Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cross the aisle

Written late June after the devastating Charleston shooting where we lost nine brother & sisters.

Last night as I sat with a friend at a local restaurant I noticed an older, black couple sitting across the aisle. As I watched them eat dinner, my heart wept for them. My heart wept for all black people. My heart wept for this fallen, sinful world.

Awareness. Draw us in.

You see I grew up in a very small town, just south of Houston/Sugar Land area where black people were just the norm as white people. Where some of my best friends were black. Where I learned that while skin color shouldn't matter, it does matter to some.

Attending a sporting event as a young, white girl in jr. high with a black boy would almost guarantee a stare or quiet whisper. As if I had no business with having a black friend or we had a bulls-eye on us for judgement based on nothing else other than the difference of our skin color.

How dare we cross over the aisle of race?

To be completely honest, some of the most genuine and kind friends I had during my childhood were black. They never teased me about the way I looked, they never made fun of the hideous station wagon we had, they never cared if I had the latest & greatest Starter jacket because they came from a place where money wasn't what was important. They simply were my friends because I was a friend to them. And their families were always kind and generous whenever I saw them, unlike those who I encountered in public.

But regardless of my upbringing, how many black friends I had or have today and how many times I might reach across the aisle of race, the reality is as a white person I have no idea what social inequality looks like. And pretending that it doesn't exist is just as wrong saying nothing at all.

As I drifted off to sleep last night thinking about the nine lives that were lost due to the color of their skin, I wept. The faces of the nine flashed before my eyes as reminders of the pain that our brothers and sisters still have to endure, even in the 21st century.

Then I thought of all the hate flying over social media. Pure hate. Where people are quick to comment on an issue they have no experience with. On an issue that is more than politics, gun control, religion, and the bubble in which you exist. Because it's easy to throw your two cents out there when you have never been discriminated against simply for the color of your skin. Social media has allowed us to say & share things without even considering the cost it has on others. It's as if we've lost all touch of reality because who even knows what reality is anymore.

Let's face it - white people, including myself have no idea what our brother & sisters of the African-American community must feel after the events that took place in South Carolina and the unraveling of events over the last 10-12 months.

Yes, I can try to relate or try to understand but what happened in South Carolina hits a deep wound in the black culture that I simply can't grasp from my perspective.

I can chose to walk away from the madness of racism really anytime I want to since I don't directly live it. I'm not directly affected by it so therefore, I am quiet. Or maybe it's fear of saying the wrong thing?

We must listen in order to understand. And we must address the madness from outside the storm. Which starts with people that look like me.

As a race, we have failed our fellow man. We have tolerated hate by saying nothing at all. We have allowed ourselves to dismiss race issues by buying into the media hype, by trying to reason or argue a valid point behind a racial hate crime, or by simply acting like it doesn't affect us.

Hate exist because evil exist. And evil exist because we live in a sinful, fallen world.

A world where the theft comes in the night to kill, steal, and destroy.

Where darkness looms around each corner, lurking for lost souls to take up residence.

How dare we reach across the aisle and extend love?

Some of the most thoughtful, kind, humble, and God-fearing people I have ever known are black. They love with an intensity that could set this world on fire. Their passion for their kids, their extended family, and their community is one you can't deny. And their love for the Lord IS fierce. We could all use more of their kind of reverence when it comes to church and loving Christ. And most certainly, in the way we live our lives.

Even now as family members speak on behalf of their loved ones, they offer and extend grace, forgiveness, and a chance to share the gospel to the lost soul who selfishly took away their loved ones.

Imagine that - a world where we offered the same to those who have wronged us? To those who so freely throw out hate?

We can't change that evil or hate exist in this world. It will exist until Christ returns and sadly so will probably social inequality. But that doesn't mean that we sit around and do nothing - or should I say, say nothing.

Nine people attending a Wednesday night Bible study were shot. Even if color wasn't an issue here, us as Christians should not sit in silence. Those were our brothers & sisters in Christ. They died at the hand of evil, now thankfully in the presence of the King.

What was intended for evil, will be used for good.

As a white Christian, I am even more horrified at such evil. More than ever I want to reach across the aisle and sit at the dinner table with those who God created with a slightly different skin tone than me & offer a shoulder to cry on, a prayer in the midst of tragedy, and apologize for the anguish my race has caused them. Not just this week, but for years.

If anything, we should reach across the aisle and take time to listen to our brothers & sisters who are hurting. We should turn off our televisions and turn on our hearts. Then ask how you can help? I think acknowledgment is the first step.

I may not understand the depth of this tragic event from the color of my skin, but my heart cries out for those families and their community. 

It cries for peace and mutual edification. And it starts with us - speaking up and standing up.

Love will always triumph over evil as we are seeing now as the families speak. Stories of forgiveness that take your breath away. Church vigils where those who are hurting are still lifting their hands to the One who saved us.

So while I can't relate on that part of their history, I can relate on the part of the body of Christ.

One church, one body.

It is simply not enough to just talk about, we must actively find ways to reach across the aisle. 

But how? 

By caring. When we start caring about the issue of racism then we can work on changing. God cares and so must we as God's people. This should be a wake-up call for others and for our churches. No, it's not the most comfortable topic of discussion but God never called us to be comfortable.

If anything, He would want us to use this time to bring His people together. To do the exact opposite of what evil intended. He would want us to stand up, even if it means standing alone. To head straight into the storm where deep waters rise, but where grace is met when our feet hit the water.

The storm is raging and our black friends are standing firm, clinging to Jesus - the One who reaches across the aisle time and time again with love.

I pray you would do the same.

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