ARISE Reflection – PART 2
I am not a morning person.
In fact, I rarely can put two coherent sentences together until about 10 am. I am finding that this, “slow to warm” personality is reflected in other areas of my life also. As I confessed in the part one, I am not a big-crowd person. While some people would find thousands of people worshipping God in one place exhilarating, I find it terrifying. I admit that in every Big Room time, or what Youth Specialties calls the large group sessions, I squirmed in my seat, wrestling down the intense need to escape.
That being said, I was very much anticipating the seminars that would take place on Friday afternoon. I am a huge Tony Campolo fan, and found myself hovering outside the door to his seminar like a groupie. As I gobbled up the wisdom shared in both seminars on Friday afternoon, I began to recognize a strong pattern to my choices. Perhaps you are more self-aware than I am, but it dawned on me during the last seminar that I was drawn to marginalized people groups, both in the church and in society.
I was invited to NYWC to take part in the Racial Reconciliation Experience, led by Latasha Morrison.
I came expecting to be challenge and to be mentored on how to build bridges between whites and people of color. Having long considered myself an advocate for those marginalized by our church culture, I felt confident that I would excel at this new adventure. Boy, was I in for a radical piece of humble pie.
I didn’t realize how silly that was until I was talking with a young woman named Ramona. Ramona and I found ourselves in a Racial Reconciliation small group with three other gentleman. I connected immediately with Ramona because she was a strong, female personality, and she expressed her thoughts intelligently and passionately. On Friday evening, our small group gathered for dinner and a discussion time. Over steaming Pot-Belly, we shared the true communion of multiple hearts all yearning for the same thing. As the discussion waned, I sensed in Ramona a profound weariness.
As we walked back to the conference center, we started discussing vulnerability on this issue as revealed in a recent article about Lacrae. I had brought up the article, but then felt uncertain, like I was dominating a topic that I didn’t really know much about. Without meaning to, I implied that Romona, as a person of color, would be the expert on the issue. She, immediately admitted that she wasn’t aware of the article and moved on. Then it happen. That awkward tension settled over both of us. I immediately felt as if I had blundered, in my ignorance inferring that all people of color know each other.
We stood in strained silence waiting for the crosswalk light to release the pervasive tension.
As I walked across the street, I had to make a decision. Was racial reconciliation worth feeling this inept and awkward? Was I willing to swallow my pride and broach the subject with Ramona? I decided as I stepped onto the curb that, yes, indeed, the conversation was worth it. Ramona was worth it.
“I wanted to thank you for having grace with me back there.” I blurted out awkwardly.
“I’m so glad you addressed the issue.” She started off.
It was as if we both let out the painful breath that we had been be holding for the last minute. We launched into a healing conversation of reconciliation after my blunder. Towards the end, she said one thing that changed the way I looked at my white privilege.
“If you had let the issue go, and not come back to it with me that would have been white privilege.”
I had never considered shutting down emotionally in the face of racial tension as privilege.
I guess, like my slow moving morning hours, I am slow to awaken to the reality that racial reconciliation is messy work. It will be painful and awkward. Is would be easier to just walk away from uncomfortable situations that cause me to feel inept. What it doesn’t have to be is filled with is shame. Shame attempted to keep me from admitting my blunder. Shame is a powerful muzzle. While communal shame should convict us to change as a group, but it can also paralyze us to avoid the pain of change. Shame can lie to us saying that the conversation is not worth the embarrassment.
But it is. Ramona is worth the embarrassment of picking myself back up after I fail. The full, diverse body of the church is worth the pain we experience when we stumble towards reconciliation. It’s time to lean into the tension. Why? Because Jesus made it very clear on the cross that the body of Christ, all her parts, are worth everything to him. He even died to prove it.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.