The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. — Gustave Flaubert
Last night, my husband and I met up with a seminary colleague who is a Ph. D. candidate at Vanderbilt University, Arthur Carter, Jr. and his fiance, Nikki. We have not seen him since graduation and were very excited to meet his “betrothed.” Arthur and I share a passion for race and we talked about race until we were the only guests in the restaurant. That has never happened before! Still, we continued to debate, swapping book titles and resources. I stood up from the table filled with inspiration.
I woke up this morning, energized by the conversation despite getting only six of my required eight and a half hours of sleep. Drew, a colleague from Duke University’s Foundations of Christian Leadership program, had heard me talking about race while at the retreat center and thought that I should meet a friend of his, Robyn Afrik. Four months, a few emails and fifteen text messages later, we did. This morning, we met at Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street in northwest D.C. for breakfast. Robyn lives in Holland, Michigan but was in D.C. for the National Prayer Breakfast.
Over egg whites scrambled with cheese, home fried potatoes, wheat toast and a piece of Robyn’s bacon, I shared my introduction to race, my passion for the race-less life and the purpose of the blog. “It’s a journey of self- discovery. I write almost everyday because I am eager to know more about myself… I also cannot imagine that this (i.e. life as a socially colored “black” woman) is the life that God has planned for me. There’s more meaning and I want it.” She shared her story as an adopted Korean child of European American parents after I convinced her that I had not googled her name but wanted to meet her without the expectations or assumptions of a biography. It was amazing. I had no judgment. That’s never happened before.
I feel as though I have gained a sister who believes in the necessary work of self- examination in the ministry of reconciliation and in Christian discipleship. Robyn captures it perfectly saying, “You can’t reconcile what you don’t recognize.” She understood me and I am certain that she heard all that I had shared when she said, “We end up interacting with the meanings that race has ascribed as opposed to the actual people”… “We say, ‘I will build an alternative reality that makes me better than you.'” She appreciated the social realities of racism and questioned the witness of the Church: “Where is the lighthouse of Christianity, the hope of Christ (in this racial reality)?” I could have hugged her right then but that might have been a bit awkward since this was our first meeting. That’s exactly how I feel.
Today, I learned that you can discover what you believe not just through writing but by talking to others. As I talked to Robyn, I began to realize how much this work means to me and how long I have carried it. I wonder if our meeting was like that of Mary, the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Both women carried a message that was divinely inspired and for which neither could take credit. I certainly felt something leap inside of me (Luke 1.41) and I thank God for the reminder that it’s still there. I am hopeful and wonder what we would discover about our beliefs if we sat down over dinner or over breakfast and talked to those we consider “other.”