Kenya was cooler than I had expected, and the little town six hours north of Nairobi had a name that I’ve now forgotten. Dust clouds breezed through the grassless church yard after the preacher finished his PowerPoint sermon. I walked around with my camera in my hand and unintentionally collected children. The boys made ridiculous poses with knuckles and elbows, squinted up eyes and their best gritty face. They were tough guys, young but treacherous, and telling the world, “I’ll mess you up.”
As soon as I snapped a few pictures, they dropped their impersonations and clustered behind me to see their pictures. They were pleased with how the camera captured raw ferocity and then they readied themselves for another shoot. What the little boys couldn’t see was how absolutely adorable they were. They couldn’t see their secret smile and rounded cheeks. It will probably take years for these tough guys to figure out just how giddy they looked.
I was pumping gas earlier this week when a bearded man pulled in behind me. His truck could have run over my truck. His t-shirt read, “Keep Calm and Carry a Gun.” And true to his convictions, the masculinity of Dirty Harry was fixed on his belt. I once spoke with a lady wearing a bikini on the beach. She carried a beach bag with a gun in the side pocket. A preacher, years ago, confided in me that she didn’t know what to do about several of her parishioners. “They have carry-and-conceal permits, but do they have to come to church packing heat?”
This isn’t an anti-gun post. It isn’t meant to be political or preachy. And I know, I’ve seen the news too. Bad guys are out there. Maybe this post is just an invitation for all those human holsters of bravado. Come on around to this side of the camera and see just how adorable you are. But I ask you to please be careful. With your adult-sized knuckles and elbows, you might just be confused for a quivering, jumpy stockpile of fear. It is time to put away childish things, realize perfect love casts out all fear, and see that only cowards feel the need to carry a gun all the time.