A pink crayon in hand, I concentrated on turning the frown into a smile. I methodically changed the tiny “No Coloreds Allowed” sign into “Coloreds Allowed.”
A first grader with thick, colicky bangs and light pink jelly sandals, my mind and my heart couldn’t compute the coloring page in front of me. We were finishing up a unit on civil rights, and my teacher had passed out little history books for us to color. My eyes, magnified behind my Coke-bottle glasses, stared at the page on my desk. Black children standing in line for different drinking fountain, looking sad.
I just didn’t get it.
So I tried to rewrite history. To make something sad into something happy.
God bless my innocent and confused little six-year-old heart.
With events in Ferguson ripping off the band-aid that has temporarily covered so many racial injustices in America, my twenty-six-year-old heart has sunk with each news article and Facebook status I see…and the ones I don’t see. And somewhere inside me, there’s a confused little girl who wants to undo the hurt. But here’s the thing: We can’t pretend inequality doesn’t exist. We can’t pretend just because black little girls and white little girls can use the same drinking fountain means that racism doesn’t play a role in our systems and in our power structures and in our churches and in our perceptions, even if it’s not intentional. We can’t pretend that those of us who are white haven’t been afforded privileges that those of us with dark skin haven’t.
I write these words with grace and mercy and with what I hope is sincerely the heart of someone who hopes to be a reconciler, an ally, a peacemaker. I write not to make my white friends guilty or to cause shame or point fingers — lest I be a division creator (or a peace-keeper) instead of a peacemaker. I write because I deeply love a God who I believe has called his sons and daughters to join Him in all things, and sometimes that means having hard conversations.
I write not because I’m enlightened or because I’m holy, holy, holy. (Ha! A lot of you can attest that I am so not.)
I write out of what I pray is genuine compassion. I write to let His love flow from my words. Because I believe in a God who is actively involved in the act of reconciling the world unto Himself, and has used us motley crew, us rowdy bunch here on Earth to be His body and to bring his Kingdom to a wrecked world that so desperately needs true hope. I believe He’s called us to stand up against the yoke of oppression and injustice (spiritually, economically, socially, emotionally, systemically, and physically) while being a people of forgiveness. To be a people who are so incredibly different but tied together in this epic, eternal story because of this life-changing gospel of Jesus.
Beth Guckenburger puts it this way: “If God is about reconciliation and rescue and repair — Satan is the opposite. There is no neutral ground. You’re either doing reconciliation or you’re not and you’re pushing an agenda that is not of God.”
I’ve struggled lately. My stomach has been in a knot. I’ve had hot tears stream down my face as I read His word and I wrestle with Jesus. I don’t get it. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. Because sometimes reconciliation means hunkering down and getting on your knees and submitting to God’s plans. It means coming to the table of reconciliation and setting aside our own junk and drinking from the cup of grace and mercy and love.
And isn’t that true? That we are to be known by our love?
I’m embarrassed that in my ignorance I’ve asked God to make me care less. Yet in His strong and steadfast way, He continues to show me that He is the shepherd. That he came here on Earth to lead us and be human and stand among the least of these. That he doesn’t equip and then call — he calls and then equips.
I’m embarrassed that in my fear I’ve tried to make a deal with God. God, no, I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to get out on the water. I will drown and drown miserably. God, are you crazy?! I’m doubting, God. I’m doubting. it. all.
But you guys, I know. I know that he has planted seeds in my heart for a purpose. That He has gone before me and that right now, we may be in the trenches, but there is a Light brighter than all the darkness.
No, we can not travel back in time and right so many wrongs that I’ve always wished we could. Now isn’t the time for white guilt or a savior complex. The world doesn’t need Kayla to save it. The world needs to see and touch and feel the face of Jesus, and God has put us here, right where we are, for such a time as this. And though I am sometimes scared to follow Him into the unknown, I know His light radiates and it will be a path for my stumbling feet.
As for me, I’m praying for unity to overcome conflict and division infiltrating the Christian church right now. I’m praying that I will be quick to listen and slow to speak. I’m praying that I’ll follow the promptings of the Spirit, even when I’m scared. I’m praying that I will always point to the one who pulls us out of chaos and into the Kingdom.
Let’s set our crayons down. Let’s get real with each other. Let’s fight for love instead of with each other. And when the waves rise, let’s step out on to the water and trust Him.
photo from wilma_w via Flickr