I have found myself in a posture of listening, learning, mourning and repentance for a little over a couple years now. It first began when the team that I work with gathered in Memphis for our quarterly gathering. While we were in our friends’ home, they invited us to go to spend some time at the Civil Rights Museum, the exact building where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. We spent several hours there, and it undid me. I had no idea what I didn’t know. I was alive when MLK was shot, but I was a child. I didn’t understand who he really was and how he was impacting the nation. (Which I still am mad about that he is not around today. Where would we be if he was alive today??? I digress…) I also didn’t understand the civil rights movement. Until this day. I soaked it all in, the painful history of slavery through the civil rights movement to today. I let it all sink in, (as much as I could) and I was so convicted of my ignorance. How did I not know all of this? I felt so ashamed. It’s all been in plain sight, yet, I didn’t see it. I didn’t feel it. My blinders were on for so many years to all of the African Americans around me and around the world that have lived in so much pain. I mean I saw it, but it didn’t really touch me like it finally did this day.
And today, that heaviness is still with me. It’s only intensifying due to all that is going on now. I feel such deep sadness for all of the pain that the black community has endured for so long. Way too long. Just because of the color of their skin.
So, I have been searching deep within myself, asking God to reveal to me any judgments and sin against people that are a different color than me. I really didn’t think I had any. But God showed me something different. The first sin that came up was ignorance. I mean I studied history, and I read that life was hard for them. I couldn’t believe that there was such a thing as the KKK and the white supremist/skinheads and what they stood for. It sickened me. But I thought they were the exception. I had no idea how other kinds of groups of people were still judging and spewing hate toward them like they do.
Because of this revelation, I began to enter into a season of learning, of reading and watching movies that told the truth about history. But I have learned the most by talking with my black and bi-racial friends that have lived this. I mostly ask questions and listened. And I am still learning. My mentor through this has been MLK. His sermons from his book, Strength to Love which was compiled by his wife, are not only educating me but moving me to change. There is so much I can quote from this book, but this is what he said on the topic of ignorance.
“They know not what they do,” said Jesus. Blindness was their besetting trouble. Unlike physical blindness that is usually inflicted upon individuals as a result of natural forces beyond their control, intellectual and moral blindness is a dilemma that man inflicts upon himself by his tragic misuse of freedom and his failure to use his mind to its fullest capacity. One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Somewhere along the way the church must remind men (and women), that devoid of intelligence, goodness and conscientiousness will become brutal forces leading to shameful crucifixions. Never must the church tire of reminding men that they have a moral responsibility to be intelligent. And if we are to call ourselves Christians, we better avoid intellectual and moral blindness. Throughout the New Testament we are reminded of the need for enlightenment. We are commanded to love God, not only with our hearts and souls, but also with our minds. We have a mandate both to conquer sin and also to conquer ignorance (Strength to Love, pp.39,40).
He always says everything best, plus there are so many people talking that there are no more words from me. I just want to continue to … listen. Learn. Mourn. Repent. Will you join me, if you aren’t already? Listen to what the black community is saying. Listen to their pain, even if it is uncomfortable for you. Listen to God. Let Him speak to you about what He wants you to do. Repent? Mourn? Get educated? I believe God is speaking, we just need to hear what He has to say to us. Enlightenment will come. Then, since we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will move within us to pray, and the Father who can interpret His groans, will answer our prayers. (Romans 8:26,27) Then stuff happens.
He will tell us what to do. As my bi-racial friend said to me yesterday, “Everyone can do something. But it will look different for each person. One might write a song. One might get on YouTube or Facebook to speak out. One might write. Not all of us have to hold a sign at the capital in protest. We just all need to do what God is speaking to us to do.” As we listen, then obey, our sphere of influence can change. And if everyone did that, change will spread.
For some of us, the place to start is to educate our minds because if I want my heart right, my head has to go with it.
Here’s a link to an enlightening video that documents the American history of racism in a short but powerful 17 minutes. It struggles with the question, “Why are people so angry?”
Watch. Listen. Learn.