Tag Archives: race and forgiveness

Change of Heart

ChangeOfHeart_340_180“I had a change of heart.”  We’ve all heard or said these words before.  It is a changing of our disposition, our perspective on a situation or person.  It has happened over time, a fews days, weeks, months or even years.  The changing of one’s heart does take time.

And a change of heart is the prescription for us if we are to relate to each other with mutual compassion, respect and understanding.  It is not enough tolerate persons, to put up with their presence while in a public setting or for a set amount of time.  Anyone can be polite for appearance sake.  No, this change will take us deeper into our selves.

Race is often in the news and now that it is apart of the national dialogue, it is in our faces at 6 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.  But, what do we see?  Do we hear a complaint?  Do we see people misunderstood?  Do we hear and see people at all?

We can change the channel to something less irritating or predictable.  We can change the laws and debate their impact.  But, unless we change our relationships with each other, unless the change is in our hearts, then there’s really been no change at all.

We can change buildings and move to different neighborhoods but unless we change our internal structure and check the foundation upon which we stand, we won’t be moved to love and culturally diverse relationships.  Until we view ourselves as stewards and not owners of the world and each other, our relationships will be dominated by the social construct of race.  This change is individual, personal and intricate to who we are as human beings.

It will not be solved with the click of a button.  We can not give this problem away or pay our way out of it.  That’s just change.  Don’t give what you can spare, won’t miss and can live without.

Instead, we need a change of heart, a change of rhythm.  May our hearts beat to the rhythm of God’s grace.  Amen.

 

What more can we say about race?

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“I’m a problem.  You’re a problem.  We’re all a problem.”  That about sums up any conversation on race.

We have told “them” and “you people” how we feel for more than four hundred years and there have been responses.  We have enslaved, traded, murdered, marched, sat in, sung about it, been falsely accused, jailed and beaten, bombed, suffered dog bites and fire hoses, passed legislation, married, integrated, segregated more, hated still.

And we keep talking about race but to what end, hoping to reach what conclusion, believing that “they” will say or do or be what exactly to us?  What do we need this mysterious and unnamed “they” to do in order for us to forgive our faults and failures, to let go of our bitterness and fears, to give up attempts to dominate and to let down all of our guards?

At some point in the conversation, we have to accept that we have been heard and that “they” have responded, whether we like it or not, whether we feel it sufficient or appropriate or responsible or compassionate or enough.  How many words does it take to forgive? How many words does it take to forgive?

Because if we are continuing to say the same things and the response remains the same, then we have to change the conversation.  At some point, we have to forgive and make peace if only with ourselves, knowing that we have been hurt and heard, that we have survived and now thrive, that we can move on and move up.  We have to accept them as they are, understanding that we can change– even if they don’t want to.

What more can we say about the race problem?  I think that we have said enough.  I believe that it’s time to start talking about the solution, we human beings.  Race has interfered with and interrupted that conversation long enough.

Birthing a Post- Racial Generation

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Unlearning race and undoing racism is hard and time- consuming work.  It is a challenging work because it requires confrontation.  But, wait!  Before you start to clear your throat to recite what you would tell someone else about how “they” have treated you, let me interject.  It requires self- confrontation.  Race is always personal first.

While we like to gaze in the mirror while wearing our favorite outfit or appreciating our latest haircut, many of us are hard-pressed to look into the mirror to examine the ways in which we have contributed to the race problem.  We must ask the real questions: “How has race been a problem for me?  How has it gotten in the way of me, restricted my ability to see who God has created me to be?  What confusion, self- alienation and internal distance has it caused within me?”

At this point in the conversation on race, it does not matter who started it.  It matters if we want to end the fighting.  That’s step two of this labor process.  Answer the question: “Do you want to stop fighting?”  If not, then stop reading because you are not ready to give birth to a post- racial generation.

We have to be willing to put down our weapons, our grudges, our justified and understandable reasons for fighting.  We cannot carry both peace and vengeance.  We cannot speak healing and prejudice.  We cannot see people and stereotypes at the same time.  We have to be willing to put down one in order to pick up the other.  This will mean that we will have to stop repeating the story of injury and start addressing the wound.

If it is gaping open, then stitch it up.  If it’s a break, then reset it.  If the relationship needs rehabilitation, then start to walk it out.  Get over the fear and put some pressure on it.

Not before we have held ourselves responsible and after we have addressed the wounds and the wounded, then, we can forgive.  Once the pain is addressed and a planning of healing is in place, then it is time to forgive.  But, it is not forgiveness in order to forget but to restore our relationship and celebrate what we have accomplished.

Let us remember what we have gone through together and allow it to make us stronger.  Let us rejoice that we no longer fight each other, that we no longer un-see each other because of race.  Let us forgive so that we can love.

That’s the natural thing to do and a most appropriate next step.  There is no love without forgiveness.  We must give this next generation a love that conquers all– even race.  We must show them that our love is greater and stronger than our hatreds.  We must tell them that race is not the way and that love is only means of travel, that if we want to go any where in this world, we must love.

This is how we will be able to walk together.  We will be reconciled while we walk together in love (cf. Colossians 3.14).  It is only when we reach out to heal that we can hold hands in fellowship.

This next generation is waiting to come forth.  They are the hope within us.  We need only push ourselves to confront ourselves, to heal ourselves, to forgive ourselves and be reconciled to our true selves in order to give birth to a post- racial generation.

Ferguson: Given Our History

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“We are trapped in history and history is trapped in us,” James Baldwin said.  Perhaps, it is time to remove the snare, to be free to live in the moment.  To receive the present as a gift of newness.

While I am certainly one who loves history, reflection and meditating on words of old, I do believe that there is a time for history and that history has its place.  It is to be respected but not necessarily repeated, especially not for the purpose of wounding. As it relates to race and more specifically, the tragedy that happened and is happening in Ferguson, repetition can pick at a wound  rather than (re-)examine it.  Repetition in word or in deed not only reopens the wound but can begin the healing process all over again.  It can increase our recovery time so we must be careful what we say in terms of race.

There is a purpose for history that is often lost on days like this one when cities like Ferguson may remind us of days long ago.  Too often, more time is spent focusing on the pain of history and not the progress of time.  America has overcome a great deal and while the fact is that Mr. Michael Brown, Jr. and Officer Darren Wilson are viewed through the social construct of race, making them socially colored black and white respectively and fitting them neatly into the racial narrative, their story is not the same.  Too quickly and rather to simply, we reduce the death to ‘white’ against ‘black,’ another casualty in the often unspoken but assumed ‘race war.’  But, death is much more complicated than this.

The date and time, the characters, the setting, the circumstances are all different.  Mr. Brown is not Mr. Trayvon Martin and Mr. Martin is not Mr. Emmett Till or any other African American killed in recent or past days, months or even years.  And Officer Darren Wilson is not Mr. George Zimmerman and Mr. Zimmerman is not Mr. Roy Bryant or Mr. J.W. Milam.  These are all different people at different times whose actions must not be grouped together and made to represent one impossible, endless present.

We can look back on our history but we must not step back into it.  We are better than we were and we can be better than we have been.  These deaths though grievous should not stereotype all of America’s relations with each other.  All over the country, many persons have formed friendships and are choosing to form familial relationships with persons of other cultures.  This is something that would not have existed or happened in the past in public or on a large scale and says very clearly that we are not as hateful, stereotypical, prejudiced or segregated as we once were.

And given our history, we should want to progress.  Given our history, we should want to change the time that we live in now.  Given our history, we should know what works and what doesn’t.  Given our history, we should stop repeating it and choose today, to be fully present to listen, accept, apologize, forgive and reconcile for what is happening now… not allowing any more time to pass.

History should not be a burden, an old and bitter person spewing hatred, resentment and unforgiveness.  History and all of time really is a blessing, providing perspective, clarity and understanding with a spirit of peace, gentleness and humility.  If not, then history has no lesson for us, having not learned from its time and neither will we.

Using insight from the field of psychology and hoping to bring unity to the Body of Christ, Christena Cleveland offers techniques for small groups to influence their church or organization in a recent post: “How a small group of reconcilers can influence a church or organization.”