Off The Deep End

I had decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to do a blog post this week, because I haven’t blogged in a long time and I miss doing it. I figured I would do a post about Thanksgiving, and gratitude, and all that I have to be thankful for. That was my plan, and I’m sure that post would have been just precious (at least to my relatives and closest friends). And don’t get me wrong – I am so, so grateful for so many things. But I’m just not feeling that particular post tonight. I have some other things on my heart.

Along with everyone else in America, I have watched over the past few days as events have transpired throughout our country. I have read articles, and blog posts from much wiser and more legit bloggers than myself, and social media commentary, and comments. So many comments. Comments I wish I could un-see, and comments I am thankful I had the opportunity to read. And I am not here to add to the sea of  commentary on the events of this week – but what I find myself deeply aware of tonight is that one young man is dead, one officer’s life will never be the same, two families are devastated, and people are hurting.

Many of my black friends are hurting. Whether this incident began as a racial incident or not, it has become one, and it has opened up wounds among so many. And I am grieved over this. And I am thankful that I am grieved over this, because I fear what will have become of me if the day comes when the pain of so many people does not touch my heart.

Many of my law enforcement friends and their spouses are hurting. Backlash against law enforcement has been significant, and I know many law enforcement officers who conduct their jobs day in and day out with integrity. They are at greater risk any time there is widespread unrest, and they and their families are also heavy on my heart.

So I find myself thinking, “What can I do?” As a white person who has never known racism. As a citizen who does not have to place my life at risk each day when I go to work. As an imperfect Christ follower who wants desperately to see peace and to see an end to the hurting of so many, but often feels powerless to effect healing on a larger scale. And as I prayed through this question, these are the ideas that came to mind regarding steps that I can take in my own small corner of the world:

1) Listen. Listen deeply. Listen with humility and compassion to people whose life experiences differ from my own. Don’t rush to judgment. Acknowledge the pain of others when they hurt. Be mindful that I will never fully understand the path that my black friends (and Hispanic friends, and Asian friends, and Middle Eastern friends) have walked, because I haven’t walked it. Acknowledge that racism is real, and that it still exists in many forms today, as much as I would like to close my eyes and pretend it doesn’t.

2) Pray. Pray for healing in our country. Pray for my black brothers and sisters, whose world is still not the same as mine, as much as I would like for it to be. Pray for my white brothers and sisters, that we would pursue racial reconciliation. Pray that we would be all be brave and kind as we talk about the hard issues, and that we would listen to each other and seek to really hear, rather than just be heard. Pray for our law enforcement officers, that they would be safe, that they would have discernment in the decisions their job requires them to make, that they would be protected from harm.

3) Celebrate. Celebrate the beauty in diversity. I heard someone say recently that they “don’t see color.” And I think what was meant by this comment was a well-intentioned sentiment of, “I don’t discriminate based on race/ethnicity.” But my thought after hearing this statement was, “How sad would it be if none of us saw color? If we didn’t see the beauty and the variety in our skin tones? In our hair textures? In our accents? In our cultures?” How monochromatic would things be if everyone looked like me? Talked like me? Thought like me about everything? Had only my particular set of experiences?

For example, my friend Xiomara recently allowed her young son to place colored drink stir sticks in her hair (what she refers to as her “Teenie Weenie Afro” or “TWA.”)


When I tried the same trick with my thin, stringy, white-girl hair, this is the result I got:


Not at all the same. In this lifetime, I will never be able to pull off a TWA. But I can admire Xio’s.

We are created to celebrate each other. And to do this, we have to really SEE each other.

3). Act. I have heard a couple of people say in the past few days that true peace will never exist this side of heaven. And I understand what they are saying. But we still need to work for it. We need to work for it with everything we have. As Christ followers, we are commanded to do this. Biblically, it is not optional. Christ is the source of peace, He is the embodiment of peace, and as His followers, we are commanded to represent Him in such a way that people see love, and truth, and peace when they look at us. This side of heaven, we will do this imperfectly. But we have to keep trying. To heal with our words, rather than wound. To extend grace. To love. To hold out Christ as the ultimate healer, the ultimate peace-giver.

As I have been thinking throughout the day about Thanksgiving, I thought back to what I remember learning in school about the origin of the holiday. It just seemed relevant, and important. And I did some googling. Turns out, the first Thanksgiving on record was celebrated between the European settlers (or Pilgrims) and the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans. The first Thanksgiving was not only a celebration of a successful harvest, but was also a celebration of racial reconciliation between these two peoples. And this is what is on my heart, and in my prayers, as this Thanksgiving rolls around.

As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I am reminded that many of the blessings we hold most dear are born out of struggle. And my hope is that we will pursue peace, be willing to wrestle with the hard issues, and be able to celebrate progress as we take steps towards the fulfillment of Romans 12:18, where God tells us:

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

~Romans 12:18

Best wishes for a peace-filled and peace-bringing Thanksgiving.

I returned from being on vacation today.  It was a great vacation – spent with some of my very favorite people on the planet.  But I came home with a very heavy heart, and with a feeling of sadness like I haven’t felt in a long time.  We had a lot of downtime over the past 24 hours with airport layovers and the like, which provided an opportunity for some text, email, and in-real-life conversations, as well as some trolling scholarly review of social media.  And I find myself having difficulty sleeping again tonight.

Many people have written about this topic over the past week, and done so much more eloquently than I will.   But I feel compelled to write about it nonetheless.  Anyone who lives in America, and does not reside under a rock, has been following the ongoing Chick-Fil-A saga over the past week or so.  And even though we were on vacation and were many miles away from our local chicken franchise, my cousins and I followed it as well.  And it has broken my heart on a deep level.

It’s not the comments from the Chick-Fil-A CEO, the reaction by various city officials, or the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day itself that have caused me to feel this heaviness.  I have various feelings about each of these elements, as it appears that most everyone does.  But what has resulted in this sense of heaviness for me is the response by the Church across various social media outlets over the past week.  This week, while the country watched, we had an opportunity to show love, grace, and compassion, and in my humble opinion, we did not love well.

Many Christians have tweeted or posted on Facebook that they are standing up for free speech or traditional marriage, and that they do not intend to communicate any disrespect to other individuals by exercising their right to express their beliefs.  And I truly believe that the intention for most people was to stand up for convictions and not to communicate disrespect for other human beings.  Nevertheless, the events of this week left my precious and dearly loved gay and lesbian friends, who are infinitely valued by God, feeling devastated, rejected, devalued, and heartbroken.  Some were brought to tears.  And whether or not the communication of hate was the intent by the majority of people, it was the perceived effect.  And this matters.  And yet, rather than meeting people where they are, acknowledging their feelings of hurt, and demonstrating compassion (all of which can be done while still exercising the right to stand up for one’s convictions), many Christians flooded the airwaves of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest with pictures of them jubilantly holding up a chicken sandwich, or statements such as, “Wow, the line is all the way around the corner!” (which can be loosely translated as “Wow, look how many people are on OUR side!”)  People entered into debates which at times became mean-spirited and hurtful, made statements that were smug and self-righteous (some even followed by “LOL” or “HAHAHA”), while real, live, flesh-and-blood human beings experienced real, live pain.  And I struggle to see how Christ was honored in this.

Many Christians did not participate in this behavior, and many exercised their right to show their support for a company whose values are similar to theirs, and did so in a peaceful and respectful way.  But there was a lot of damage done this week.  It appears, once again in my humble opinion, that the gap between the Church and the gay and lesbian community was widened, and I have yet to speak to or run across one person who was drawn to the love of Christ by our actions this week.  As a mental health professional, I am reminded of the fact that gay and lesbian teens attempt suicide 4-6 times as often as straight teens – which translates to the fact that a large number of today’s youth would prefer to end their lives rather than go on living in a world they perceive as devoid of hope.  I cannot imagine that this does not break the heart of God; and therefore, it should break our hearts too.

As Christians, we are called to live according to a Biblical standard.  And we seem to be very good at taking a stand on various issues and standing up for our convictions.  However, it seems that in the area of loving people the way Jesus loved people, we need a little work.  I find myself wondering if we as the Body of Christ would stand in line for several hours in the hot sun to sponsor a child through World Vision or Compassion, or to care for the poor and the hungry, as Jesus repeatedly commands us to do.  We cannot ignore the fact that over 20,000 precious, created-in-the-image-of-God children died from starvation in the 24-hour period that was Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, and I ask myself where the outrage and passion is over this issue, which is so clearly close to the heart of Jesus.  I have read the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” several times this week – and it makes me wonder whether we see other issues which are clearly identified as sin in the Bible (pride, arrogance, greed, gluttony) as being as worthy of our time and attention as we found this issue to be this week.  Given the fact that we all struggle with sin as part of the human condition, do we hate the sin within ourselves enough to allow ourselves to be transformed by God into the loving people who can truly change the world?  My prayer for us as the Church – and for myself – is that we will hold fast to the truth of the Bible, while never placing a position or an issue above human beings.  That we will dedicate our lives to loving in the way that Christ commanded us to love, when He told us that the greatest commandment is to love Him, and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor.  If we can love like this, God truly can change the world through us, and we can make an eternal difference in the lives of our fellow human beings.  If we can’t, then we’re sort of reduced to being just (wait for it)…chicken.