“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 belong to our God who sits on the the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9)
(July 17th, 2014)
“…I know I’m here for a reason. That though I’m tired in my soul I can’t just say ‘I’m done!’ because I know God says ‘No, you’re not. You’re not done.’ And I know he’s right but it’s so hard. It’s really so hard…
I never thought this would be the hardest post to write. I’ve been working on this one post for a week and it’s still difficult – partially because of the anger and frustration thinking about this so much on a spiritual level always causes me – but I feel like I would be doing a huge disservice to what I learned at IVLI if this post wasn’t written. This in no way contains all of my thoughts about this issue and it in no way is to be thought of as the “black voice” for this topic. This is purely for my own personal and spiritual healing with the hope that God can use this to help someone else, even if only to realize that they are not alone in this fight. But where to begin…
Let’s start with this statement: In dealing with any form of injustice, Jesus must be at the center.
What does this mean? Well, if I’m being perfectly honest, I have no clue. In this past week alone, since Saturday, I’ve been questioning myself and God, questioning if Jesus can possibly be put at the center with situations like what happened and is still currently happening in Ferguson and pretty much the rest of the country.
Despite still not being sure, the answer is still the same: In dealing with any form of injustice, Jesus must be at the center.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” – (Proverbs 17:17)
After an interesting presentation of ethnicity and racial reconciliation at IVLI, I was seriously left drained, tired, and beyond bitter. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited to be talking about these subjects, in my campus fellowship I have basically made myself the self-proclaimed broken record for racial reconciliation talk. No, I was excited. I was excited about talking about this issue at a level that went beyond the usual “Our world is broken and there’s this thing called racism that’s bad and we shouldn’t do as Christians,”. Okay, I’m overly exaggerating that last statement but after years of just talking about the issue as if it was some theoretical discussion I was excited for how IVLI would present it. I mean, we were all Christian leaders from different campuses. Though we all come from different personal and academic backgrounds, I was still somewhat under the assumption that talks like these had happened before and was hoping that what we would be learning at IVLI would be more of a response as “leaders of leaders” to certain situations that dealt with racial reconciliation along with possible ideas of how to motivate our fellowship to get involved with things like this.
At the time, I was somewhat disappointed.
Though the method of initiating the talk about racial reconciliation was way better than anything my campus fellowship has done, it was still very introduction like and more so focused on making those who had never experienced something like racism directly to do so in a safe environment, i.e. it was more so for the students of “privilege” than anyone else. What was even more frustrating was the confirmation from several different staff members that this was true.
“So what about me?” I asked, holding back frustration and the urge to break something, holding back tears for something I had already shed so many tears over with my own fellowship, with people who I constantly felt I like I had to culturally assimilate myself with. What am I supposed to get out of this other than something that I can get any time I want just by stepping into the nearest predominantly white neighborhood (and we were in the upper-peninsula of Michigan so it wouldn’t be that far of a trip to find a neighborhood fitting that description). Something that I experience every day as someone from the Southside of Chicago?
“Well, there’s the Black Student Lounge this week.”
I can’t be sure what my response was exactly to that answer but it wouldn’t be too far to say that I probably rolled my eyes and had decided to already give up on the situation altogether. “The Black Student Lounge”. Though I love and appreciate everyone who I have ever met at a Black Christian student “lounge” or event, the end result was always unsatisfactory. The rare times I left these type of meetings feeling rejuvenated were always quickly squashed by lackluster response from my own team in the fellowship. What was the point of going to something where all the black students would be talking about something that we didn’t really need to talk about anymore? I mean, when something is a day-to-day presence in your life such as racial discrimination, you tend to have already thought and talked about it to last several lifetimes. So I was frustrated, feeling like this was the predominantly white staff’s way of trying to pacify us, once again, placing a band-aid over something that now required surgical help.
Despite my initial response – which was to boycott and not go to the lounge at all – one of my family group “sisters” really encouraged me to go. So I went, but begrudgingly.
I’m glad I went.
Everyone went around and shared how they were feeling and their thoughts about the racial discrimination simulation. When it got to me, true to my very emotional and feeling ISFJ self within the first few words I was already struggling to hold back tears as I expressed not only my frustration with the simulation we went through but also with being a black female leader in my Christian fellowship. Despite all the bitterness and just wanting to quit what I said surprised me.
“I’m just so tired of being a broken record. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking and I just want to be done with this, but I know God is saying, ‘You’re not done. There’s still more I have for you to do with your fellowship so let me be enough’.”
After months and months of feeling so spiritually drained I felt God speak so clearly to me at that point. When I was questioning if there was any purpose staying in my fellowship that was beyond mere pride of seeing something through that I started as a first year, I felt God strongly confirm that where I was at – though frustrating, painful, and sometimes filled with waaaaaay more difficult conversations and conflict than I want – was where I was supposed to be.
At some other point during IVLI, I was talking to someone else who was also from my school. We were talking about a completely different topic but I think my response to them is still applicable (if you’re reading this, person, yes, this is slightly paraphrased): “There’s brokenness everywhere in the world and we can’t fix it all by ourselves. One, we need Jesus, and two we need to focus on the community that God has provided for us and make an impact there with the hope that God will allow that impact to spread. We may never see everywhere our impact reaches but that’s not really the point. Our point is to be present in the places that God has put and do his Will,”.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God!” – (Micah 6:8)
In the wake of another tragic death of a young black person, I continually struggle to not easily fall into the dangerous trap laid out by enemy. It’s difficult and already this past weekend I let my emotions, my fear that the next Michael Brown, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Jonathan Ferrell, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Wendell Allen, or Eric Garner would be either someone I knew or myself, control me and influence the tone of a conversation I had with a friend.
Sometimes, I feel that I am done talking, but that is because these thoughts and fears are part of my every day life. Words may seem like just words but words, when surrounded in the grace and love despite hurt and bitterness, I believe make more of an impact than hate. If I am to love the people that God created on this earth I must show them love and patience even when they come off as ignorant and/or hateful.
This year, I may still feel like a broken record. This year, some of my fellow leaders and other members of my fellowship who have never directly experienced the day to day discrimination that I am exposed to may feel uncomfortable with some of these topics and conversations. That’s ok. Being a Christian is not about being comfortable. It’s about challenging yourself to be more like Jesus. So for myself and all others like me, I will pick up my cross and continue have this conversation with Jesus at the center.
“‘The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach saying, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near'” – (Matthew 4:16-17)