Friday, June 19, 2015

One White Girl's World View

And He has made from one blood[a] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings…
Acts 17:26, NKJV

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into[b] one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13, NKJV 

I can remember it as if it were yesterday, squeezed in to the chrome and Formica kitchen table at the tiny Logan Avenue flat on Milwaukee’s South Side.  There were eight of us crammed together for the meager evening meal, sporting hand-me-down clothes, never realizing how poor we really were.  Dad still smelled of the motor oil and rubber from his work at the auto parts warehouse.

“Why do they call them black people?  Their skin is really brown.  I’m going to call them brown people,” I proclaimed.

I had an innocent, fearless love for my brothers and sisters of different nationalities, regardless of any differences in skin pigment.  My childhood naivety could not understand how a person's "wrapper," their skin, could ever make them different from another person.

As I grew up first on the lower-middle class South Side of Milwaukee, then in a middle class suburb of the city, I knew my father had a fear of black people, because most of the horrible things that happened to him at his business near the edge of the inner city had happened at the hands of the African Americans who lived nearby.  Even so, that never affected my perspective.  I never relented in trying to get him to see the faultiness in his thinking.

When I was in junior high, living in the suburbs, one of my very best friends was Maureen.  Back in that day, she was ignorantly referred to by some as “mulatto.”  She was a very light-skinned black girl.  To me she was always just Maureen, my hilarious friend.  One tiny ethnic thing she did impart to me over our 2 years together was her mother’s teaching that the “n-word” meant “ignorant.”  She was instructed that as long as she didn’t behave like an ignorant fool, she surely wasn’t someone worthy of that epithet.  That was an interesting perspective.  I have to wonder if there aren’t some teenagers these days who might learn from that definition, putting a halt to their lobbing of that word at each other with such casual abandon. 

In high school, we only had a handful of black classmates.  Charlotte, who was a grade younger than I, was active in theater with me.  I always saw her as just Charlotte, a beautiful, bubbly, fun girl who shared my similar likes and irritations with school cliques.  Our whole group of "theater people" hung together without seeing skin color.  Protestants teasing Catholics seemed more of an issue amongst classmates at that time.  Still, I can remember one evening at the local pizza parlor, our regular hang-out after shows, where we jokingly did a role reversal.  Charlotte was imitating us “honkies” and we were pretending to be black.  We laughed ourselves stupid waiting for a table, as we mocked the ridiculousness of those who were fixated on racial differences.  We simply didn’t face that challenge in our daily living.

In college, ethnicity had zero influence on who I hung around with.  Simply put, when it came to nationality, I was an interested, clueless learner.  I always loved discovering another person’s point of view, but in my brain, we were all just people, equal in the sight of our Maker. 
Interestingly, I had one college suite-mate who was pure Chinese, but came from an affluent family living in the Philippines.  I learned stunning cultural things about her family’s world view on maintaining that pure Chinese blood line, job roles, and status.  That made me more aware that these types of things were deeply ingrained in some more than others.

True to my earlier life, my years as a young working woman were simply a continuation of hanging around with other good people of every kind.  I had friends old and young, married and single, gay and straight, local and from out-of-state.  Amongst those were black girlfriends I went to visit at their homes and workout with at the gym.   
Something did bug me about my African American girlfriends at this point.  I became disquieted that my friends should feel trapped to living only in certain neighborhoods.  The world was expanding in its cultural inclusion, and no one should have to feel stuck in a high crime neighborhood, especially considering the sexual vulnerability of being a single woman.  It saddened me.

I continue to have a wide circle of friends of every type.  I hate divisions along racial lines and grieve the steps backwards we seem to have taken in recent years.  One of my most cherished sisters in Christ (pictured with me above), one who always keeps me sharp and focused on HIM, a faithful prayer warrior for our ministry is black.  She admonishes me and teaches me, spurring me on as a fellow believer nearly every day.  One of my dearest, sweetest neighbors (who moved a couple of years ago due to divorce) is black.  We shared our love of animals together, supported one another, and shed tears together.  How I miss her!  

Yes, I did have a different sort of upbringing and life from my black friends.  But I also had a different sort of upbringing and life than my friends who embrace their Greek community, rejoice in their Italian lineage, cherish their Mexican heritage, and others who fondly preserve and practice various lifestyles that have been markedly different from my own.  Honestly, if we focused on dissimilarities, that might be all we see everywhere.

Now I find myself in the summer of my deepest discontent.  Still reeling from the horrific murder of nine innocents at one of the country's oldest black churches by a white man who sat listening to God’s word for an hour before doing the unthinkable, I wonder if divisions will ever heal this side of heaven.  I find myself more outraged than ever at the divisiveness of racists and race pimps alike.  I love.  I just love.  And my heart is crushed at this dark world where people can’t do just that one simple thing.  We look for ways to poke at one another's differences, whether they be ability level, health, perceived strength, or race.  The oppressive sin of this world makes my stomach churn.  We cannot even have dialogue with one another, coming to understand different perspectives, for fear of offending or being called “racist” or “intolerant.”  I want to dissuade my youngest in her aspirations of becoming a canine unit police officer because my cop friends are miserable, facing a level of danger they have never known before.  Some I know are hung up on “white privilege” and “white guilt” seeking reparation that is about 200 hundred years too late.  Many are so stuck on the past that they cannot move forward.

My heart hurts – It feels like it’s been run through a meat grinder.  I believe Jesus is breaking my heart for what breaks His, just as I have sung and prayed.  He compels me to think, What would this world look like if we stopped all this insanity, grudge-holding, magnification of differences, and just right now, today simply LOVED?  It begins in our own homes and radiates from there.  We don’t have to love everything about every other person out there to love one another.  In fact, I would contend that you CANNOT find one other person out there who you love in entirety or agree with 100% of the time.  Even our spouses make us want to hold a pillow over their head at times, so why do we expect that level of alignment from the wider world?

As I wrote this year on my wedding anniversary, love is not a feeling so much as it is a repeated choice of self-denial.”  We need to get over ourselves – EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.OF.US. – and set about washing one another’s feet in humility rather than demanding a single thing for ourselves, just as our Savior commissioned.  He was no respecter of ethnicity, status, ability, or gender.  He JUST LOVED.

That is what this ministry has sought to do since day one.  We serve everyone, keeping our eyes fixed on the One who deserves our full attention.  We seek to imitate His pure, unadulterated love, only by the power of His Holy Spirit.  Our prayer is that we reflect His radiant glory in the darkness, so He might be magnified in all we do.

All of that being said, fervent prayer for the healing of this nation continues amongst our team members.  In the wise words of Dr Alveda King, “Gun control will never be the answer; heart control is what we need.”  Let this sort of transformation come here and now, Lord Jesus!

PRAY:  MIGHTY MAKER, Spirit imparting self-control, create real, permanent heart change in this nation.  Thwart the divisive talk and activity of those who seek to control groups of people for their own gain.   Do not let us fall prey to the guilt fostered by the accuser.  Open the eyes of our heart, bearing one another’s burdens, seeing each other as dearly beloved, marked with the DNA of Your holy image.  Remind each of us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Draw us forward with eyes focused on You alone, and these differences will become more irrelevant as we grow together increasingly into the image of Your beautiful Son in whose Name we pray.  Amen.

  1. Acts 17:26 NU-Text omits blood.
  2. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NU-Text omits into.

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