The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning He awakens; He awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. Isaiah 50:4
They walked up the steps of our farm house and into our home–free spirited Daisy* who Mark and I had known for over 18 years from our former season here in Virginia, and her husband Jordan.
Jordan greeted us with the demeanor and graciousness of the southern gentleman from the time he walked up our stairs. As we gathered in the family room over coffee, tea and Mark’s banana bread, we began reconnecting with Daisy and getting to know Jordan. As the evening progressed and we openly shared hearts and dynamics of being in the south again we asked Daisy and Jordan how they navigated the social waters here as a bi-racial couple. Our home is a safe place. We value honest conversation.
My heart broke as Jordan candidly expressed how as a black man in the south he felt compelled to be the nice guy, always smiling to demonstrate to those around he that he wasn’t a threat. We could feel his conscientiousness of who he is and how he’s keenly aware of how he can be perceived. So many dynamics of exclusion. He doesn’t have the same privilege my husband has to walk into a store angry and frustrated that his building project has hit a snag and he needs more materials. Or to drive down the street in a mad hurry because he’s late for an event. Or deep in thought and be misunderstood as being angry or ticked off. Jordan has seen too many of his own people take the wrong turn and walk into social dynamics where they were prejudged. Even in the church. Our conversation led us to ask, What can one person do? What can the church do?
A month ago, a door literally opened for us overnight–a lovely farmhouse in Charlottesville, Virginia where we had lived in the early 2000s. We arrived on Ian’s 18th birthday– a full circle for him.
A myriad of emotions and thoughts had sauntered, coursed and lingered in my mind for weeks. Yes, great heart-connected friendships here. But it was the South again and with it came southern culture and values –some noble and others not. We came from a multicultural community in San Diego–my son’s closest neighborhood buddies were African American, Asian and Hispanic. The church we planted embraced believers from all backgrounds.
2021 I have witnessed a depth of racial disunity I haven’t seen for a long time, most likely brought to the forefront by national news making riots. A woman I spoke to this week told me that everything was just fine before the riots. But was it? Is the problem just contained in the south? I am keenly aware as I never had been before that I am a white woman. I want to wear a big sign on my shirt that says, “I’m not one of ‘them’. Just as Jordan feels compelled as a peacemaker, to be a nice guy, I have felt urges to warmly smile and engage every person of color I see–You are okay. You are loved. You are seen.
What can I as one person do? What can my small multicultural church do? What can you do? This goes way beyond being a white savior to marginalized communities.
If we’re gut level honest, we have to confess that the Church has been asleep. As deeply imbedded racism divides communities, towns other states, over there, we have played our music, preached our sermons, and engaged our comfy social circles and even periodically set up food banks. Additionally, the isolation of Covid, especially in some regions, has been highlighting a hunger for an Acts 2 community. Much of Church as we know it is no longer sufficient. We long for unity–sharing all that we have in common. We long for community where each one of us is accepted for who we are –black, white, or brown, short or tall, skinny, fat, GQ or Goodwill.
Our call is that we, the Church, would Awake–that we would hear as those who are taught–educate ourselves on the reality of the black man or woman’s life. Get into their stories. Open up our family rooms, gatherings, neighborhoods, and churches. That we could listen.
We are called to speak with the tongue of ones who have been taught–speak life, hope, renewal–well versed in God’s Word–and the love of Christ. We must raise our voices as agents of racial reconciliation.
But we must first examine our lives and hearts–Oh God, awaken us to our personal sinful depravity and bring forgiveness for passivity, acceptance of sinful “otherness”. As Paul declares, ” Oh wretched man that I am.” Repentance. Revival. Renewal.
“The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.” Isaiah 50:4
Will you come with me?
From sleep arise
You were dead
Wake up, wake up
Open your eyes
Climb from your grave
Into the light
(David Crowder Band, A Collision)
* names protected
The featured image is courtesy of Tom Darin Liskey and used with his permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Mary has cherished life-long literary dreams coupled with a passion for ministry, all of which lead her to study English literature and later theology and counseling in seminary. She has been designing artisan jewelry for eight years while homeschooling son Ian and daughter Julianna. She and her husband Mark Miller have been in ministry for the past thirteen years in San Diego and temporarily moved to Washington with their cat Lord Peter Wimsey while Mark finalized his dissertation. Dr. Miller is now pursuing ministerial opportunities nation-wide. Mary enjoys off-the-wall humor, gardening, cooking, and curling up with anything penned by Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or Jane Austen.