I’m struggling with how I might begin to write this post and apologize up front if my delivery is a bit rusty. My thoughts are racing, and I’m trying desperately to keep it together and not cry even though I’m in the comfort of my own bedroom. There’s an alarming amount of frustration as I struggle between the choice of imitating Jesus in the temple or Jesus on the cross through my words and actions of, what seems like, never-ending events regarding racism in America. Should those who cause injustice be chased around with whips and have tables flipped before them or do I simply look up towards the Father and say, “forgive them, for they know not what they do”?
I don’t have an answer. This post isn’t about finding that answer, but simply providing narrative and insight into the feelings that I try to suppress everyday for the sake of counting it all joy (James 1:2-3). In short, being Black and female in America is exhausting work. Trying to live that life with a Gospel-centered view is even more of a challenge.
I struggle looking at the differences between persecution and injustice. Persecution is affirmed through Scripture as something that all followers of Christ will experience for the sake of following him. I receive updates, almost daily, from Voice of the Martyrs, and for some reason my grief in light of their persecution differs from the grief I feel when I hear that more people have lost their lives because of their skin color. I read about martyrs and, with a sense of sorrowful joy, pray that I can have their courage and boldness should I meet the same fate for my faith. I do not wish to belittle brothers and sisters in the faith who have lost their lives (and so gained it back) for the sake of Christ, but their murders were, as the Bible tells us, a type of suffering that is to be rejoiced in the midst of. I’d rejoice if that happened in America. I’d pray, rejoice and worship with thanksgiving if American Christians were treated like Christians are in other parts of the world where sharing the message of Christ and the Gospel is illegal. But that is not the case. That is not a fear, more or less, that I experience daily.
What about the injustice, hate and discrimination that is not promised in Scripture – in that it is not a result of following the teachings of Jesus? Unlike martyrs, I look at the people who were killed at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Mya Hall and countless others, and I fear. I wonder what I can do to keep this from happening to me. I wonder if I am next. What if I become the new story circulating through media sites – my name followed by #BlackLivesMatter? See, I do not have any fear for being Christian; I fear every day for being Black and a woman.
The people listed above were not killed for their faith. They were not joyfully sharing in the sufferings of Christ. They were killed because of the color of their skin. Maybe tears block my view, but I can’t find where that is promised or affirmed in the Bible, and so I am frustrated.
These acts of injustice, unfortunately, do not lead me to take my cue from Peter or Paul, and engage in long suffering/finish the race/embrace being in chains for Christ. No, these acts of injustice, not persecution, upset me. They lead me to pose questions like the ones Habakuk asked in the Bible. They lead me to question if what I feel emotionally would justify taking personal leave from work because I can’t seem to be productive. They lead me to keep what I’m feeling either on the inside or bound within social media’s 140 characters and a bit of sarcasm. They lead me to miss out on spending time with my missional community group for fear, being the only Black person in the group, that I can’t socialize because I’m trying so hard to keep myself from crying every second and becoming center of attention, even though I need to be around people that I know will pray with me as I hurt. They lead me to question if I’m just being over dramatic and maybe my estrogen count is a tad bit too high. They lead me to plaster a fake smile on my face every time another (usually non-Black) brother or sister in the faith tells me to “give it to God” – as if I haven’t already or as if my being super-emotional is a bad thing and God is the stoic keeper of all my feelings and heartache that I’m not supposed to feel for too long. They lead me to fight against apathy as I remember that it is true, there’s “nothing new under the sun”. They lead to more frustration because many people are immediately looking for victims of injustice/oppression to heal and move on, instead of lovingly walk with us as we deal with trauma.
These acts of injustice leave me waiting like the man who was attacked by robbers in Luke 10 – I’m waiting (Black Americans are waiting) for a Good Samaritan to come. I am waiting for the day when I stop receiving passive, condescending pats on the back of ‘sympathy’ and see the Gospel lived out practically – either from the priest, Levite or the Samaritan. I’m waiting to see people take a posture of proactivity instead of reactivity in regards to issues of injustice.
Yes, I sigh and look into the sky often, waiting for Christ to come back. I replay the last stanza of “It Is Well” quite often, as it’s the only verse that keeps me from imitating Christ in the temple as I stated earlier…thus the only song that keeps me from doing time in jail – Hallelujah! There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not groaning and waiting for Christ to return and make everything new – erase all injustice.
But Blacks have been singing and groaning songs of life in heaven for generations. And it’s difficult to look into the sky, waiting for a man to come back who, while on earth, actively served humanity. He didn’t fix all problems, but while he was pointing people to a greater hope, he was also feeding them, making them see, helping them walk, talking to women at a time when women had no value.
What more will it take for us to see even a glimmer of justice now?
Frustrated & Confused yet still….In Christ,