Listening.

I keep waiting to post this; to try get my words right, to try and make sure I’m not making it worse. We all watched church together as a family this past Sunday morning; I wanted my children to hear how our community of faith would address the events of this week (that are not limited to the past week, month, or century). We had a frank and honest conversation after the sermon, to explain the events that happened to our children, and to have a talk about how we, as a nation, have gotten here. I told them through tears about what happened to George Floyd outside the deli, how Officer Chauvin murdered him in cold blood, kneeling and bearing the full weight of his body on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. How George and bystanders begged for help, how three officers stood by and did nothing, said nothing. I could not tell them that he cried out for his mama. I tried to answer their questions faithfully.

I tried to explain to them that this is the reason cities are protesting across our nation, not only because of Floyd, but because of Ahmaud and Breonna and Michael and every soul lost to ignorance and fear and hatred of the color of their skin, by the hands of someone who looks different than them, over the last 400 years, right here, in this land. While the sin of racism is insidious and pernicious, crossing international boundaries, America has a distinct, specific, and historic problem with racism. It will need to be addressed directly and specifically, or it will continue to be a historic problem. And that is not acceptable. That is why our country is burning.

I tried to explain to my children that people are hurt and angry and tired of using words that go unheeded, that they are tired of those who are legally and morally obligated to protect and serve our communities sometimes using their power for depravity instead. We talked about how people tried to use their words, and not enough changed. We talked about selfishness, and the sin of racism, the Sin underneath racism. We reminded them that Jesus was not white. We talked about our lives, our friends, our communities. We talked about using our words and our actions, especially when it feels fruitless. We prayed together.

This past week, my pastor said that he felt unqualified to have this conversation, and I feel that so deeply. It has taken time to gather my words, and even now, they are faltering and inadequate to address the enormity of what exists. It did not escape me that the above conversation happened with my daughter on her 7th birthday, and while I’ve feared losing her in all the ways parents do during illness or times of irrational fear, the color of her skin has never been one of them. That is not lost on me. So I hesitate to speak now, not because I don’t care, not because I’m okay with the trauma of oppressed communities, but because I recognize there are voices that can contribute far, far more than I can in this space. They are speaking now.

The words I have been able to say to my friends offline is I am sorry, it is not okay, I am listening, I am learning, and I am willing to take the opportunities I have to do what I can to make it better. I am sorry for the state of our nation, and for the vacuum of leadership we are presented with. What happened and what is happening is weightier than what I have been able to put words to. It is worth more than a hashtag or a virtue signal, and there are times that silence can be wisdom because I have to be silent to listen. To listen to my friends. To listen to people who are not my friends. To listen to my community. To listen to people that are not in my community. To listen, to learn – there are plentiful resources, and they will require intention and patience to sift through and discern. You could start here or with the NAACP, or here, if you wanted.

I found comfort in my reading in Habakkuk last week.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord, my Lord is my strength…” (Hab 3:17-19)

The fig tree did blossom that year, but Habakkuk did not get to see it; his nation ended up being destroyed. It will not always be this way. Sin will not always prevail. Christ is coming, “soon and very soon”, and in the meantime, we must do what we can, while trusting that God will do what we cannot

We know that even while Christ has already become the propitiation, the restoration of all things to how they should be is still on the other side of heaven. Perfection will not happen on this earth, nor in our lifetime – but goodness is still possible. It is beyond us to get this perfect – it is not beyond us to work toward getting it right.

We can do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. 

We can speak when we need to speak, and we can remain silent when we need to listen to others speak. 

We can pray for our enemies so that we do not become them. 

We can attempt by all means possible to reconcile them to the truth, by conciliation, and where necessary, by litigation.

We pray, Come, Lord Jesus. Come. 

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