Have you ever had a moment of looking in the mirror and wondering who that person is looking back at you? I think we all have times when the person we see in our mind is not necessarily the physical person that everyone else sees. For me, I want to have the face that shows love and kindness, and if I’m honest, I want a face that shows youthfulness! But the reality is my face shows the years of living, and they weren’t always great years. I hope that my eyes at least show what God has done with those years. I hope my eyes show the love of Jesus me who transformed my inner being.
The Path to New Life
Life is a journey of finding our meaning, finding our purpose, and stepping forward into the place we believe we are called to live. For years, I have had a vision of a cobblestone path when I meditate or pray. There are times the path is dark, other times the stones are bright. It has been surrounded by flowers; at times it is just grass and even unplanted fields. During really special times of prayer, I often have an overwhelming sense of the Lord guiding me on the path and it always appears more inviting then!
Every pilgrimage toward meaning and purpose begins with a first step and a base upon which we gingerly lay stones of uncertainty. The stones we lay are different; each telling a story of the unique steps taken. Some have been forcefully thrown on my path without care for the impact. Those are the ones that cause me to trip and fall off the path. The ones that make me unsteady in my journey. They are the ones that also compelled me to cry out to God. Help me! Change me! Don’t leave me here.
A Hope I Can Trust
Hope is such an encouraging word. We say it all the time: I hope you feel better, I hope you get the job, I hope it all works out. Dictionary.com defines it as: “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.” We keep hoping “to feel that something desired may happen.” We don’t know that it will, but it could happen and in saying “I hope,” we mean that we will wait together for whatever is to come, anticipating the best outcome.
However, there is a different kind of hope we discover this time of year – a deeper spiritual hope. This is an extended level of trust, often based on past spiritual experiences or shared stories. It is a hope placed in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a prayer we offer to God, believing in our own spirit, that God will manage the details as we walk with him.
A Thankful Changed Heart
I wanted to sleep in this Thanksgiving morn, and yet I was called out of bed to take in the sunrise over the apartments where I live. You see I was laying in bed moaning to myself about not having a bigger space to invite people into. I was regretting the mistakes that caused me to give up two incredible homes.
As I walked to the kitchen to switch on the coffee pot, I turned and looked out the window to yet another magical sunrise. As a friend used to say: “God hit me with a clue by four” and I remembered how blessed I am to have let all those other houses go. Those places were traps for me financially and, I dare say, spiritually too. It was all about the image I cast about my success and about my ability to fit into a higher economic status. “About me” is the key term here.
Eight years ago, I packed up everything and took a trip away. I didn’t know that stopping for a month and taking in the natural beauty of California would be a pivotal moment in my life. Everything changed when I came home. A smaller place to live—with a view! A new church with new relationships and healing. A new life that wasn’t focused on my image but on the image of Jesus.
Moving the focus from my wants to image-building and the message to have more, meant I could be open to see the needs of others around me. I stepped into prayer ministry. I became a spiritual director to help and encourage other women see God’s plan for them. God led me to little children and parents and a team of incredible care-givers. Unexpectedly, he led me to help create an outreach ministry for those in need of food and care. And now, I hear a call to do more. In HIS name and for HIM. Not me…
All along the way, God was guiding my steps. Even though I was stubborn and stuck to my ways, he was patient in letting me get to where he wants me. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the life journey of bumps and bruises because it has taken me to this new place of peace, of carrying others burdens, of waiting on the Lord to nudge me to the next thing.
I am thankful that he has changed my heart. I am thankful for praying friends who have walked with me through awful times. I am thankful for the hope of a new sunrise and a new adventure.
This has been the summer I fully embraced the community of my church family. The one where I attend services and the one that has connected me with some life-long friends and acquaintances. It has been a summer of gathering together socially and spiritually. Mostly, it has been the best time I have had in years and I am beyond grateful.
Change is hard. Change brings unfamiliarity. Change can be external to us while processed internally. Change can bring up feelings we never knew we had. Change can send us into a dark place or it can open the door to new opportunities. Change can make us angry or it can bring a sense of relief. Yes, change can be hard.
My life today is nothing compared to what it was even five years ago, let alone 30 years ago when I began my Christian journey. God planted a seed of change; however, it took almost 20 years to stop living according to my rules and listen to his desires for me.
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.
Muted and Listening
It’s time for some of us to stop talking and start listening and hearing. Whites have had the floor for a long time now. We have had the upper hand and have misused our privilege. Intentionally or unintentionally, people have been suppressed, held down, beaten, taken advantage of, and disregarded as members of our society.
Lord Change Me
Change starts with me, with my thinking and my actions. My childhood memories include people close to me using the “N-word’ and making disparaging comments about people of color while bragging that they have black friends so that shows they aren’t prejudice. I remember fear and concern from my parents when I dated black men or my sister and brother married people from other cultures. We were crossing a line they would never have dreamed of doing.
I grew up with the civil rights movement. It was difficult for our elders. They learned to adjust to a new way of living. It was, however, always veiled in a element of fear. A fear they passed on to the next generation as we pushed for equality. We opened our neighborhoods to people who didn’t look like us and we became friends with people our parents might never have had an opportunity to meet in an equal setting. It was a small beginning that seemed radical and unsettling for them.
I like to think that my generation raised a new generation with less prejudice and that we have done a better job at inclusion and equality. The truth that we haven’t done enough is evident in recent events that have led to wide-spread protests. As a child I watched the demonstrations for civil rights. I watched the demonstrations to end the war. They were violent at times. Those voices were heard. Steps were taken in the right direction because of those brave souls. Today’s generation has picked up the ball we dropped and are again pushing it up the hill of change. It is time we helped them with this fight.
This past year I was exposed to some studies and engaged in some conversations about inequality from those who live it. I have begun to understand the concept of white privilege as I realize the daily fears people of color live with that I will never experience. The inequality I have experienced in the work place as a white woman is nothing compared to the challenges of an African American women. My fears when I am pulled over for a traffic violation is nothing compared to a man of color who fears for his life in the same situation. I have experienced wolf calls or sick comments from sexist men and still it doesn’t compare to what non-white people in this country hear on a nearly daily basis.
…we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:22-24
The oppressed need to be heard. The advantages need to be leveled. The reaction needs to improve. The thinking needs to change. We need to stand and hold up those who have grown weary of holding themselves up. We need to change the character of ourselves and call out others to do the same. We need to stop turning a blind eye to inequality, step down from our pedestals, and ask “how do I help?”
I admit I have more questions than I have answers. That makes me sad. I pray from my home and write as God moves me to write. I am talking more with friends and family. I can’t be silent out of fear some will disregard me because the fear that nothing will change is greater. I will keep taking the steps I can until God moves me in a new direction.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31
Read more of my journey: Imparity Lament – We Can Do Better and Radical Love in Radical Times