Sleep on This: Where do we even start? (June 3)
Good evening, friend:
If you had told me two weeks ago that the COVID crisis would soon disappear from the headlines, replaced by something even more virulent and devastating, I wouldn’t have believed you. But as I write this, nearly every major city in America has been and is being convulsed by violence.
It is doubly tragic. People’s businesses, livelihoods, safety, and, in some cases, their very lives, have been stolen by anarchists. But the other tragedy is that the voices of the non-violent protestors who long to and need to cry out against racial injustice have been silenced once again. In this case by those poseurs who have hijacked a noble cause for ignoble purposes.
It is too easy for us in Gig Harbor to dismiss this seemingly distant conflagration with disgust. We dare not do so. The burning of buildings and the looting of stores is a wicked distraction. We cannot let it become another excuse to ignore the suppurating wound of racism in this country, a wound that just will not heal.
I listened last night to an African-American woman in our congregation as she wept over what is happening in her nation. She said, “Silence doesn’t work. Violence doesn’t work. The only way to move forward is if we really, truly begin to listen to one another.”
So, I am trying harder to listen. For instance, I listened this week to the heart of a young woman who is a daughter of this church. She shared this:
I married a kind man. A gentle man. A brilliant man. A humble man. A compassionate man. A man who hates to see me cry, a man who protects me from pain, a man who laughs with me and at me…a man who buys my favorite candy at the gas station without being asked.
And 53 years ago we would have been breaking the law. I married a black man. I am white. I have privilege. I married a black man, and in doing so, took a tiny step into the world of racism…”
Lauren went on to describe how her marriage has changed her perspective:
- I pray for diverse people to be in our date locations so my husband wouldn’t be the only Black person in the place.
- In certain circumstances, I receive different treatment than my husband does.
- In driving through some states, I hide in the car for fear of what White people will do to my husband.
- I worry about my husband’s safety when he goes for a run.
- I am already planning how to explain the concept of racism to my children.
- I will train my children exactly what to say when they are one day pulled over by the police so they don’t get arrested or worse.
I am white and these are my worries over what we will navigate in our life. The fear I hold for my family is intense, yet I am not black. I can only imagine what it is like to be a black wife and mother, worrying for herself as well as her family.
I find Lauren’s comments helpful because they are accessible to me. Listening to a young, white woman share her own epiphanies about race and racism…I am encouraged to believe that my gauzy eyes might be opened as well.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he said this: “To the Jews I became as a Jew…to the Gentiles I became a Gentile…to the weak I became weak…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9: 19-23)
Paul was not talking about pretense; about playing at different roles. What Paul was saying was, if I am going to earn a hearing for the gospel of Jesus, I must enter fully and honestly into the experiences of my listeners.
If we are not willing…truly…to try and listen and hear the experiences of our non-white American siblings…to really listen to them, to really seek to understand them…then the fires will keep burning.
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, I pray for those across this land who have not experienced the freedom, the privilege, the opportunity that I have. I lift their voices up for you to hear and to help them. Open my eyes…open our country’s eyes and hearts so that we might be, in a small way, a means of healing. Amen.