Confessions of An Evangelical, White Girl To The Black Community; and Exhortations for The Human Experience to Anyone Who Will Hear

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I grew up cloistered in a pretty specific bubble in suburbia. The kind of bubble where you might have the cops called on you if you left junk in the front lawn, or let the grass get higher than two inches.

I saw the police up-close-and-personal only once a year, for National Night Out. One policeman would hand out badge stickers, and another would be dressed in the dog mascot costume.

I remember a coloring worksheet with the silhouette of a policemen and the caption that if ever I was in trouble, the police were my friends.

All the people in my neighborhood looked like me. 

I didn’t go to public school, so I never had friends from other backgrounds. Just me and all my evangelical, white brothers, and our evangelical, white friends from church.  By my late teens, I had a black friend, but because of the strong white influence, all his friends called him an “Oreo”: black on the outside, white on the inside.

I didn’t encounter black culture until my early twenties, when I moved to a predominately black neighborhood in Minneapolis.

And I didn’t encounter my own ingrained white privilege until the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

I was the person, in response to the news of violence against blacks coming from other states, that wanted to be bipartisan–a “peacekeeper.” I wanted to have all the facts. Generally, I assume the good in all people, both those who fall victim and those who perpetrate, and when Ahmaud Arbery was shot in Georgia while jogging (Feb. 23), I tried to withhold judgment until I had all the facts.

Now I see that “having all the facts” is a form of hiding, hiding from the kind of injustice that my spirit knows I am inadvertently apart of, and demands the entirety of my heart to set right.

The truth is, I didn’t go on to find all the facts–nor the truth–but got sidetracked by my birthday the following day, and my own comfortability. The happenings of the racist south were far from my little bubble in (unbeknownst to me, racist) Northern Minnesota. I had to go look up the spelling of Arbery’s name and the details of the story in order to write this.

I suppose ignorance like mine is why the powerful motto emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s passing: “Say his name.”

Say it, Grace, so that his life becomes real to you, so that you don’t forget he was in the middle of his story when another man, one who might’ve handed out sticker badges to white kids, ripped out the pages in the second half of his book.

Say his name, like the mighty pushing of a snowball down a hill, that justice may be given the chance to write an epitaph for all the names you didn’t know–Eric Garner (2014), Michael Brown (2014), Laquan McDonald (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Walter Scott (2015), Freddie Gray (2015), Jamar Clark (2015), Alton Sterling (2016), Philando Castile (2016), Stephon Clark (2018), Botham Jean (2018), Breonna Taylor (2020), and that justice may be given the chance to pen a revolutionary second half for the millions of stories of people of color in this world.

Waiting to “have all the facts” is the epitome of white privilege, that my bubble is so set up to shield me from the blatant racial profiling and prejudice of my neighbors and fellow man.

Waiting to “have all the facts” is part of why the black community has been waiting so long for social equality and justice. The longer I wait to engage the truth of my white circumstances, the longer my black neighbors wait out their own deaths in the streets, or in their beds.

The longer they wait to feel safe.

I can’t imagine the sensation of not feeling safe in my own home. The truth of my white circumstances is that I rarely feel unsafe. The truth of my white happenstance is that the world around me is created to pander to my pleasure, ego, and privilege. Why are the “nude” cosmetics at Target always in shades of beige? As beauty guru Christine says, “Nude is a concept, not a color.” For the black girl who also watches YouTube makeup tutorials, her “nude” is not beige, but a deeper tone that is rarely included in cosmetic marketing.

And why are the nude depictions of Adam and Eve always white-skinned? Or Santa Claus? White-haired, blue-eyed, rosy cheeked…. Did you know St. Nicholas was actually born in Turkey? It must’ve been a shock to his system to move from such a hot climate to the tundra of the North Pole, but all the Scandinavian children had to have their Christmas presents. It’s a tradition to honor their white Jesus getting gold, frankincense, and myrrh, you know.

Recently I watched a news clip from CNN where the anchor interviews NFL player Benjamin Watson in a follow up on his essay about Michael Brown being shot by a police officer. In both the essay and the clip, Watson says that “ultimately, it’s not a skin problem but a sin problem,” and goes on to express his beliefs that the solution to social inequality and injustice is not education but the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unsurprisingly, CNN cuts him off before he can finish.

I agree with Watson. Education goes a long way, especially in bringing awareness to the ignorant (put your hand up with me). But only grace transforms a bad heart. Only love heals what is broken. Only the blood of a perfect man breaks the bonds of captivity to one’s own selfish reality. We are all guilty of assuming our experience is everybody else’s experience. It’s the nature of ego, of the inner narrative. A child, regardless of their skin color, thinks their reality is the only one. As expressed by a little boy to a little girl in an argument, “You’re not real, I’m real!” Interestingly, they are arguing about a difference of opinion bestowed by their mothers, showing that the truth of their reality is heavily influenced by what is instilled in them by educators. When they grow up, their language will shift from “real vs. not real” to “right vs. wrong.” But the heart-cry is still the same–validate my real-ness.

Like the CNN anchor, much of the West doesn’t want a “religious” solution. They put racial inequality/injustice on the shoulders of the government to fix, policy-making and reform, and there is a place for that–an enormous place. But it’s also on the shoulders of white, evangelical, 26-year-old girls like me, who don’t vote because they wanted to be bipartisan, and didn’t realize that their vote really does have power to effect change. Every day, I can vote against the tide of white supremacy trying to buoy me up, both in government and in my inner narrative. I can look for other realnesses beyond my own, and for fault lines in my reality.

One “realness” is that of spiritual powers. Our battle is not with flesh and blood; like Watson said, the battle is not over skin color. White supremacy is a spirit with its claws in the belief systems of people. It is the same spirit of evil that generated slavery and the dominance of the Aryan race during Hitler’s regime. It can be as overt as the KKK or as subtle as a white Santa Claus. Every human heart is susceptible to it, but it begins as a power external to you, and it takes the discernment of the Holy Spirit to know what is the truth of your heart-thoughts and what are the thoughts of this pervading principality.

When I first moved to Minneapolis and walked Penn Avenue to and from work, I would hear voices telling me to walk on the other side of the street. “Cross over from that black man–he might hurt you.”

Never in my life had any person told me such a thing. Never in my life had I questioned the value of a person with a different skin color–red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight–or doubted my love for them.

I had to fight those voices, stay the course, look the person in the eye, smile, say hello.

You and I are not the enemy here.

You can see how such a thought, hard to distinguish as not your own, would begin to build a culture of racial profiling. We begin to associate “burglar,” “rapist,” “thug” thoughts with people of color, those who wear hoodies, or who are loitering/walking in a certain locale, and generalize the entire population that way. Racial profiling is what happened in every case of police-person of color death listed above. As soon as I agree and say in my heart, “Yes, I should walk on the other side of the street in case he intends to rape me,” that thought of an evil spirit becomes belief, and belief is what my actions are built on; then what strengthens and spreads throughout a society. If a person has bad thinking, they will have bad actions. If a society has bad group-think, it will have bad actions.

These thoughts would become my own–flourish in the fertile soil of the unredeemed heart–if I did not believe Jesus is my claim to righteousness, or have the Holy Spirit regenerating me.

Just as every heart is susceptible to evil spirits, they are also susceptible to the Holy Spirit. Any love in my heart for the black community originates in Jesus, and because of him, I know these are true: I am not a white supremacist, and I am still susceptible to white supremacist thoughts/beliefs and must deconstruct the instilling of any such education.

I also know that I have never before questioned my love for people of color, but suddenly find myself doing so. If you identify with what I’m preaching, I want to give you a word of reminder and encouragement.

There is another spirit, equally manipulative and gross, working in tandem with the white supremacist spirit–the religious spirit. The religious spirit had me questioning my Holy Spirit-dwelling heart if I love black people.

Maybe I don’t, I thought in a panic. I don’t even have black friends right now, and I always want all the facts! I’m not racist, but maybe I’m not anti-racist either! Quick, post an anti-racist blurb on social media so they know I’m not racist, I’m ANTI-RACIST.

As soon as I start agreeing that I’m neutral, I give power to neutrality.

As soon as I agree that I can never understand the black experience, I will never understand the black experience. (Who am I to limit what wisdom the Holy Spirit will give? It is in understanding that reconciliation begins to grow. It is my spirit-privilege to be privy to things impossible to the flesh.)

Rather, I should start agreeing that I’m anti-racist, because that agreement gives power to justice, and engages my heart in the black cause. The gap of their waiting narrows or widens with every agreement we make.

I say the burden of proof has always been on the one who asserts. If the spirit of white supremacy is accusing your heart of racism, let that spirit prove it. It has no power except that which you give, and if you are giving it power on the basis of mere accusation, you have need of some deep soul validation from your divine Creator (oh, look, something understandable to every other human experience on the planet!)

Similarly, if the spirit of religion asserts that you will never measure up to your part in reconciling people groups–to do better–you tell it that Jesus Christ finished the work of reconciliation on the cross, and you carry his ministry by the Holy Spirit. It is your destiny to reconcile heart-cries to their answers, whether through relationship, reform, or rearing the next generation that seeks to experience and celebrate the realities of others.

To myself, and my fellow Jesus-lovers: prove your assertions with a pure love.

It’s not enough to love people of color with reforms and policy-making, social media tirades or protesting. The basic needs of a human soul are not the right to vote or the right to own land, or the right to free speech or a fair trial–those are obvious “duh”s, and simply what makes a society flourish. The accomplishment of those things isn’t going to afford the black experience the dignity, safety, and honor that their human nature inherently deserves. Policy doesn’t validate human nature. Laws for equal treatment don’t validate a heart longing for intimacy and home.

Rather, human nature can validate human nature.

And in the deepest places, where a soul knows its existence is sacred and fears that it is not seen–there only divine nature validates human nature.

The God in you wants to validate the heart-cry in others.

To my friends with the white experience:

COVID-19 is giving a chance to go slower. Take the opportunity to find your heart and do the work of looking for the truth. Don’t be afraid of what you might find–you are loved; you are valid; you must grow. If you believe, you are covered in the blood of Jesus, and no one can condemn you.

Go slower, and go lower.

Go lower into humility. Beware the religious-spirit which serves the black community with a prideful heart. Pride/judgment is sibling to the supremacist.

Go lower until you find the bottom, where Jesus dwells.


To my neighbors with the colored experience:

To repent means to change your thinking. And when your thoughts change, your beliefs change, and when your beliefs change, your actions change.

I am repenting. Because I love the Lord, I am repenting. Because the Lord loves you, I am repenting.

Forgive me for living in my white-privilege bubble for so long. I’m trading it for my Jesus-privilege of sharing grace. I ask for your grace in this process of heart change, and patience for the fruit it will produce.

COVID-19 is a chance for your voices to be heard and amplified. We are responding to your call. Where our city is closed because of disease and rioting, my heart is opening to your suffering. You are loved; you are valid; you are growing. If you believe, you are covered in the blood of Jesus, and no one can condemn you, not even corrupt government. I desire to understand your suffering, to share in it as I share in Christ’s, and to see you get your full reward.

Now is your time.

-Grace

 

Will We Ever Rise – The Brilliance

 

Overtaken – Molly Skaggs

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Guardianship

Water wheel
Jon Uriah

I woke this morning to my heart bursting.

With ideas, dreams, desires.

Within half an hour, a little too much caffeine was added to the mix, making my insides reminisce about the peaceful days of early July, when fireworks exploded outside the body.

I’m not sure what happened.

Just that, when I went to sleep, I didn’t have the same capacity I experienced when I woke up.

Which is good, because there’s a wide selection to choose from on the To-Do list: three jobs notwithstanding, the lawn needs mowing, the garden weeding, the tomato plant (which is fruiting!!) needs support if I’m going to taste any of that fruit….

My heart feels a little like that tomato plant. Like desire has grown too quickly for the strength of my spine, and its weight is just…sort of pulling me over sideways.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about placemaking and sustainability.

I did the obvious things in response to the cultural hype of zero-waste living: ditch-and-switch all things plastic for bamboo, single-use for reusable.

I must’ve spent close to a thousand dollars, renovating the externals of my lifestyle for long-term goals, and I’m happy I did that.

But now the Lord is taking sustainability into deeper regions of my soul, with a word over this season: guardianship.

Similar to stewardship, to investment. Guarding the good he continually brings to my life.

It also means, “leave no thing orphaned.”

All the parts of my soul should be mothered and fathered. And all the things I put my hand to I must claim responsibility for. It’s incomplete to jump on a gardening trend because growing your own vegetables is sustainable, but leave behind the parts of your own heart that need tending.

Here’s what I’m realizing: it’s not enough to participate in a lifestyle switch just to participate in a lifestyle switch.

You have to cultivate desire for it. You have to answer the why first, and then the how.

I want to stop buying bread because it comes in plastic packaging, which never biodegrades but pollutes our oceans, but how will I get bread, then? Am I ready to undertake making my own gluten-free loaves? Do I have the capacity and the desire to make this a sustainable switch? (Presently, all things cooking- and food-related are burdensome to me.)

Or will I burn out, because I’m also abandoning clothes shopping since I have a sewing machine (that I barely know how to use)?

The truth is, abandoning a convenient, consumerist lifestyle for intentional, sustainable living is more work, not less (whatever the minimalists propone!). It’s a lot of work to mix your own mayo and DIY your own lotion. Apply that same intentionally to your work, to your relationships, your dreams, and your future, and you could burn out quickly if you launch prematurely.

But if you walk with God, you might also wake to an exploding heart because maturity is coming quickly.

See, the best part about receiving a word from the Lord is that it always comes with the equipping intact. He didn’t say guardianship to me as the next thing to learn. He said it to me as the next thing to practice. 

He’s already equipped me with the ability to guard, cultivate, and steward through his Spirit.

Now, to the furthest reach of my desire, I get to participate with the sustainability of his heart. It’s less about making a list of all the switches I want to make and more about cultivating an unmanageable desire.

Because then he has to give me a capacity to match.

And, really, what’s more intimidating to our faint hearts? The stress over biting off more than we can chew?

Or the untameable growth of a desire that’s heaven-sized?

In the face of a God who will always outdo us in dreaming, we choose to belittle our desire until it’s more manageable. Which sidles up a little too closely to soul-killing duty.

I don’t want to cook meals because it’s my duty to sustainable living. I don’t even want to cook meals because it’s my duty to the earth, to my own convictions, or to the Lord who entrusts me.

I want to cook meals because it’s my joy. And if I don’t have joy there, something orphaned in my heart needs a guardian.

Good thing I have the best keeper–one who has promised never to leave me or forsake me. With him, everything is to my advantage, and every advantage is sustainable.

 

 

 

Brick-a-Brack

watering can
PC: Glorin

I pass, for the first time, through the double-doors into the homemaker’s heaven:

Hobby Lobby.

Bright lights and long aisles and…instrumental Easter hymns playing over the loudspeaker?

Observing the 30-day devotionals and wall-hanging Bible inscriptions, I presume the owner is Christian.

Immediately overwhelmed by the size of the maze, I ask an employee to show me the chalkboard markers.

We pass rows of craft supplies, bolts of fabric, Easter bunnies and plants, picture frames and furniture.

I feel an unfamiliar conflict stirring up inside me, making it difficult to concentrate on the employee’s direction.

Excitement and inspiration (the endless possibilities of homed decorating!) colliding with something like…revulsion?

I pause briefly at an aisle that catches my interest, craning my neck to see to the top of shelving laid neatly with farmhouse-style goods. Serving platters and jars, kettles and bottles and baskets and spouts, all with distressed finishes, or that green/blue patina mimic of rusting copper.

My revulsion turns to anger. Someone is making a profit off somebody else’s insecurity and attempt to construct an identity through an aesthetic!

What someone would naturally achieve by living and laboring for generations on a real farm in the country is duplicated in a sweatshop in China for five dollars, then sold for quadruple to an American suburbanite who will change their theme in five years when the next trend emerges!

I’m all a righteous, red flush and rage.

Until I realize I am the one with the insecurity and constructed identity. I am the suburbanite, and the anger is the Lord’s.

Someone across the Sea is not making a fair wage in good working conditions so I can furnish a new house! This elusive home I’m trying to find and create, telling the Lord I will do it with him, but first not understanding what it is to be at home in his presence.

Not understanding the injustice done to others to fulfill my desire, which is a false identity in the first place. I’m compensating. A wooden chicken for the assurance that I belong.

Oh, Jesus, give me rest from this striving!

All that comes is vapor (Eccl. 11:8)…. And when we’re dead and gone, and the accumulation of our striving blown away with our last breath, all we’ve left is a crater-sized carbon footprint of the landfill junk that once constructed our worth.

What can I do against such reckless, pervasive sickness?

Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement (11:9).

I pass, for the first time, through the double doors of the Earth Maker’s heart, and I find grief.

His grief over the system, my grief over missing his heart in all this. There is more of heaven’s will to be manifest on earth, in my life!

He’s preparing a place for me, the truest home. It’s available to me right now, in his heart.

Will I exchange my perfectly-curated, white-picket-fence, Christian-American dream?

After all, it’s just an illusion.

 

The Pizza Guy’s Here

marie-antoinette
© Columbia Pictures 2006

For a persuasive moment, I see the evening unfold before my eyes:

Me in sweats, an old beanie.

A movie on Netflix, likely a rom-com,

a glass of wine,

and a microwaved Lean Cuisine, still in its plastic tray.

The vision jams in my mind’s eye and begins skipping on replay, mocking my Friday night, Saturday night, every night for the rest of my life;

and, really, it’s the sequence from every rom-com ever made, showing the same scene over a time lapse, only with a different sweater, a different lounging position, and a mound of take-out cartons piling up.

I suppose it’s all those rom-coms that’ve stuck the scene in my head in the first place.

Still, there’s an appeal in it.

Netflix has got some great originals…and French wine is available at Top Valu for under ten bucks.

As I move toward it in my heart, with victimized resignation, my spirit does a backwards somersault, as if trying to create reverse momentum. Why would you choose that?

Obviously I have no comeback that would satisfy my honest places. Excuses are for the parts of us that have already departed from the truth, and the Spirit only deals in truth.

It’s aggravating in this moment, but truth is the most satisfying channel of life right now, aggravating because it’s also quite narrow in its permission. I’d give anything to be working an evening shift, or unpacking boxes in a new apartment, or even to have a book I’m excited to read (taking suggestions, by the way.)

Truth, by its nature, is sufficient, however. Even however limiting it may feel. You can spend many an evening with nothing to do, no one to do it with, and apparent little to look forward to, and still be satisfied with only the truth.

The truth of who Jesus is for you, and who you are to him.

The truth is that a lifelong addiction to romantic comedy is not my destiny–pardon my French. (Are we confessing the truth? Because I’m drinking French wine as I write this. Don’t worry, I’m not under its influence. I ate the Lean Cuisine earlier, and it was full of rice.)

Why am I taking up a victimized heart posture as if that’s all I amount to? Even for a single evening, I don’t have to resign myself to less than who I am created to be.

Truth is like your friend, the pizza-delivery guy, who always arrives in the last fainting moments of craving, with permission to be honest like an extra side of cheesy bread.

(Tip that guy, because no one delivers like the Holy Spirit.)

Honesty ushers in grace, and grace is the channel to receive love–a need of which you buffered a rom-com in the first place.

Take whatever it is you do on an aimless evening and ask yourself: why do I do this?

And then ask yourself, is it consistent with the truth in me?

The truth is, I’m supposed to be on the wrestling mat of my soul, where Holy Spirit wants to pin me.
Instead I’m bobbing-and-weaving around him, avoiding some painful truth–’cause let’s be honest, truth is also the scalding cheese on top of the pizza that blisters the roof of your mouth for a week.

…I’m boxing the air, feigning a warmup, because I know I’m supposed to be wrestling him, I’ve just left the honest place for Excusez-moi, there’s just one thing I need to do first…

My spirit knows it, it’s telling me so. It’s practically doing gymnastics in my stomach, and I think drinking wine is the solution to decompress??

It’s called a holy unrest, people.

It’s meant to agitate, to get you to pay attention to the fact that your soul is not free. Your freedom is the best tip you could give Holy Spirit.

During these aimless evenings, whether it’s momentary or a movie-marathon, slow down enough to confess the truth: you are made for more than what you’d choose for yourself.

Then ask Jesus, what exchange would you make? 

I bet you every evening of the rest of my life he’ll tell you this truth: I’ll give you my life for yours.

What Trees Tell Me of Secret-Keeping

 

crabapple

The best part of spring, particularly after such a long winter, is the sudden opening of buds where you weren’t paying attention.

There’s this time lag, between the snow melting, and the little green nubs appearing on the trees, and the flowering of the blooms, that I swear happens overnight. Literally, in the night, when I’m sleeping and won’t see it happen.

Trees must be good secret-keepers, I think.

You wake up one morning and step outside the door, and there’s a bright pink tree waiting beside the porch. Ta-da! Those crabapple trees are like little girls in pink tutus, showing off for their father.

And every spring, I am surprised. (Just the other day I went for a walk with Mom and Dad, and we had to stop and sniff every crabby bloom, exclaiming and taking pictures, as if they were as foreign as a Japanese cherry blossom.)

I think the surprise lies in the lack of attention. I’m not hanging around, noting the growth of the buds every morning so that I’ll be ready when they flower. And if I were, I wonder if the flowers would be as lovely…

God grows things in me in a similar way. Those things I would consider myself paying attention to. But there’s always a deeper, more subtle thing he is cultivating, which happens during the night (Ps. 16:7) and you discover when you wake up one morning, finding you have bloomed.

I’m anticipating this summer to be a long, slow season of re-fathering.
Of stripping back the honesty of myself to levels of exposure that feel like they could kill me.
A reset of the last twenty years.
A time to lay foundations of faithstone that God will teach me himself and show me myself in him, the only true identity.
A consecrated time to establish our thing. (My pastor, speaking about having secrets with God, said of his daughter, “She and I have a thing, and we both know it. A thing no one else gets. God wants to have a thing with each of his kids.”)

Probably half of those things happen while I sleep. There’s a lag time between God inviting you into a new space, and showing you the fruit of that obedience. A most-admired speaker said, “God waits a long time to move suddenly.”

You walk out the door of your heart one day, and there’s a bright pink tree bowing in the breeze.

God is teaching me to be a good secret-keeper. Trustworthy of his heart’s secrets. He’s teaching me to be his little daughter in a pink tutu, lost in her Papa’s delight, in her own beauty, in the assurance of her place in his heart.

This morning when I woke up, I caught the fragrance of a new bloom. And after such a long lag of winter wandering, it was the most glorious, foreign flower.