I am one of those people who isn’t afraid to ask the tough question. I love to get people thinking about opposing viewpoints or scenarios. When these are thoughtful civil discussions, we can begin to see that the alternative perspective has merit. We can begin to incorporate those perspectives into our own and realize a change in ourselves.
I admit- most times it is painful to ask the questions and many times in my life, I feared for my job and my relationships. Sometimes I was replaced and sometimes we set a new course. Sometimes friends went silent on me and sometimes they joined the expedition into new territory. I’m one of those “can’t stop- won’t stop” sort of people I guess!
I know that some have grown weary of the weeks of talk about racial imbalance, LGBTQ inequality, and personal behavior. I know we are tired of a virus that has turned out lives upside down and we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or maybe some of us want it to just stop so we can get back to “normal” and living our lives in peace.
The truth is- we are never going back to the old normal. The real question is: what do we want in the new normal? God has given us months to pray and think about a changed life and a changed world. Let’s not squander the gift.
Now is not the time to stop talking, to stop asking, or to stop pushing for change. Now is not the time to grumble about our own discomfort when generations have lived with far worse. As Pastor Tom Berlin of Floris UMC shared in a recent sermon, we must be willing to step out of our own secure places and into the lives of others to fully understand and appreciate their vantage point. I can’t ever hope to fully understand or to become a part of the change until I listen, until I educate myself, and until more discussions to move forward occur.
I have learned to ask questions differently now:
Why do we care so much about statues of men who fought for a divided nation and slavery if they are a reminder of that pain for a large part of the population? What do I lose in the loss of the symbols?
If these statues represent southern pride, what is it about these men and their actions that make us proud? What symbols can we identify to better represent our history?
What does it mean to let go of flags, promotional pictures, street names, and slogans that represent a time of destruction and separation of people in our nation?
If a brother or sister tells me that something hurts them emotionally and makes them feel less valued- can I let go of those images for their benefit? Can I carry their grief and pain for a while if it eases their burden?
How can I better understand hundreds of years of oppression without studying and listening to those stories from a different perspective? Can a ask God to reveal new truths to me and the rights of people of color and of a different love persuasion?
What makes me think my perspective is the right perspective? What if I am wrong? Can God open my eyes to see the fuller picture?
Where is my pride getting in the way of hearing more clearly? How are my actions keeping others in chains of past hate and lives of unequal opportunities? (Job 36)
What does it look like to walk in the shoes of a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ community and be called names, to have things thrown at you, and to feel your life is in danger just for existing? What does it feel like to worry that you will loose your job because of who you are or what you believe?
What does it feel like to have left your family, your culture, your history to travel to a new land for a new start only to have someone yell at you to “Go home,” when you thought you were. Why do people assume because someone doesn’t look like you they are a threat somehow?
Am I willing to listen to voices speaking today? How do my words send a message that their words don’t matter? How do my questions instead open a dialogue not an argument over who is more right?
ALL these are the beginning of birth pains. Matthew 24:8
We are rebuilding our nation the way it was intended to be rebuilt. With genuine equality: equal respect, equal advantages, and equal rights. We need to keep asking ourselves questions that challenge our assumptions. We need to search our own souls and minds and pray for a change in ourselves first. We need to step into the shoes of those who have felt the weight of imbalances and become part of the change on their behalf. It is time to rebirth our nation.
Father, I pray that I will be more open to hear. I pray that my words and actions will not stop the conversation. I seek forgiveness for the times I have judged others by the color of their skin, their beliefs, the people whom they love, and the things that differ from me. I pray for honest dialogue that change lives for your good.