Every week, I will share a “Let’s Get Real (LGR)” post that focuses on an area where I feel overwhelmed or feel like I’m failing. You can look forward to pictures of my messy house, or confessions of bad parenting. The idea behind LGR is to remind us that we can’t Get it All Right all the time. I want you to see the areas in my life that are getting left behind because I’m focusing on other things. Housework will usually be at the top of that list! I’m also starting a hashtag for Instagram and Twitter: #letsgetrealhbom where you can share your own LGR moments. Let’s encourage each other by letting down our guard just a little.
Jumping on the bandwagon, here. It’s a good and relevant one, I think (obviously!). This week has been a tough one for us here in Charlotte. Judging from Facebook, it’s not just us Charlotteans who are feeling the pain of the questions that have been brought up. Also judging from Facebook (which, granted, is not really a phrase that inspires confidence in your conclusions, but it is what it is!), a lot of people on every side of the issue are carrying around a lot of prejudice. Many of them are probably unaware of it or are unwilling to admit it. I don’t want to be one of those people.
I am prejudiced. There, I said it.
It’s well beyond racism. And I’m not even sure I would say I am a racist, because my prejudices lie along different lines. I judge people by how they talk, by how they dress, by how they treat me or others, by how their kids behave (gotcha on that one, didn’t I?)…
Prejudice is a word that means “judging before.” Often I think of it as meaning “judging before you have all the facts.” But it can also mean “judging someone before they have a chance to judge you.”
Let me tell you a story. It’s a mother-in-law story, so settle in.
When Robby and I had been married about 5 years, when Lily was 2 and Ian was 1, we moved in with my in-laws. Already, I felt that Dot did not entirely approve of me. She and Bud lived in southern Alabama, and several times she had referred to me as a Yankee (I was born in Texas and spent my formative years in Shreveport, LA, but had lost my accent in France and Ohio as a teen and adult). I’m a mild charismatic, and had attended a Baptist church recently, and she is a staunchly traditional Church of Christ member. I don’t keep house anywhere near the standard she keeps, and my kids were always taking their clothes off and walking around in their diapers, which scandalized her a little. I felt like nothing I did met her approval. And so I started judging her right back. I judged her choice of shampoo (I know!),the way she spent her money, how she treated me, her thoughts on subjects where we disagreed, her Christianity…Yep, I was totally beating her at the judging game.
Oh, I prayed. I begged God to help me love her. I memorized Scriptures. I journalled. I talked to Robby. I talked to my mom. It was a horrible 6 months. I wanted desperately to have a good relationship with Dot, but I didn’t see how my judgement of her was keeping it from happening. I thought SHE was the problem. If only she would stop judging me, stop disapproving of me, I thought disapprovingly. If only she would act like a Christian.
Let me pause right here and ask, “Does any of this sound familiar to you?”
The story ends well. We moved out and far away to North Carolina. After several months of recovery, God started to show me how harshly I had been judging Dot, and probably imagining much of her disapproval. Whether I was or not, our time together in the trenches, fighting each other (there were some knock-down-drag-outs that required the Stanleys to take a 3 day vacation) and fighting for our relationship, we forged a bond that overcame judgment. God did a miracle, and that is no exaggeration.
I now genuinely love Dot. I know she loves me. I still marvel at this fact 8 years later. I can still see her foibles and flaws, as I’m sure she can see mine. We still get on each other’s nerves if we spend too much time together. But we are family now, and underneath it all is a trust that love will always overcome our disagreements (which are MUCH less frequent now that I don’t assume the worst in everything she says). I appreciate the beauty in her now, where I couldn’t even see it before. And I believe her when she tells me “I love you.” I just can’t overstate the miracle God did in my heart, and probably in hers, too.
I’m sure you can see the parallels between my mother-in-law story and racism. But I’m going to assume you can’t and go ahead and spell it out.
- When we feel judged, most of us respond with harsher judgment. You think I’m privileged? Well, I think you’re lazy and prone to criminal behavior! You think I’m racist? Well, you’re a terrorist! You think I hate you? Well, you’re a murderer! You think I’m untrustworthy? I think you’re stupid! Sounds ridiculous and childish when it’s written out like that, but it is happening all over our country and in our hearts right now.
- All of us are prejudiced, and all of us are judged unfairly. None of us is impartial in this fight. We all come with baggage, whether it’s cultural or personal.
- The only way to fight racism is to fight it in ourselves. Trying to cure Them of racism is the very thing Jesus was talking about when He said in Matthew 7 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
- The only way to eradicate racism from our hearts is to pray with humility, “God, HELP!” and to understand that while God could do it instantly, it might take time.
- And finally, once we realize we are prejudiced and are asking God to help us, we need to love our neighbors as ourselves. For me, this is taking the form of asking questions. Why do so many African-Americans say they are suffering? I claim extreme ignorance on this subject, but for the first time I am curious about the answer, and I take this as a sign that God is at work. I want to love my black brothers and sisters as I would want to be loved, although right now, I can’t even imagine being in their shoes, so I’m not sure what I would want. So I will ask questions.
I’m not anywhere near being an expert on this subject, in fact I am a complete novice in thinking about racism. But the time has come, I believe, for Christians to talk about this, to examine ourselves, to repent and to love.