There are times when I wish we had started a food blog or a DIY blog and could keep all the subject matter happy and succinct. Now is one of these times. But for whatever ridiculous reason, I feel obligated to say something about the weightier matters at hand. In my country. Currently.
I read recently that the best writers are those that “write naked” -meaning that when they write, they bare it all, really say what they think and what they feel. That is terrifying. But I will try. For a topic this heavy and this painful, I will try.
It’s hard to tell the tone of a writer when one first begins reading their work, so I will lay it out for you clearly, I come to this article with a burdened heart, with many questions, with fear and trembling. I do not claim to have the answers for all of the pain that I see around me, specifically in my nation at the current time, but I would like to be part of the solution.
I’m not here to say one side is right and one side is wrong, but I do know this: the reality that one deems to be the correct and true reality is the one which he/she has experienced personally. If another person brings a reality that we do not know, we label it wrong because we have not personally lived it, so it is not true to us.
I grew up primarily in Colorado, in white suburbia and then in white rural. I had a few friends from other races, but most were white because that’s all that there was!
I had never heard of white privilege because I didn’t need to. (Please don’t stop reading if this phrase offends you.) I lived it. It’s like how I never knew about my American-ness until I left the US and lived overseas. I then discovered just what American culture was because I saw it through a different lens. Everyone around me was doing it this way, but I was doing it that way. Why? (At that time, it was more like, “Why is everyone around me doing it wrong?!!”) We just can’t see what we can’t see. We need our eyes to be opened by someone who is “other”.
I remember as a young person, reading a book that rocked me. It was the story of a white man who medicated himself to temporarily change his skin to black in 1959 and recorded how he was treated in America’s South. Black Like Me was the name of the book. By John Howard Griffin. It was a true story. I was disturbed and shocked. I still am.
I’m not here to say that every police officer is a bigot. That’s ridiculous. I know and love many good police officers. Of course blue lives matter. And I am grieved for them and their families in the wake of this recent loss. I’m also not here to deny the fact that some of the black men who were shot by police recently were not without criminal records.
But I think that that is not the heart of the message that we are hearing across our land. And if we are going to see unity come, we have to begin to listen, to listen to each other. Not just to statistics and come-backs, but to the pain that is being expressed. Expressed in sadness and expressed in anger and rage.
There is a deep pain in the hearts of many of our black brothers and sisters (and those of other races too), and it has come to the surface. We need to at least listen and acknowledge that pain. We need to try to not be offended and not offer answers as to why the pain is not valid. This is not the time. They are trying to tell us something, as white people, and we need to hear it. We need to seek to understand. To try to set aside the only reality that we know and wonder if perhaps there IS a different reality. And if so, if it is unjust, we need to be part of the answer. That is our call as humans, but especially if we are Christians.
I’m afraid to write this because I’m afraid that I will say the wrong thing. That I will offend someone or everyone, on one side or the other or both. That I still have my own blindspots and will make them apparent to all. And I know there is still SO MUCH MORE that needs to be said about this issue. But I still feel I must say something. We need to hear each other’s stories.
Will there be bias in some of the stories? Yes. I am biased. You are biased. Everyone is biased. We all see through our own unique filter. We need to get past the thinking that a person is either racist or not. We all have areas of prejudice. We need each other to show us. (I recently watched a Youtube clip in which a man named Jay Smooth suggested we stop seeing racism like our tonsils -either we have them or we had them removed, but start seeing racism like it’s something stuck in our teeth. When we (or another person) see it, we just need to pick it out!)
Can we stay long enough and put away the spirit of offense long enough to really hear what is on the hearts of those in pain? Those grieved by a system that has been unjust? Can we humble ourselves long enough to try to understand? Even if we think they are wrong? Even if we don’t get it? Can we just try?
We are fearful little beings. We are sheep. We are afraid of what we don’t know and don’t understand. Of that which is different from us. Of those which are “other.“
During my 10 years in China, I regularly had small children look at me and burst into tears while their parents laughed at their reactions. They had never seen anyone who was not Chinese. It was scary to them. Me -with my big, round eyes and high-bridged nose. With my flimsy hair and furry arms. To be afraid of what we don’t understand is a natural, childlike response.
How can we overcome the fear of other-ness? How can we see beyond our own experiences and bias? May I offer a suggestion?
Could it be a start? The amazing, God-given gift of friendship. I’m talking about real friendship. With those who are different from yourself. Raw, honest, committed friendship. Where real stuff can be shared.
Because systems cannot change if people cannot change. And people cannot change until we have real connection with those that are “other”.
Recently I heard our pastor give a sermon and in it he quoted the verse, “Where 2 or more are gathered, there I am with them.” His take on it was not the typical one that I have always heard- that it only takes 2 or 3 people gathering together and the Spirit of God is there too (although I think that’s true.) But he offered another interpretation- that maybe it’s precisely in the intimate gatherings of 2 or 3, over a meal, over a coffee, over a prayer, where the Spirit of God dwells in fullness.
Where there’s connection and relating and understanding. Where there’s a safe place to ask questions and show our ignorance and our vulnerability. Where there’s agreeing to disagree and seeking reconciliation. Where there’s forgiveness and commitment to continue on. Where there is hope and love. Where there is faith in another, no matter how different at first she seemed.
Where there is recognition that we all come from the same seed. And recognition that there are systems put in place by men who craved power, men who were ignorant, men who intentionally or unintentionally used other men to their own advantage. And recognition that there is an Enemy who seeks to divide us. To steal and to kill and to destroy.
The battle is first a spiritual one. If it is fought and won in that realm, it will materialize into the realm of flesh and blood. Not the other way around. One will lead to the other.
And because I know and love Jesus and have seen Him transform my life and the lives of many other broken people who went on and are now living lives more wholly and raising families more wholly and influencing their spheres more wholly, I cannot but say that I truly believe with all of my heart, that He is the ultimate answer.
I think education can help to some degree. I think that legislation can help to some degree. I think that using psychology to identify and begin to root out some of the subconscious prejudice that we all live with can help to some degree. But only Jesus can heal generations of pain. Only Jesus can enable people to open-handedly forgive. Only Jesus can convince people to humble themselves, lay down their power and privilege and allow others to climb higher than themselves. Only the Son of God. Who humbled Himself and became obedient. Even to the point of death. Tortured. For a crime that He did not commit. Only that inspiration and Spirit within mankind can produce the heart change that we need, to see our nation heal. To see the world change.
This past Saturday I was at a Christian conference here in South Carolina. There were people of all races in that room together. I’m sure we had many different political and religious views. I’m sure we had many different backgrounds and experiences. I’m sure some of us that week had hash-tagged that either black or blue or all lives matter. And I’m not saying that those various points of view should never be discussed and wrestled through (in love) and materialize into action. But first, Jesus.
We came together to worship Jesus. To look at Him. To give our love to Him. And we in turn felt His presence. I was overwhelmed with emotion. And with hope. Hope that the Spirit of God is on the move in our country. He is greater than the pain. Nothing is impossible for Him. He can unite what has been torn. If we will humble ourselves and open the door for Him to do so.
Red, yellow, black, brown, white, married, single, straight, gay, police officer, criminal, atheist, Hindu, Baptist or Pentecostal -we are all precious in His sight. Each and every person on earth was in His mind before the creation of the world and have infinite worth in His eyes.