m here during the day too! My name’s Tammy!” she offered. “You should meet my friend Nina—she lives here too. In fact, she’s having a purse party this Saturday. You should come.”

I mumbled something noncommittal and thanked sweet baby Jesus when my daughter ran up to me just then to ask if her best friend from Boston sent her something. Yay! Distraction. I waved the mom off and rushed home.

But that was only the beginning because she went for reinforcements. For weeks, Nina, her mom, and even their daughters stopped me to chat. About the weather. About our move. About the kids. Later, I learned they made it to their goal to befriend and bring me into their group.

Soon, I was hanging out at their places, drinking wine and laughing, sharing stories from my childhood and slowly, painfully, letting them in.

I still think about Zina. I think about how broken and alone I felt. I still struggle with feeling like I don’t fit in. But not so much with Tammy, Nina, and her mother. They somehow figured out a way to break through the ice after weeks and weeks of relentlessly pursuing me.

And I’m grateful because they showed me something of the heart of God through their constant invitations. Like the parable Jesus told of the good shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one. He is always pursuing me.

Sometimes, God shows us his character in a song or poem, a poignant line in a movie or a subset. But so often God uses people—unexpected people like a stay-at-home mom who looks like your childhood best friend-turned-bully.

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Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore is an Anabaptist-y, stay-at-home mom right in the thick of moving her family from Boston to Los Angeles . She's passionate about racial reconciliation, peacemaking, and community development in the urban core. At the top of her bucket list is dance in a flash mob—all the better if it's to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" or Pharrell's "Happy." Catch up with Osheta on her blog, Shalom in the City.
Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore

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  • Bev Murrill

    Yep, and friendships can be so painful. Letting people into your heart is a choice/a risk/a gift, and it depends on who and what, as to how it turns out. Thank God for people who are determined to befriend us though. xx

    • Amen, Bev! I’m reminded of a line from a sermon about the risk God took to become flesh and dwell amount us- that love always requires sacfeice and risk- if not, then it isn’t true love. I think the same can be said of friendship.

      • Bev Murrill

        Ain’t that the truth!

  • Pingback: Friendship Project Day 13: Letting the Black Girls In | Osheta Moore()

  • Osheta, I so appreciate how honest you are … I imagine these are hard things to write, but you are saying it and you are bringing Beauty to the hard places. I am so grateful for how Nina pursued you.

    • I’m grateful for her too! Just today we were on the phone and she reminded me that she’s here for me, that she’s always available to help with the kids. I nearly cried on the phone standing by the linens at pier1. I’m so grateful to be able to encourage this amazing community with my story.

  • Look at you — showing the way! I play it safe with friendships, and I’ve never called it by these revelatory words: “I’m scared of not being enough. I’m scared of being reminded of how I’ll never fit in.”
    But I think they may be true.

    • Oh, Michele! I will pray for you that friendships won’t be so scary and that you’ll have courage to, as my friend Sarah says, take social risks. I’m praying you find your fit and know there’s always a place for you around the fire with your shelovely tribe!

  • Abby Norman

    YEAH BABY! You are so so so so so enough. I am sososososos sure.

    • Being your friend is good for my soul! Thank you, Abby!!!

  • WONDERFUL. Enjoyed every word. Bless you for your courage.

    • Well, Genise is a lovely name too! 👊🏽 thank you so much for your encouragement!

  • Kara

    Beautiful, powerful story. Thank you for sharing your heart at its most vulnerable. God speaks through you in unique ways – thank you for the risk you take to follow His calling!

  • Anne-Marie

    I loved this Osheta. Though the bullying by friends – so very awful. I’m so glad these women pursued you and you found some healing, but what a complex thing. Thank you for opening it up to us, for being visible. Best to you. Love your words and heart.

  • Oh, Osheta, this is so good!

  • Awwww, O! This is stunning. I’m a sucker for a good happy ending. It makes my heart so happy that you were pursued.

    Wow.

    I think I need to get better at the pursuit….