We’ve reached half-time in the Lenten season and it’s time to go into the locker room and get the pep talk to finish well, right! What were the words again? …Repent …Refresh … and in the words of the Anglican Rector, Rev. Geoffrey Hatley at the Ash Wednesday service —“re-orient our life to Jesus Christ” …to focus on Him …to repent of our sins, “habits, and patterns that have led us astray” …to renew our faith …a coming back / returning to the Lord.”
There are known sins that come to mind — easily identified– and then there are some that come at you out of nowhere …barreling in like a line-backer …hitting you in the chest full-force …when you didn’t even see him coming. With your chest caved in, the heaving begins …and Godly sorrow fills the deep well. Let it do its work, I say. But it can’t stop there. There has to be a repentance…and lamenting ...and a response.
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
Yet this one is heavier. It’s not my sin alone– but the sins of my people. Agonizing. Long-term. Painful. Far-reaching. Racism.
How do you breathe in enough grace to cover this multitude of sins we have committed. Some may say that we’ve asked for forgiveness and reconciliation enough …that it’s time to move on and yet who’s to say when it’s enough forgiveness and reconciliation when the problem has spanned over 100 years! How can you begin to repair the horrendous injustices done to our African-American brothers and sisters (and other people groups as well) when the problem has become so woven into the fabric of our lives that it seems the only answer would be a severe ripping of threads stitched deeply in our thinking.
I’ve watched Selma, 12 Years a Slave, and The Help and I can hardly bear the images and yet I must! I have to look. I cannot continue to stay in my own little world and ignore what has been the reality for so many …for so long.
To say, “It’s water under the bridge” seems so shallow when that bridge is stained with the blood of Grandmas and Grandpas, Moms and Dads and innocent boys and girls just longing to be able to drink from the same water fountain of equality. Bloody Sunday they called it. And how on God’s green earth does that line up in any way, shape or form with what we call, the “Lord’s Day”! Selma, Alabama — not a 3rd world country …just a few counties south of my current hometown. Too close to home! Too close to ignore!
But the pain and injustice go much further back in history. Our history. Slavery — especially in the south. Words that come to mind …inhumane …horrific …bigoted! The land of the free and the home of the brave? …Justice for all?
We may not have been the one to raise the whip on the slaves back in the 1800’s but not raising a finger to help bring justice today might be just as great a crime!
Back to repentance …
Is there a place to ask forgiveness not only for my own sins but the sins of my people before me? How can we can continue to stay in our little white bubble and say it isn’t our issue? My heart has been pierced …the bubble burst! I. Am. So. Sorry! No time limit can be placed on the deep healing that needs to happen when the wounds cut so deep!
God forgive me! Forgive US. I repent of staying blissfully ignorant far too long! I repent of not looking into the deeper roots of injustice while personally enjoying the shade of freedom. God have mercy on us all!
And lead us not into temptation today to continue any wrong — perpetuating any racist attitude. Let us truly love one another –African-American, White, Hispanic, Asian, Islander, European, Middle-Eastern …
And let us not repeat history with our friends across the border …made in the image of God …beautiful …loved …needed in our lives! Let us build bridges instead of walls! Let us not trap ourselves in our own prejudices within our gated communities! Left to ourselves, we’ll come to ruin. Viruses easily spread in the incubator of isolated groups. Let it not be so on either side.
With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a dream as well …that churches and organizations would display a beautiful array of diversity in age, race, financial status, and background. Let us break down the barriers that so often divide us and keep us from experiencing the beauty in diversity.
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
(from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom , August 28, 1963)
Even so, Lord Jesus Come! May it be so!
And if you’re looking for some tangible ways to make adjustments, here are some ideas:
- Make real friendships with people of a different race or background. Eat together. Watch movies together. Pray together. Worship together. Exercise together. Listen to their stories. Be a part of their family. Laugh and cry together. Do life together. And above all, LOVE each other deeply.
- Get involved in groups and activities where you are in the minority and do a lot of LISTENING. One of my favorite things to share with people about my life here includes the phrase, “…and I’m the only white girl in the group!” 🙂
- Visit churches or events hosted by those of a different race/culture than your own. There is so much beauty and wonder in diversity. Don’t wait until heaven to enjoy it. The music and expressions are a part of God’s image that you won’t want to miss!
- As much as you can, find yourself more in the mix of cultures than isolating in your own little group.
God has beautifully woven a multi-cultural mix in our home church, Westside Community Church–(formerly 100x Church) here in Huntsville, AL. We’ve intentionally prayed for it and made huge investments in the process relationally as well as in our leadership team. We’re still learning and have many more miles to travel in the process but thank God, it’s becoming a beautiful mix. Here’s a Sunday morning message that might stir some more thoughts in the process …and it just so happens to be by a favorite teacher of mine–our Missions pastor …my husband, Roger Martin. 🙂
You can watch the entire series entitled, “Culture Wars” and more HERE.
*March 7th marks the anniversary of the Civil Rights event in Selma, Alabama known as “Bloody Sunday”. Consider taking some time to reflect and respond as the Holy Spirit may lead.