Because of the genetic disorder and the complications it has caused, Olivia’s breathing is noisy sometimes. A while back I overheard another child making fun of her. It caught me off guard, because our experience has mostly been that people go out of their way to be kind. I vented and was soon met with a flood of inquiries–all from people who love Olivia and wanted to make sure I was OK.
In the grand scheme of things, the incident wasn’t that big of a deal. The child apologized, I hugged Olivia extra hard, and we moved on. It did serve as a reminder that I have a wound where Olivia is concerned. The wound is not gaping open or gushing blood, but once in awhile the bandaid gets ripped off, and I feel the pain anew.
A few days ago, I watched the video of George Floyd crying out for breath as the knee of a police officer bore down on his neck and three others stood by and watched. The inhumanity and injustice of it all is undeniable. Since then, I’ve been reading and watching–sharing other peoples’ words on social media as I struggled to find my own.
I still don’t have the right words, but to stay silent, to do nothing, to just keep scrolling, feels worse than wrong.
I’m white, and I won’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be a person of color in America today. I have my own pain, but it’s a flimsy context for trying to identify with the struggles of those who’ve walked a path so different from mine. I do know that I love Jesus, and His Word in Romans 12:15 tells me to “weep with those who weep.” That’s not possible unless the pain of another becomes my pain too. Though I can’t literally walk a mile in the shoes of the weeping, I can get close enough to hear the lament and watch the tears fall. I can listen long enough so that my heart breaks and my tears fall too.
As I’ve begun to read, watch and listen–not just to the news but to the voices of people who have long been voicing their pain–I’ve heard again the names of other black Americans who were killed without cause: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless more. I realize now that with each needless death, a bandaid was ripped away from a chronic wound.
In the case of my woundedness, the people around me have been quick to rush to the place of injury, eager to make it clear that Olivia is cherished and that I am not alone. The show of support has been full and immediate–no questioning, making excuses, or waiting to see how things will turn out.
Have I done this for my brothers and sisters of color? I am ashamed to say that I have not.
What I am not ashamed to say is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I have witnessed the pain of another human being–a group of people even–and did not rush to the place of their wound. Not being racist is not enough. I have done very little to stop the bleeding, and that is not OK.
I don’t know all of the right things to do any more than I have the right words to say, but I hope that being willing to listen is a good place to begin. The thing is, real conversation inevitably brings up things that are hard or uncomfortable to talk about, even places where we don’t see eye to eye.
I commit to keep listening anyway, to keep weeping anyway.
I purpose to recognize woundedness and to be gentle with the tender places.
Father, Let my heart break for the things that break Yours. Help me weep with those who weep. Holy Spirit, only You can heal the wounds and restore broken places. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Make us one body, unified under the mighty name of Jesus Christ. It is in that name I pray.–Amen
For anyone out there who may be interested, here are a couple of links to videos by people who want to build bridges in the body of Christ:
Dr. Anita Phillps with Christine Caine:
Pastor John Gray with Pastor Steven Furtick: