Finalist #5: Nate Ledbetter
The challenge for me is feeling frozen prior to speaking, especially in unfamiliar or spontaneous settings. I’m eager to listen to and cultivate the interior of my life to become fully myself, freely without fear, inviting diverse audiences of all different stripes to move toward beloved community – to become ourselves, together. Learning from the team at Ty Boyd would be an honor as I feel compelled to speak about issues of justice to politically divided, inter-faith audiences in the years ahead. The following story is one example of how I’m learning to embody a faith that honors the dignity of all people.
My son was born in a parking lot.
Just hours before my oldest son, Levi Mayfield Ledbetter, was born, my wife and I were sitting on our front porch at home, enjoying a beautiful summer evening. I remember children were playing outside and some guys down the street had just fired up their grill. It was a perfect night in the neighborhood. Melissa casually mentioned to me that she didn’t think the baby was coming for at least several more days. However, just thirty minutes later, with the pace of Melissa’s labor increasing, my dad-like instincts were telling me to grab the hospital bags we had ready and waiting. This baby was coming. Soon.
“Call Amy,” Melissa gasped.
Amy zipped right over. Knowing she had intuitive doula skills, Amy was born for this moment. After we called the doctor, we managed to get Melissa outside and into the backseat of the car. Amy quickly jumped into the front seat and coached Melissa while I drove.
Did I mention this was a borrowed car?
It was the summer of 2009 and our van had broken down, so my buddy and former Heisman trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, was generous enough to lend us his car for a few days. “Just don’t allow Melissa’s water to break on the leather seats,” he mentioned. We laughed and I responded, “That will never happen.”
So there I am, driving 90-plus miles per hour through downtown Atlanta, like we were in some kind of fast-paced action film. Melissa’s contractions were getting closer together, and Amy was coaching ever so well. Once we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I found an open space near the emergency delivery area. I raced inside.
“My wife, she’s about to have a baby!”
The nurse calmly and slowly responded, “Take your time, grab a wheel chair—”
I left her there talking and ran back to the car. I opened the back door—and there was my newborn baby boy. Melissa was holding him in her arms. Amy’s eyes were wide open, “I just delivered your son.”
I stood frozen. What now? My son was just born in a parking lot. Well, I ran back inside as fast as I could, “My wife! She just
Pause. “Sir, calm down. She’s about to give birth.”
Another pause. “No…” I said emphatically, “We’ve got a baby in the backseat of the car!” She finally believed me, and about fifteen nurses and doctors rushed outside.
As people gathered around, I told a nurse that I was the dad and that I wanted to cut the cord. This was my moment of glory. Two nurses leaned in on each side of the car, while I knelt in-between the two front seats. A nurse handed me the scissors and said, “You do realize this could make a mess in your car.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not my car.”
Later that night, I called Danny and shared the news. He was floored as we laughed together in disbelief. I had the car detailed the very next day.
Upon arriving home to South Atlanta, neighbors began to show up at our door with gifts. In this moment of celebration, I caught a glimpse of the God-given joy of friendship underneath all the day’s drama. On one end of the social spectrum, a former Heisman Trophy winner lent us his car. At the other end of the spectrum, our neighbors—with much less fanfare—were bringing bags full of gifts to mark the moment. Here, at this very moment, the lines between people from many walks of life were blurred as we all welcomed our son together. This was a moment of open exchange, of giving and celebrating among connected friends.
Sometimes I wonder what Jesus really meant when he said, “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” It seems that “as yourself ” is one of the most under-quoted and under-valued phrases of the Great Command. As we love and care for ourselves, we are empowered to extend our love for God among our neighbors. Loving our neighbor is not a duty, but a joy-filled command.
In an ancient Near Eastern context, the first hearers intuitively understood what Jesus said as a communal command, “Love God,
and love your neighborhood as yourselves.” In other words, in a culture where the Scriptures were taught and read and discussed in community, Jesus’ listeners undoubtedly envisioned this as a communal command. Our Western interpretation seems limited to an individual focus—“as yourself ”—but I wonder if “as ourselves” is more appropriate. We are made for God and for each other, and love for neighbor is not only an outward call, it’s an inward expression of care and celebration. Love for neighbor is a community in action, where “as ourselves” is experienced through the giving and receiving of life.
CLICK HERE to return to voting page.