A Child

I dreamt of the moment where you were given to me and I wrapped you in my arms for the first time. Something broke inside of me… the you who, just a little while ago, had been so deeply a part of me had now entered this world. Every pretense and barrier crumbled. I wept deeply; I sobbed as the love I have for you hit me in waves. I felt as if I was drowning in love…

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I Sang a Song

You are my rock and my salvation;

To you I’ll always cling.

I am not invisible or unknown

But hidden in the shadow of Your wings.

You set a table for us

Before all our enemies

and when I cry out to You, Lord,

You always answer me!

My rock and salvation.

You always answer me.

You always answer me.

You say to me, “Seek my face.”

Oh Lord, Your face I seek!

You bring me Peace and Hope;

Only Your praise will I sing.

You are my rock.

I’ll cling to You.

You are my salvation.

All You speak is Truth.

And You always answer me.

You hear my cries.

You always answer.

My rock and salvation.

What is my Responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?

This is a question I ask myself often. What does active faith look like in this particular time and place? Justice has always mattered to me, but my understanding of it has changed substantially over time. Growing up, my biggest hero’s were Harriet Tubman and Robin Hood. My fairly simplistic (and flawed) moral code could be summed up thusly: those with power should leverage it for the benefit of those with little or no power.

Around age 13 or so I stopped believing God. To understand my world better, I began studying atrocities. The Holocaust, the Irish Potato Famine, the North Atlantic Slave Trade, the Trail of Tears, the Rape of Nanking… these events led me to two conclusions:

1. Atrocities supported my hypothesis that God is not real

2. These terrible capabilities sit in the hearts of nearly all people

It provoked me to ask myself: Do I possess the courage required to fight evil at any cost?

The desire in my heart for justice and to be on the side of the righteous did not die with my faith, but it got twisted. In attempting to set my own standards much of my moral compass became compromised. What didn’t change was my belief that racism and oppression are evil. But make no mistake: I’ve said things and behaved in ways that are unquestionably prejudiced or biased. My heightened awareness of mankind’s history of racism, oppression, abuse and prejudice didn’t alter the fact that my entire life is one of default power and privilege.

I grew up in a world of systemic racism which both benefited me greatly and kept its sins largely invisible from me. Right now, I think of my growing awareness on this issue along the same lines as I do sanctification: it is an ongoing process in life rather than a place one arrives. Undoubtedly, some of the very things I write at this moment will embarrass me when I look back on them in the future, but I must have the humility to make imperfect progress. Unfortunately, I can’t get “there” without being “here.” So I must humbly ask for grace I don’t deserve.

The topic of race and justice in the USA has only risen in importance to me during the process of transitioning from an atheist to a Christ-follower and reading what the Bible says about how His people should treat and love others. I also find myself embarrassed that those who continue to pay the highest price in a society designed for me find themselves in the position of explaining and revealing to me how it benefits me and costs them.

I struggle with the number of indifferent white Christians in the USA who point at “progress” and council “patience” to people who have spent generations being oppressed, marginalized, silenced, beaten, killed and shackled by (predominantly) WHITE Christians. I have heard with my own ears the argument by white Christians about how they didn’t have slaves, or support Jim Crow laws, etc. It’s not their sin, after all.

I think of Jesus, who we believe took OUR sin and laid it on himself. Then he looked to the people who called themselves His followers and asked them to do the same thing.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV)

I don’t believe that any white person in America can really say they aren’t tainted by the sin of racism. We have benefited from privilege at the cost of the marginalized and that feels out of alignment with Luke 9:23 (and the rest of the Bible). I struggle to believe that we won’t have to answer for our complicity-I don’t believe God will accept the excuse that we were insulated or unaware. How can we be for the things God is for and calls us to (both in the New Testament and the Old) in the US right now without seeing and knowing?

I don’t know if there’s a “right” answer to the question, “What’s my responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?” But I do know I will keep asking the question, seeking God’s answer, and attempting to align myself in thought, word and action to His Will. I work to make a difference and to be an ally. I pay attention to my words and actions as I seek to grow more aware of my privilege and the presumptions inherent in belonging to the dominant culture. And I remember that even in this place, I have a privilege many in my community do not. I have the privilege of choice. At any point, I can opt out of being an ally. I can say I am weary and need a break. If the road gets hard, I always have the option of retreating into a culture of whiteness and choosing not to stand or speak in difficult places. It is not a privilege I want to exercise but it is a choice I get to have. And as a white Christian in the USA, I believe God cares deeply about what I choose and why.

When I Don’t Have Words (Story of Hannah)

I will pour out my soul

Pour out my soul

Before the Lord

And He will hear me.

 

The world will say, “Woman,

Why won’t you eat?

Why do you weep?

Your heart should not grieve.”

 

I lay the bitterness of my soul

In prayer before the Lord

Weeping in anguish to Him

Who will wipe tears from all eyes.

 

Lord, look upon my face

Your servant, weighed down in disgrace

Do not forget me

Remember she who clings to You.

 

Clinging, clinging

Clinging to You

God of the Hebrews

Cover me with Your cloak.

 

Other foreign women, I know

You claimed; You called your own

Yes, You knit them in

Into Your inheritance.

 

A Song

And all I want is you, Lord.

I just need You here.

All I want is you, Lord.

Please Abba, please draw near.

I could have the whole world

but if I don’t have You…

what good is the whole world

if it doesn’t include You?

So I pray Your Kingdom come.

So I pray Your Will be done.

Oh I beg you Lord, draw close

Draw close to me now

May Your heaven touch down

And make this sacred ground.

Oh would You draw close?

Because I just want You, Lord

Before anything else.

I just want you, Lord.

Patience

Patience is a trait that is sometimes viewed as a strength, oftentimes mistaken for a weakness and generally misunderstood. When I think about patience, I consider it to be an expression of humility and love. Pride and arrogance would demand that things would move at the pace of our self: that our timing would be right. It demands that it gets what is owed, when it is owed. It keeps a balance sheet and anyone who falls behind is, justly, left behind. Pride and arrogance insist that their way and timing is, of course, best.

Patience is lovingly moving at a pace slower than the one at which you are capable, for the sake of another. It focuses less on what the self can accomplish and more on what is accomplished together. Sometimes, we are even forced to be patient because what we desire is entirely outside of our influence or control. In such cases, we find that we must surrender control and find something or someone in which we can trust.

Patience always costs us something. In one of the running books I read (and I read a similar thing about swimming), when we train for a long time in running or swimming, our natural pace becomes very economical and efficient. Afterwards, if we force ourselves to move at a pace slower than the one we naturally perform in, we have to work harder and be more attentive to our movements. This is not easy or intuitive.

Without patience we might respond to delay or slowness with anger, shaming, frustration, hopelessness, apathy, judgment, etc. It is likely we would also feel justified in our behavior. We are right to feel this way, are we not? ‘Look at how I am hindered!’ we proclaim. How much harder is it to seek to choose the path of empathy and compassion, and act instead with patience?

I find it interesting how little people seem to cultivate patience in our society while conversely treasuring dearly those who show us patience in times of difficulty and struggle. I believe that patience is like a muscle; it can be strengthened and developed over time. Consider a two-year-old and the patience they often show when faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. It does not take long for a tantrum to ensue. Are there not places in our own lives where we do the equivalent? And yet over the last decade I feel like I have witnessed a decrease in kindness, patience, compassion and generosity of spirit from adults.

Part of me wonders if this is shaped by the nationalistic tendencies of our country (the good ‘ol USA). Our ongoing rhetoric of being the “greatest,” if true, carries with it a heavy choice. If we are, in fact, the greatest wouldn’t it also follow that we must, if we love, also be the most patient? If we are not, it seems to me that we are choosing arrogance and pride instead (companions of hatred). This is not what I want for myself or for the people of my country. I hope that someday others might describe us as models of patience and humility (fruits of the Spirit and expressions of love) rather than bullies.