Friday, March 21, 2008

Repenting

Good Friday is a day of repentance. This is the day when Christians think about Jesus' willingness to be punished, not for things He did, but for things I do. So I don't have to be punished.

Since this is a blog about living a God-honoring life, I think it's worth thinking about areas where we need to repent, on this Good Friday.

This year's presidential primary season has, especially in the past week or so, brought to light once again the issue of racial prejudice that we have in this country. Now, before I go any further, I want you to know that I am not about to tell you who to vote for, or who I'm planning to vote for. We have a curtain on the voting booth for a reason. But the controversy generated by the video clips of Mr. Obama's pastor has proven that this issue runs very deep, even in the church, and that we are equal-opportunity racists. And, as Christians, we all know we need to deal with it.

It's a matter of allowing God to root this rotten stuff out. Confessing it is the first step. Remember, Jesus hung on the cross for this sin, too.

So I'll tell you my little story:
I was raised to believe racism was wrong, and I truly believed I was not prejudiced until I was hired to work as a lunchroom and recess supervisor at my children's grade school. As I worked with the children, the Lord began to show me that, in very subtle ways, I was not giving the African American children a fair shake. In every little playground squabble, I tended to believe they were guilty until proven innocent. It wasn't fair, and God was showing me that.

There was one little girl who was just a terror on the playground. She was very heavy and very black -guess what?-two prejudices rolled into one! Every adult in the building had had unpleasant dealings with her. One day the Lord just told me very firmly that I needed to reach out to this very difficult child. As I was walking her class out to the playground, it suddenly dawned on me. We shared the same first name! I came up beside her and said, "Hi, Joyce! Did you know we are name-twins? My name is Joyce too!" She gave me the first smile I had ever seen on her face. Next thing you know, she was holding my hand. I realized we had all been demonizing this little seven-year-old girl. And here's the rub-my own daughter was seven at that time! From that time on, I determined to treat this child the way I would want my own little girl treated by any adult, with cheerfulness, fairness, and respect.

This was a huge breakthrough for me. Since then I have tried to be very conscious of any biases I may have. The Bible says we are to "take captive every thought for Christ", meaning, don't just let your mind go any old place, but be willing to give it correction. We are also to "think of others as better" than ourselves, meaning, don't project on to others your own sinfulness, but assume the best about them. Both of those things speak to this issue of conquering racial prejudice. My mind still wants to head down the path of prejudice, so I need to pray for the Lord's help to overcome it, daily.

I know confession is hard. Is there anyone out there who would like to share what God is doing with them in the area of racial bias? We can all learn from each other and pray for each other.

Remember, Jesus died so that we might be dead to sin, and alive in Him.

8 comments:

Cindy said...

Hi Joyce, thanks for the beautiful article. You are making me cry. Funny, I actually had a discussion/argument with my husband last night about race. My point was that since he had never been in the shoes of a black man, it was likely that he could not completely feel the emotional baggage of being black in this country.

I went to college in Texas. During a spring break I drove down to the Mexico border with a bunch of friends, me being the only non-white in the group. Barely 20, bringing my passport (or being responsible for that matter) was the last thing on my mind. In fact none of us brought our passports. The border patrol stopped us, but put only me in a small booth. For a couple of hours, they questioned everything about my background and still would not let me go. At the end, my dad had to drive for 3 hours to bring my passport. It was an utterly humiliating experience. I cried and cried. Intellectually I know not all boarder patrol officers are racists, but to this day I am not able to look at them without some level of discomfort. I am not Hispanic, but from that day on, I grew so much more sympathy toward Hispanic immigrants.

I'd venture to say that black Americans have had it much much worse than me. I went to graduate school in an extremely affluent area in CA. One of my friends at school was black and he was routinely stopped by the campus police. He would joke about it, but I knew deep down he was sad and resentful.

I am not saying that being a white man, my husband is incapable of being sensitive toward race issues. But I do think we all need to sit back and try very very hard to put ourselves in the shoes of others instead of being immediately reactionary. Thoughtfulness and empathy go a long way. Happy Good Friday.

Joyce said...

Oh, thank you so much for sharing that! Seeing people as God sees them-that's what I need to do, and it can be so hard. I know that this will be life-long project for me.

Emily the Great and Terrible said...

Thank you for addressing such a sensitive issue. It's easy to point out racism in other people, but it takes a hero to see it in our own hearts.

Joyce said...

Emily, I think that is the ONLY way to tackle the problem. It is going to take tremendous effort, on everyone's part to do it. But what choice do we have? Obviously, what we've been doing isn't working for us.

I give God credit for creating a "holy discontent" in me about this issue.

Shannon Hodgins said...

I'm actually working on an article about this and pulling together some thoughts.

I have a good friend that attends Obama's church. One thing that we were BOTH discussing about our churches is that the pastor's opinions are not represenational of ours many times.

And many of his comments were taken out of context, especially for sound bite sensationalism.

I'm from Alabama, home of church bombings and the Tuskegee experiments where they injected STD's into black males and then sent them home to their families. There are many things that have been done that many of us just aren't aware of, or don't want to admit.

There are so many things that have happened in our nation that are deeply and profoundly horrible and it makes me heinously upset to think about it. Now imagine dealing with it as a culture, as a unit or as a family.

It's my understanding that this church also works to teach a respectful appreciation of African heritage, a mission I understand as we mesh our Greek and American family together. Just because you are "here" doesn't mean that you can negate what makes you "you." We go to Greek and Presbyterian church so that children experience both parts of who we are as a family.

I must say that I truly applaud how Obama dealt with the issue, and actually spoke to us on issues of race as if we were grown-ups and with a respect and dignity that shows me some of what he's made of.

Joyce said...

I appreciated his speech, too. I really wanted to encourage everyone to look hard at their own hearts, because we all have "stuff". True repentence is defined as "turning around". Each person needs to do that, to contribute to the solution. I'm really glad you are going to tackle the subject! I think it's time to have that open dialogue in this nation.

Michelle said...

It's April 14th, and I am just now catching up on reading your blog.

Wow.

I didn't fit into any "world" when I was young. I wasn't black enough for the 8 black kids in my school, but the white culture in my community didn't welcome me either.

I learned to view books as friends (hence my current occupation). Thankfully, once I got to college, things changed for the better.

There is actually racism within the black community itself. Thinking that they could help me with embrace my "black" identity, my parents took me to a "black" church where I was the lightest girl present, but that just made things worse. I have "good" hair, and the girls automatically judged me, assuming that I'm arrogant or that I had no need to be accepted. I suppose it must have been hard for them to go against the norm at that time.

It took years for me to learn to love BOTH white and black folks. When I was younger, everybody got on my nerves.

I wish I had something profound to share, but this topic hits a bit too close to home.

I did, however, want to at least acknowledge that I read this entry. Thank you for writing it.

Much love,
Michelle

Joyce said...

You know , Michelle, my little tow-headed daughter actually got picked on by some black girls when she was little, and told where she could play on the playground, etc. I guess it could also be viewed as just plain old bullying, but there was a racial overtone to it. I think we all have prejudice. I had a really hard time admitting it to myself, but now that I have I can "put on the full armour" that I need to fight it.