Late Dreamer

I was a late bloomer.  Late to learn to drive.  Late to receive an invite to the party.  Ok, I was never invited to high school parties.  Late to dream.  Definitely late to dream.  In fact, in the very literal since of the word, dreaming has never been a constant reality in my life.  I rarely “recall” dreams.  I go to sleep.  I wake up.  Repeat.  Metaphorically, I’ve lived most of my life without a real consideration of the need for dreaming.  I figured.  I have shelter.  I’m employed.  I’m in good health.  I have healthy relationships.  A family that loves and supports me.  I spent the early part of my career ignoring the deeper ache to work in an industry where I would no longer be linked to the golden handcuffs of corporate.   That was eight years ago.  The second half of my career has been in the non-profit sector and has brought me great joy.  Yet, an ache persisted.  Three months ago I took another step of faith.  I decided that I would actively move in the direction of a dream I believe that God put in my  heart.   If you’ve been following my blogs, you know I moved to South Africa contingent upon landing a job.

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What am I to now do when the dream doesn’t look like what I imagined?  I never imagined I would be back home and living with family at 38.  I never imagined that I would be without a vehicle at this phase of life.  When I decided to move to South Africa by faith, it was all or nothing.  Either I trust God or I don’t, right?  I gave my car away along with other things.  There was incredible freedom in being able to give generously without regret.  Let me be clear, there is still no regret in giving away any of the items that I did.  There was something scary and beautiful about trusting God in this new land.

Now, I am back in my homeland.  Orlando, FL.  There’s something scary and beautiful about trusting God with my future.  This feels different because it is different.  Wouldn’t you know that God continues to write my incredible story without much of my input regarding timing, but always considering my heart’s cry?  God knows me.  He knows me well.  He knows me best.  I always take comfort in this truth.  Is this what dreaming feels like?  Because I’m a late dreamer…

Our society has romanticized the idea of “going after one’s dream” just as it has racial reconciliation.  Or the idea of justice.  All take longer than 3 months to achieve.  Honestly speaking, I bought into the lie of this microwave production of my future.  Never before had I been so public in taking a risk.  Never before had so many people publicly provided support.  Never before have I felt like such a failure.  And never before have I wanted to conjure up a response to the question, “When are you going back?”  Is this what dreaming feels like?  Because, you know, I’m a late dreamer…

To make this journey a little less romantic, I’ve spent my first 2 weeks back in America reminding myself that most of what I am currently experiencing are inconveniences.  Having a car was convenient because there’s public transportation in this city.  Having my own place is convenient, but I am thankful for shelter with family.  Having a plan work out perfectly is convenient, but most dreams take years to realize. Some days depression comes in like a wave and other days, I soar above my circumstance.  Is this what dreaming feels like?  You already know, I’m a late dreamer…

Dreaming has been hard, but going after my dream has been even harder.

I’m not chasing after this dream with debt and zero savings.  I don’t know that faith and wisdom have to compete with one another.  To prepare for this adventure, I have saved money because I expected some bumps along the way.  The 3 months I spent in South Africa were incredible, but also freeing because I did not have the stress that comes with debt.

I’m not chasing after this dream to prove anything.  I’m chasing after this dream because I now know my worth.  I didn’t believe I was worthy of a dream.   Knowing differently changes everything.  Is this what dreaming feels like?  Because, you know, I’m a late dreamer…

There are days that I hate that I spent three months in South Africa because of what I witnessed and yet I love South Africa because of what I witnessed.  It is impossible to un-see what I have seen.  This past Sunday I wept as I worshiped with other believers here in America I could only think of some of the conversations, connections, and complexities encountered during my time there.  I must return.

South Africa provided a small taste of freedom.  It fuels the dream. 

Although I was frustrated with the number of closed doors in South Africa during my time there, it could have been a much worse experience.  Such rich experiences there and beautiful memories found in the midst of rejection. Thank you to everyone that supported me in prayer, finances, and otherwise.  For the dreamers that have gone before me.  Thank you.  Enkosi.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
   – Lamentations 3:22-24

Bubble Trouble

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The beginning of the new year is generally bubbly; literally and figuratively.  Bubbles can be deceptively dangerous, distorting our perspective, limiting our impact, and diminishing our hope.  Yes, cute, friendly bubbles.  Bubbles look stunning from the outside.  Their iridescent color captures the eye.  Their ability to beautifully reflect exactly what is in front of them is impressive.  This is the allure of the bubbly perspective; it mirrors back to others your view in its best light.   The view from the inside of a bubble creates a fishbowl effect, most closely resembling that of tunnel vision.  And this is where the trouble lies, most of us live our adult lives inside of a bubble.  And what we see is not the full picture.

Bubbles are troublesome because we don’t often realize that we’re encased by them.  Facebook recently projected that I would marry a White man.  Facebook projections are often outlandish, but whatevs. No prob with me because I’m open to marrying a man who’s outside of my ethnicity.  When I shared this “projection” with a friend, she stated, “Why would you want to go through all of that trouble?”  Her statement was a reference to some of the natural conflict and misunderstandings that she and I have in our friendship because we differ in ethnicity.  I jovially replied, well, if that’s the case, I probably shouldn’t have any friends outside of my ethnicity at all, right?  We both laughed and realized how much our friendship has enriched each others lives and knew the “trouble” had been worth it.  I’m glad that we can speak honestly to one another, but that perspective was down right bubbly.

As one who grew up in poverty, I used to presume that safety was only found in the burbs, but a faulty presumption it was.  The first and only time my home was broken into was when I was a resident in the suburbs.  As a former resident of the suburbs, I found that it became increasingly easy to live in my bubble of lattes and chic eateries.  That’s what the neighbors were doing.  No one really left the bubble unless they had to.  For me, living like this certainly narrowed my view on social justice issues and lessened my conviction to respond politically or otherwise.   I don’t have an aversion to the burbs, but I had to find new ways to remain proximate to issues I care about.  To those things that keep me up at night else I knew the bubble of passivity (cloaked in apathy) would lure me to sleep.

I realized a truth that Bryan Stevenson learned from his grandmother and so eloquently expounds on in his book, “Just Mercy,” when he recounts her telling him often, “You can’t understand anything from a distance, Bryan.  You have to get close.”  How could I say that I care so deeply about the marginalized and have such little interaction with them?  I had been living in a bubble.

There is nothing like the disruption of life in your thirties to aid in the bursting of bubbles.  Life quickly moves out of the space of black and white when family and friends die of cancer.  An 8 year old child commits suicide.  Job loss occurs.  Home foreclosures for some and short sale for others.  From abundance to poverty.  In earnest, I lived in a bubble for most of my twenties.  While there was some struggle in college and thereafter, my life during this time was mostly euphoric.  I had a rude awakening, but an awakening nonetheless in my early thirties.

The perspective from inside of a bubble is incapable of presenting the full picture.

Bubbles are superficial and protect no one.

They provide a false sense of security.

Bubbles are going to burst.

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Photography by: Rakesh Rocky  http://onebigphoto.com/ant-pushing-a-water-droplet/#

My hope as 2017 draws to a close and a new year begins is that I don’t let fear drive me to create bubbles that keep others out, magnify my own worldview, and blur the experiences of others that are right in front of me.  It takes more effort to recognize a bubble than to burst it.

In 2018, I want to broaden my perspective, increase my impact, and not lose hope as I think outside of the box and live outside of bubbles.

Join me.  Let’s go.

Why South Africa?

If experience is our best teacher, then progress is a prison.  Our experiences can limit our ability to dream. – Dr. Myles Munroe

Dr. Munroe said a mouthful! You hear me?  Most of our lives experience is our only teacher.  It reminds us of what we can and cannot do while slowly suffocating our dreams.  I just finished week 5 in South Africa and every single week, I have to remember that recounting my experience alone will keep me in the past and stifle my future here.   And this has been harder than I expected.

The days are long and the nights are short.  With the 7 hour time difference, I have found it harder than normal to remain connected to those I love in the States.  It’s easy to look at my watch at 1 o’clock pm here and note, it’s only 6 o’clock am there. Long days.  I’m learning to be patient with the process of connecting.  I still often receive text messages at 2 am because people don’t realize the time difference.  I’m thankful people are trying to keep in touch.

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Living in a new country has been a great way to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around America. While America continues to greatly influence culture outside of its sphere, there is such richness of culture independent of the States.  In order to fully embrace my time here, America remains a reference point, not my singular guide.  So my life has been full of tea time, outdoor recreation, and water conservation due to a recent drought here.  I am mindful that assimilation is seductive.  This is not assimilation.  This is me fully bringing all that I am (as a Black woman from the States) to every experience and in no way assuming that America’s way is the best or only way.

I’m sure it’s not difficult to believe that the most common question I receive from locals in The States or those here in Western Cape is, “Why South Africa?” Although, I’m wearing less make-up and watching less TV, these positive changes don’t speak to why I decided to move here.    Truthfully, I only have a sketch, a brief outline of why I believe God gave me the desire to live here.  I am confident that God will shine a light on what He needs to when He needs to in order to reveal exactly why I’m here.  I don’t want to be in such a rush to “figure out God’s plan” that I miss experiencing His presence in daily encounters.

Here’s what I can tell you today.

  1.  I don’t want fear to continue to rule.  Most of my life has been lived with an aversion to risk.  If it is too risky, I normally play it safe with fear being the dominate driver.  I’ve chosen courage over fear and put fear in the rear view mirror.
  2.  I’d like to live in freedom.  Even great opportunities can feel constricting when you know it’s time to move on.  I knew it was time to move on.
  3.  This is so much bigger than me. God’s vision is always bigger than one person.  This is His vision.
  4. Why Not South Africa? This question has been critical as God used it to dismantle what I had counted on to be sound, rational, logic for remaining in the States.  There goes experience again…

I’ve applied for many jobs and I’ve only had 2 interviews – with the same non-profit.  I enter this next week believing for a final interview.  There were 500 applicants for this position.  Insane number, but this is so much bigger than me.  I ask you all to join your faith with mine as I trust God to provide the right opportunity for me here.  I also move with my friend and her family to Cape Town next week.  What a week ahead!

There is one experience that I can always bank on and will do so again and again.  That is the experience of God’s remarkable faithfulness each time I choose to obey His leading and prompting.  Full details or not.  That’s like money in the bank.

“The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23

Their Eyes Don’t Lie

Current Location: Paarl, Western Cape  South Africa


Eleven days.  It has been 11 days since I’ve said goodbye to what is familiar.  To the family and friends I love so deeply and taken a step in the direction of a dream.  A dream that I had long buried because I had counted up the number of excuses that would excuse me from believing that even this God can do.  That God can take this flickering dream of freedom and set it ablaze.  Giving me a new level of faith to trust Him in this new land.  I finally had the courage to dig up this decade old dream; South Africa I am glad to return.  The fifth time promises to be epic.  During my time here, I hope in you I find a home.  I can not yet call you that because everything is different.  Everything.  Truthfully, every day I rise with discomfort, but it is  also decreasing slowly.  This discomfort is present because I’m still searching for my voice here.  I spend a lot of time listening and observing and I believe this will be true for a long time.  I’ve learned the most from what people’s eyes have told me.  

People stare and it’s often uncomfortable.  During my short time here, I have experienced a lot of stares.  Young children staring intently as I enter the school with my friend to pick up her children. Stares from the waitress as I have lunch at a winery with my friend and her extended family.  Stares as I enter church to worship with my friend.  Stares as I open my mouth to speak and there’s the realization that I am not a native isiXhosa speaking South African.  Stares as I have brunch with my friend to celebrate our birthdays.

Eyes
Artist, Shanequa Gay

Every other visit to South Africa these stares seemed bearable because there was an end in site.  My experience of South Africa has been entirely through the lens of my friend of nearly 15 years.  She is the native South African.  White native South African.  Each visit, I have experienced so much of the beauty that the country has to offer because I am friends with her.  Her privilege has opened doors for me.  I am treated differently (even at the airport) when I am with her or her family.  I’ve often said to her that these experiences come with hidden pain because I see myself in the image of the Black South Africans.  From my observation, they are largely treated and viewed as subservient to Whites.  In those moments, I am often torn because I wonder at times how I can be treated so differently than my Black counterparts here.

Adults may speak words, but their eyes reveal their truth.  When I peer into the eyes of some adults, although welcomed with a smile, they’ve said, “Why would you desire to live here, knowing our history?”   “Now that you are here, just assimilate [bury your blackness].”

The eyes of adults and children are also trying to process this beautiful, yet complex, friendship I’ve been blessed to have for so many years with my White South African friend. Our differences are clear externally, in personality, and empirically.

Behind those stares are questions.  I don’t think I am here only to answer a few questions.  I do believe as my friend and I continue to be kind, loving, and equitable towards one another, the questions will dissipate and I hope the stares begin to take on a new meaning.

Apartheid officially ended here in South Africa in 1994.  I was a student in high school.  My 20 year high school reunion is next year.  The laws changed less than 30 years ago.  Deep seated bias, prejudice, and old mindsets don’t move easily.  What I have learned in my 11 days here is that I must be loving, patient, gracious, unapologetically Black, and fearless.  I know that this dream is not my own.  I am certain it was given by God.  Therefore, I will not fear.

 

When people are uncomfortable with your presence, you see it in their eyes.  I am pretty sure others have seen discomfort in my eyes from time to time.  I’m thankful to be here; in this place of learning.  I’m thankful that the eyes can tell me a story when people may be unable to express what they really feel.  As I build relationships, I look forward to dialogue.  I am here to love, learn, and live.  In that order.  What a week.

The adventure continues…

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Photographer, Courtney Lary Walton

“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.” – Nelson Mandela

 

 

My Messy Beginning

Friend, Joy Becker, finishes this blog series sheer bravery.  Her willingness to express where she is on this messy journey of privilege and racial reconciliation is authentic.  I’ve been honored to collaborate and share the perspectives of Mika, Amy and Joy during the past four weeks.  Perspectives unlike my own.  I’ve grown.  I pray that you read this last post with great expectation. Expecting God to speak to you.  I believe He will. With courage, obey whatever He speaks.


I prefer when my writing culminates into a complete thought, when stories and anecdotes sit with me long enough to reach a finish line. I tend not to hit that Publish button until I’ve drawn a conclusion, tidied things up, and feel a sense of a closure.

Today is different.

There is no sense of closure because I’m just beginning this journey. I have so many conclusions spinning in my head I hardly know what to do next. I’m in the midst of so much learning and thinking and questioning; it is terrifying and thrilling. There are days I’d like to rewind the clock to before I wrestled with privilege and injustice. I’d like to unread and unlearn information that has left me wondering how me – this affluent, white, stay-at-home mom in the suburbs of Cincinnati – can possibly be part of reconciliation. Other days I want to shake myself because I spent so many years missing it, looking right past it.

In the spring of 2016, I began reading the book Seven. Oh, to this day, there are times I wish I could unread it. God knocked the wind out of me within the pages of that book, awakening me to the intensity and responsibility of the privilege I was born into.

Up until that day, I had thought very little of privilege and what it looked like in my life. I suppose when privilege is your norm, it is easy to miss.  

But soon I saw it everywhere.

I saw privilege when I opened my fridge, stared at shelves full of food, and ordered pizza because I didn’t feel like eating anything we had.

I saw privilege when I put my contacts in each morning because I’ve had resources to correct my failing eyes for nearly 30 years.

I saw privilege when I handed in my letter of resignation, voluntarily leaving my job to stay home with my children.

I saw privilege when I was pulled over for a missing headlight and never considered a police officer might treat me unfairly.

I saw privilege when I freely disagreed with colleagues and never thought twice that my race would be the backdrop for how others interpreted my words.

I saw privilege when our president was elected because as much as I hate how he speaks of the oppressed, I knew my day to day life would not be much different.

God put a fire in my gut the week I read that book, a restless stirring I haven’t been able to shake. I can’t stop reading and talking and asking questions. I can’t unlearn that I am in the top 1% of wealthiest people in the world, practically drowning in resources. I can’t pretend educational opportunities are the same for all children. I can’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are desperately trying to come to America, and yet live such isolated lives once they are here. I can’t unsee the hate-filled eyes in those videos of Charlottesville.

This is my messy beginning, my shuffling along, fighting my way through the weeds, with my hands outstretched, asking God, “What now? What can you do with the hesitant offering of a woman prone to wander, resist, and cling to privilege? Can you dig it out by its ugly roots? Can you keep forgiving me? Can you make reconciliation my heart’s cry rather than an item on my to-do list?”

*****

During the past year, I have looped through a cycle of emotions regarding the abundant advantages in my life.

I am ignorant.

I am overwhelmed.

I am disgusted.

I am paralyzed.

I am afraid.

I am humbled, forgiven, and obedient.

Repeat.

Those first five stages are fruitless at best; sinful if I’m honest, and I need to deal with them as such. I need to call out the sin in my life.

I am ignorant. That is sin. Ignorance is choosing foolishness. It is looking away from truth and ignoring the mind God gave me for learning and questioning and engaging. Ignorance is choosing oblivion to global and national crises, excusing myself because it’s too sad, it’s too hard.

I am overwhelmed. That is sin. I am looking to my own ability to solve injustice rather than following the lead of Him who came to change the world through servanthood. I am sinking into defeat, rather than clinging to a God of victory. Nothing is impossible for Him, and to be overwhelmed is to disregard the power of the Holy Spirit who is alive and active in me.

I am disgusted. That is sin. The Lord needed to bring me to a place of disgust, a harsh realization of my abundant privilege. But to stay in that place of guilt, apologizing for all I have, is to forget the One who gave it to me. He did not accidentally place me in this life at this time in history, and He is not interested in my apologies for living in America, for being white, for being educated, or for succeeding in a career.

I am paralyzed. That is sin. The reality of injustice is so thick and so heavy, I get lost in it. And then I do nothing. I stay in my neighborhood and in my home, with my conveniences and luxuries. I hang out with people who look like me and think like me. We talk about how thankful we are Jesus came to do all that messy work, but disengage ourselves from real action. Pretty soon, doing nothing in my norm.

I am afraid. This is sin. Fear will lie to me every time, coaxing me to believe injustice is too much for my God. Fear tells me I will fail if I seek reconciliation. Fear tells me I will say the wrong thing and do the wrong thing. Fear tells me I will put myself in danger and be in over my head. Fear tells me I will upset people and annoy my friends. But God did not give me a spirit of fear, and to believe otherwise is sin.

I am humbled, forgiven, and obedient. Confronting my own selfishness is miserable, but once each of those daggers have been humbly laid down, I can claim Christ’s forgiveness and move on to obedience.  

The Bible tells me to feel the pain of others. Be wrecked by injustice. Be burdened. The Bible tells me to pray, and not just on the days after horrific events like Charlottesville, but to get on my knees every day, crying out for the broken and forgotten, repenting from my sins and the sins of this nation. The Bible says to be faithful in prayer, be persistent, keep bugging God to shake my soul and not look away from oppressive systems that have handed me a life of advantage.

This doesn’t have to be an either/or approach. I can carry on with my daily life and remember the marginalized around me. I can write on my blog about eating dessert in the bathroom, and I can write about racial reconciliation. I can take my children to our community pool where they see dozens of children who look just like them, and I can take them to a church where they are the racial minority. My husband and I can celebrate special occasions at overpriced restaurants, and we can volunteer with the Cincinnati Refugee Resettle Program. I can go to the gym to teach Zumba classes, and I can learn to correctly pronounce the names of the colored women in my class, not just the white students. I can talk with my girlfriends about curtains and crockpot dinners and playdates, and we can talk about teaching our children to stand up for others. I can read Real Simple magazine and I can read about how to love my friends of color well. I can pray with my children for God to heal their owies, and I can pray with my children for God to awaken their eyes and hearts to those who need love.

This isn’t a checklist. It isn’t more to add to my plate. It isn’t one or the other. It is awareness. It is courage. It is a transformation of my heart to move past the years I spent desiring peace and wishing well to those on the sidelines.

Jesus spent His life on the bottom rung of the ladder. He surrounded himself with the powerless, the outcasts, the bottom dwellers, the marginalized. By his own choosing, He never made it up past that bottom rung. But I was born on the top rung; I was born into a life so far from Jesus. White. American. Middle class. Educated. Excess everything. It is a life so many long for, but it is a life that has proven to be my greatest hindrance in knowing the true Jesus. It is so far from the Savior who said He was “close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18) and that “the highborn are but a lie” (Psalm 62:9). There is such a distance from me and the man who constantly cared for the widows, the orphans, the poor, and the needy. It is so much harder to “seek justice and encouraged the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17) from up on this top rung.

It’s ironic how you can read something a dozen times and always hope someone else is taking it to heart. How did I miss it?

In every corner of the Bible, God is screaming, begging, pleading, urging me to love mercy and justice, to care for the last and least. If I’m going to believe the Bible is the Word of God, then it seems God is obsessed with social justice, and He asking me to stay engaged and join Him.

This is my messy beginning.

*****

A note from Mika, Amy, Precious, and Joy:

It has been a joy to share our hearts with you over the past month. The four of us have each been challenged, convicted, and inspired. We have each prayed earnestly for our readers, and for ourselves asking God to shake some souls and spur on conversations that would bring Him glory. We would love to end this series by praying for our nation, together pleading with God to heal and restore.

Oh Jesus,

We come before You with our mess. We acknowledge our sin and repent from it. We need You to do your thing. We need your power to bring change because we know we are powerless without You.

I pray, God, that You would heal our nation and bring us to racial reconciliation. I pray that our hearts and minds would be changed and that change would lead to action. May our hearts break for the damage white supremacy has caused in our nation – that we would see it for the sin it is, and commit to not being complicit in it. I pray we would move outside our comfort zones, invite people into our homes that don’t look like us, and build relationships in an effort to reconcile.

I pray America would become comfortable with being uncomfortable and no longer shy away from our horrid past. I pray we would know that racial reconciliation is not simply a good option; it’s important to You. May our hearts remain pliable for You to mold and change; performing open heart surgery if necessary to make us into a people that not only embodies the ethos of reconciliation, but the life style. May our days be less comfortable and more courageous.  May our love for You, Jesus, cause us to actively love our neighbors well.

I pray we would lay down our privilege to serve and to see. I pray we would open our hands and our eyes. We are in need of Your grace and Your grit to do and hear hard things. Lead us, Jesus. Please do exceedingly above what we ask.

Amen.

Chains fall

Fear bow

Here, now

Jesus, you change everything

Lives healed

Hope found

Here, now

Jesus, you change everything

Lyrics from Holy Ground


About the Author

Joy

Joy Becker is a wife and mama living in Cincinnati, Ohio. She recently resigned from a twelve-year career as a literacy coach and first grade teacher to become a full time stay-at-home-mom with her two young darlings. She is a lover of new notebooks, October, and goat cheese, and a hater of traffic, scary movies, and overcooked asparagus. You can peek even further into her love for Jesus, food, motherhood, and friendship over at 44 & Oxford.

Miseducation of Privilege

As a Black Christian woman I have more anxiety on the Sunday or Monday following tragic events such as the #Charlottesville attack because the work of racial reconciliation is exhausting.  The Sunday following Charlottesville (which happened to be less than 24 hours later), I remember being hopeful as I entered church that I would regain some of my sanity.  At least a little bit.  Thinking to myself,  this Sunday at least one non-person of color would come up to me and legitimize the concern I privately expressed to many.  I recounted the personal conversations held following the election of our President regarding his rhetoric and lack of empathy for non-whites.  At the time, I shared that I thought his views would give credence to those who held extremist and racist views to become hyper-visible and less concerned with “hiding” their views or their faces.  We witnessed that in #Charlottesville.

 

This was not a moment of wanting to be right.  This was a moment of wanting to be validated.  I wanted to feel sane, if only for a moment.  The context here is that I have spent countless hours listening, sharing, and praying with congregants and colleagues as we earnestly look to live reconciled.   Yet, I exited my phenotypically diverse church that day without a single conversation or acknowledgement from a white person.  I exited with increased ache in my heart.  I exited wondering how many more Sundays will I sit in this pew and wrestle with the passivity of privilege and the tone policing of my voice. I then hoped for a face to face conversation, text, phone call on Tuesday, Wednesday, or any day.  It did not occur.  Exhaustion enters stage right.

After reflecting on Amy’s blog, How Do I Handle My Privilege, and her compelling question at the end which asked ‘What privilege do you have, and how can you use it to serve the underprivileged?’  I stumbled upon a revelation.  

 

In the United States of America, privilege has been a silent teacher for hundreds of years.  Privilege, white privilege, for those who possess it, has taught that good things will come to them simply because of who they are – even if that good thing is racial reconciliation.   

Many would argue that hatred is a learned behavior.  I’d contend that just as hatred is taught, so is the passivity of privilege.  It is mostly taught without using words.  Privilege by its very nature is passive.  It demands absolutely nothing of its possessor. It teaches its possessor to protect it at all cost.  Privilege indirectly teaches that if one desires racial reconciliation, then it will be achieved by simply waiting for the “perfect, comfortable, opportunity” to have a difficult conversation, ask an awkward question, or get to know a person outside of your ethnicity.  Privilege has written thousands of history books and passed hundreds of laws. And with events like #Charlottesville, it waits patiently to reconcile.  We’ve been miseducated, and the western church has been an active pupil.  

Miseducation definition: a wrong or deficient education

Racial reconciliation is costly.  It takes work.  

Many desire racial reconciliation through a five-step process or a “quick read.”  I’ve had countless people ask me to give them a resource to navigate this difficult and messy space. For instance, there’s a local church in our city that offers a fantastic six week workshop on race which creates a safe space for people in the community to listen to one another, grow in empathy, and dialogue.  However, I’ve encountered many who’ve been content with attending this six week session and reference this as their “work” in racial reconciliation.  I commend people for attending; however, when this session ends, the work of racial reconciliation doesn’t.  If the only desire is a resource, racial reconciliation may not be realized.  It happens over time through empathy, honesty, contrition, and proximity.  Get close. Get uncomfortable. Get honest.  

If the American church desires to really model racial reconciliation, the Church must re-educate itself.   Learn from Black folks.  Listen to Black folks.  Lament with Black folks.  Let Black folks lead.

I don’t want a racial reconciliation that demands more of one follower of Christ than the other.  I pray that my encounter on the Sundays following tragic events are less anxious and more intentional.  As Amy stated in the previous blog, may we be known by what we lay down, rather than by any privilege we hold high.  

As a follower of Christ, I remain hopeful that racial reconciliation will occur in earnest as I continue to engage in uncomfortable conversations, love others where they are, and speak truth to power.   I’m encouraged that others are doing the same.  I have not thrown in the towel on racial reconciliation.  Each day I hold tightly to the hope I have in Christ, anchored by the reality of my desperate need for Jesus as I do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.  

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

Maybe the first act of laying down one’s life is to lay down the passivity of privilege.

As we lay down our respective privilege, I pray that we build authentic relationships across multiple ethnic groups, help restore broken communities, and recognize systems that perpetuate marginalization for disadvantaged groups. May we use our power, resources, and influence to tear these oppressive systems down; decision by decision. Racial Reconciliation, like sanctification (process of becoming more like Christ), is worked out daily.  It is not a one time act.  It is a lifestyle.  

The church has been “waiting” for racial reconciliation for too long.  Let’s intentionally give differently, life differently, and love differently.  Not just in words, but in lifestyle.

May privilege be ousted as primary instructor in the work of racial reconciliation and be replaced by empathy that leads to action.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  – Micah 6:8 ESV

How Do I Handle My White Privilege?

In this blog, Amy Seiffert shares her authentic perspective on privilege in a vulnerable way.  Amy and I are participating in a collaborative blog series  with other women where we will share our perspective on privilege and racial reconciliation.  Our collective prayer is that as you journey with us your heart will be open to what God wants to reveal to you.


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?  — Martin Luther King Jr.

My name is Amy and I have white privilege. I was born into a white, middle class, educated family. I got a college degree and married a white male who also has his degree and is now a small business owner. We have three kids and reside in a predominately white neighborhood in a college town.

I deeply miss the diverse relationships I had in high school; we had various cultures, religions, and race in my friend circle. Korean, Black, Indian, Arabic, Mexican, White, Jewish, Hindu, Christian. I miss recognizing and celebrating diverse friendships, having the weeds of prejudice pulled from my white privilege perspective, and raising my children with a colorful and beautiful view of the world.

I miss the daily academic environment where the table is set to have hard conversations. We had many respectful and robust discussions about our distinct heritages. We not only talked, we were in each others’ homes. I loved the food, the practices, the clothing, and the family life of my friends who were very different from me.  My family now continues to cultivate relationships with other races that are around us, but we would love to – we need to –  cultivate more. The richness of other races in our lives grows such beauty, humility, understanding, joy, and hope. Our soul-soil is in a great deficit when we close it off to any kind of vital diversity.

Privilege, according to the oxford dictionary, is: “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” Privilege can feel as obvious as our skin color and as subtle as our literacy. Even right now, if you are reading this blog, your literacy gives you advantage. I absolutely amen “education is a right, not a privilege” – but we can agree, for those who can read, there is an absolute upper hand.

And today, as I come together with four different kinds of women, writing four diverse kinds of blog posts about privilege, race, ethnicity, reconciliation, fears, hopes and dreams – we also have one common denominator:

Jesus.

I sit humbled and thankful that King Jesus is King of a colorful Kingdom. His rule and reign is one where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord when it’s all said and done. “Every” being the game-changer. We will not be segmented under His rule, we will come under one allegiance, and we will all bow down on the same, level ground next to the cross.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God… — Revelation 7:9-11

King Jesus had stunning leadership regarding privilege. He was enthroned in glory, fully God, crowned in all comfort. And He laid it all down. He put down His rights, His throne, His everything. Nothing was taken with Him when He took up human skin and moved into the neighborhood. Paul explains this beautifully:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. — Philippians 2:5-8 MSG

It is tempting to forget that this is GOD who lived this way. Setting the pace for the good life, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave. He took up a towel, got down on His knees, and washed grimy feet. He served his heart out, to the point of death.

And so when it circles back to us, to me, I have a big question to answer: What do I specifically do with my white privilege? I often freeze just thinking about my advantages, I feel guilty about them, or I hide them because I don’t know how to handle them well. I want to weed out the prejudices in the garden of my heart and sow seeds of racial reconciliation; I feel sad and embarrassed when I find incongruities in my soul. Who can help us in handling our white privilege?

Praise be to God! If we take our cues from the King, we will find the answer. We don’t have to struggle or hide or be perfect with our privilege. Like Jesus, we simply lay them down to serve.

After some soul-searching, just one of the ways my entire family (kids included) can lay down our white privilege and serve the underprivileged is being a Licensed Foster Care Family. Before you object in your heart and think “that’s for saints” – please reconsider. Those who foster are not saints, they simply have a safe home. The requirement to foster is very basic: a safe environment.

At different times this past year, we have laid down our routines, our comforts, our possessions, and had children in our home for short periods of time (we have done short-term Respite Care), giving a sweet child (we’ve housed hispanic, black and white children) a safe place to be in the middle of insanity. In the middle of abuse. In the middle of drugs.

Do we lay aside our white privilege perfectly? Absolutely not. Do we try to by faith? Yes. Even if it’s the size of a peppercorn. This is the way King Jesus lived, always by faith. He came down by faith, He laid aside everything by faith, He died by faith – faith in the resurrection to come.

I often have the famous phrase “With great privilege comes great responsibility,” running through my mind. And I can freeze. But, friend, if you also freeze – let’s unthaw together and simply serve. Let’s serve in as many ways as we can. Serve in little ways and great ways. Serve with our voices when we see injustice and serve with our actions when we see helplessness. Serve using our strength for the weak and leveraging our power for the vulnerable.

What privilege do you have, and how can you use it to serve the underprivileged?

May we be known by what we lay down, rather than by any privilege we hold high. 

 


About the Author

Amy

Amy is a wife of 17 years and mom of 3, who never thought she would love raising her family in a small college town. She works at Brookside Church as the Director of Outward movement and has the privilege of occasionally preaching. Amy loves tennis, ice cream, and making beautiful things . In between diapers changes, laundry, and soccer practices, she writes, blogs, speaks, and is working on her book on motherhood.  She has been in a monthly book club for 17 years and cannot believe Oprah has not brought them on her show. Amy inspires, teaches and humbly relates to the mystery and messiness of life. She tells all at www.amyseiffert.com.

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