Rozella Haydée White’s new book Love Big: The Power of Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World provides an invitation into deeper relationships with God, ourselves and the people around us. The book emphasizes the importance of those relationships in bringing about real change in our lives, our communities and our world.
Living Lutheran: Could you tell us about your book?
White: I am someone who, for my entire life, has been in love with love. For so long, that was seen as my weakness—the thing that made me more vulnerable. As I got older, I recognized that the way that I think about and talk about and understand love is actually more my superpower than a weakness. This book, for me, is a way to express that, but also to help people come to a different understanding of what love looks like, what it can mean, of what it is and of how it functions.
First and foremost, it begins, for me, with self-love. In order to fall in love with myself, because of my faith tradition, I have to understand that God is desperately and passionately in love with me—not because of anything I’ve done, but simply because I’ve been created. When I am able to understand those two things, they lead me to love others in ways that bring about healing and transformation.
There is so much brokenness and division in our world. For you, the answer to healing these wounds comes in the form of radical and revolutionary relationships. What do you mean by that?
I say very clearly that every relationship is not a revolutionary relationship—revolutionary relationships are modeled after the Trinity. This brokenness that we experience, a lot of times, is because we’re disconnected. If we start off with a Mother Teresa framing—“If we have no peace it’s because we’ve forgotten that we belong to each other”—revolutionary relationships remind us that we indeed belong to each other because we belong to God, and God has been divinely implanted in each of us.
I have seen, in my own life, the broken spaces healed, myself been made whole, when I … recognized again that who God is, and how God created me, flows from a place of love. Not a place of oppression, or a place of denial of self, but from a place literally of God’s giving God’s whole self so that I can experience abundant life. I believe God did that through the incarnation. I often say I’m not [a] Christian [who] starts from the death and resurrection as the most important part of the Christian story. I start from the incarnation because I believe that love is ultimately life-giving, not life-taking.
In that vein, I think that we experience brokenness because we have not truly fallen in love with ourselves and with each other. Because when you deeply and desperately and passionately love someone—and I’m not just talking about romantic love, I’m talking about friendships, familial relationships, relationships that again model this way of being connected, of creativity and liberation and sustenance—when we experience that, then we find healing, we find connectedness, we recognize that we are not alone, that we are deeply seen and known and loved for all of who we are.
When I practice radical relationships, the things I care about start to change, the way I show up in the world starts to change, how I understand systemic issues of oppression starts to change.
What do you think is important for Lutherans, specifically, to hear about relationships?
We need to recognize, in our community, that our relationships have to be an embodied endeavor. We are an intellectually centered tradition. We talk a lot about our “right theology.” But my hope, with this book, is that we actually embody relationships in a way that many of us may be uncomfortable with, because it’s not about logic, it’s not about intellect. It’s ultimately about being connected to someone in ways that we generally reserve for an inner circle.
Because our tradition is fairly boundaried when it comes to the physical reality of who we are and how we engage, my hope would be that this moves us, physically, to be in closer relationship with our loved ones, our neighbors or the people in our communities, to be more curious about folks, instead of judging them because of how they do life or how they show up in the world.
What are your hopes for your readers?
I want people to engage in conversations that recognize that the relational moves us to a next level that has communal and collective realities. When I am in relationship with people who are different from me, when I am in deep relationship with people who have different concerns, their concerns become my concerns. This is not just a feel-good book about relationships; it has a deeper intention. I’m recognizing that when I practice radical relationships, the things I care about start to change, the way I show up in the world starts to change, how I understand systemic issues of oppression starts to change. This is not just meant for an individual endeavor; it’s an individual endeavor that has collective and communal implications.
My hope is that people begin the journey of falling in love with [themselves], if they haven’t already done that. My hope is that people take stock of their relationships to see if they are revolutionary or not—and for those relationships that they want to see become revolutionary, that they engage this book in their relationships and friendships to see if that’s possible. For those relationships that are not life-giving—that are not based on a covenant mentality, that do not reflect the markers of revolutionary relationships, that are not healthy—that they let go of them. We think we’re supposed to hold on to everything and everyone, and that goes against the belief that for everything there is a season.
Relationships—whether with God, ourselves or other people—can be difficult. Do you have any encouragement to offer for this journey?
I believe we think it’s much harder than it [actually] is. But the type of difficulty we experience in these relationships, really, is about a deepening of belief in ourselves and in each other, and at the end of the day, it actually ends up being much easier than living in isolation. Living in isolation and living disconnected is seemingly easy right now, because that’s what we know, and whatever you know is where you’re comfortable. These relationships definitely bring about discomfort, but we think that they’re harder than they are because it’s a new way of being. I don’t think it’s any harder than the life we’ve been living.