I Stand with God

Posted on August 14, 2017 ยท Posted in Uncategorized

A couple years ago I had the dubious pleasure of assisting with a garage sale in the parking lot of our then church building. One customer arrived with her two young sons in tow (about 13 & 9). They had just arrived in state and were looking for items with which to furnish their new home. I helped them shop around and enjoyed hearing some of their family story before leaving them to look around further. One item they indicated interest in purchasing was a lawn mower. As they moved from area to area they would bring items back to the table, creating a purchase pile, but the lawn mower stayed where it was. As they continued in this process, another woman entered the parking lot and, after a brief stop at some books, made a bee-line for the lawn mower. She also wanted to purchase it. Wanting to be fair, I asked the first woman (who was on the other side of the lot) if she was, indeed, planning on purchasing the mower. She confirmed that, yes, she wanted it. The second woman was not happy at all. I tried to explain that the other woman had already indicated wanting the mower, but she made it clear she thought something else was going on.

What did you picture as I told you this story? What did the women look like? What did the children look like? For that matter, do you know what I look like? Does it really matter?

The first woman is white. Of her two sons, one is asian, one is black. The second woman is black. I am white, as were all but one other person working the sale at that time. Does this give the story a different spin? Should it?

I tried to apologize to the african-american woman for any misunderstanding that had happened.

“There was no ‘miss’ in that ‘understanding’.” was her response to me.

That crushed me. I wanted to chase after her and explain, “No, really! She had already told us she wanted to buy it. We just didn’t move it from the lot. That was our bad.” I hate to think that we left her with the impression that she had received second-rate treatment because of her skin color. It just wasn’t true.

But I don’t like conflict so I kept my mouth shut. Instead, I prayed. I thought about her “God bless you” said between clenched teeth. I held on to this moment in my heart and tried to process. It’s a sick feeling when someone makes a judgment about you without knowing all the facts.

But I get what it must have looked like from her perspective.

She enters the lot – a church lot – and sees what she’s been looking for–a lawn mower to replace her broken one. As she asks about purchasing it, the white sale attendee yells to another woman – a white woman on the other side of the lot – “hey, were you planning on buying this?” The white woman then glances over her shoulder at the lawn mower and says, “yes, we want that”.

So yeah, I get what it must’ve looked like. Ugly. But she didn’t know the whole story. And I didn’t tell it to her.

What must she have experienced in life to have racism be her first conclusion? And what have I done to change that?

Recent events have brought this experience back to the forefront of my mind. I really did that woman a disservice in not telling her the truth – that there really was a misunderstanding; that things aren’t always what they seem. If someday you chance to read this, I apologize for not being completely honest with you. I apologize for furthering your experience of racism–and from the church–however unintentional it was. I hope that you will forgive and find peace.

But moving forward…

The hatred, the anger, the violence. This is wrong on so many levels, and it must stop.

No one race is any better than another. We are all just people, each one unique and beautiful..and valuable enough to God that Christ died to offer reconciliation to each and every one.

We are all created in the image of God Almighty. We are all called to love each other and Jesus showed us what that looks like. We are called to treat others the way we want to be treated. We are called to love God and love our neighbor with everything we’ve got…heart, soul, mind, strength. We are called to be faithful to God, not to politics or policies or politicians or political parties. We are called to be “in this world, not of it.”

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

This is who we are to be. This is how we change the world. It starts in our own hearts, my heart, and spreads out from there.

I stand with God.