(Photo is taken from the high school yearbook when I was a junior.
I’ve been wrestling these last few weeks. I’ve lamented. I’ve tried to listen more than speak. And I’ve learned. I’ve fought against naïveté and the desire to look away. Yet I still have more questions than answers. I am utterly overwhelmed by mankind’s brokenness.
Even though I would much prefer staying in the present and hoping for a brighter future, my wrestling has forced me to revisit the past…in hopes that I might learn.
I grew up in the south. My father was a farmer, employing mostly black men. Geneva was the black lady who came to our home five days of the week to clean. We loved her. My brothers and sisters were taught to respect all of our elders, regardless of skin color. So why did I just accept the fact that there were separate water fountains at the Dairy Queen based upon skin color? Why did I think it was ok for the movie theater to have different entrances and seating sections for white and black people? Why? Why didn’t I ask questions?
Our schools integrated during my junior year and there were very ugly moments the first year. I was largely unaffected by the transformation of the two high schools but many of my classmates have stories of pain, exclusion, ridicule and shame.
A confusing moment for me came as a senior in high school. Our World Lit senior show was predominantly made up of white students and I can only recall three black students participating. Traditionally, the final night’s performance was followed by a “cast party.” I, along with many girlfriends, danced with the two black male participants. Seemed perfectly natural. (I think the movie “Remember the Titans” accurately portrayed how quickly students accepted integration compared to some parents.) When I told my parents about the evening, I was reprimanded and told that if I ever danced with a black boy again, I would have to leave home. I remember sobbing in my bedroom because of my confusion and because I knew I had done nothing wrong. How could I have been taught equality yet be forbidden to practice it?
Recalling this has forced me to ask myself, “Today, am I professing AND practicing equality by my words, actions and thoughts?”
Fast forward…fifty years have passed and I heard George Floyd cry out, “I can’t breathe.” Every time I think of the last 8 minutes of his life, my soul gasps for air. The creation story teaches that God fashioned man after His own image and breathed His breath of life into the man’s nostrils…and the man became a living being (Genesis 1:26, 2:7). Life is sacred to God. His desire is that we value it, fight for it and protect it. Death, on the other hand, is the established consequence for rebellion against God.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ revelation, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In context, He was assuring His disciples of eternal life with Him. But I know that those who place their faith in Christ are not immediately transported to heaven. Why? Acts 17:25-28 teaches that God determined the time and place that each of us would live…so that people would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him…For in Him we live and move and have our being. We are here on purpose, for a purpose.
When the Church prays the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and decides to walk in Jesus’s directive to “Seek first God’s kingdom,” we have a mandate to live the Genesis 1 and 2 life. No more rebellion against God and His ways. But rather, choosing life…life in harmony with God and with one another.
We’re not there…yet. But until then, we are required to pursue everything God’s kingdom represents. And there is no racism in heaven!
Questions to ponder:
Am I professing AND practicing equality in my words, actions and thoughts?
Does my life indicate that I am seeking God’s kingdom first?