Forgiveness & Reconciliation

MBA

A few weeks ago, I was sitting through our weekly small group meeting.  We took a bold step and decided to tackle Authentic Intimacy’s Passion Pursuit.  Dr. Juli Slattery began to discuss the importance of forgiveness in healing and improving our marriages.  She also delved into the need to forgive past hurts in order to move forward.   Something she said jumped out at me:

The acknowledgement that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. 

As she waded through the waters of forgiveness, the words FREEDOM were key.  Forgiveness leads to freedom because what ever that wrong was, it no longer holds on to us.  However, reconciliation may not be possible.  Perhaps the other person hasn’t apologized, hasn’t repented because they do not believe they were wrong.  Or, perhaps they took ownership of their wrong doing but for your own safety you can not resume a reconciled relationship with the person.  In some instances the person may have died, moved away, etc and there isn’t a way to even reach out and start a reconciliation process.  However, we can still forgive them and more forward.  This forgiveness does not free them from the CONSEQUENCES of their actions, it does however free us from being held captive by that person or situation any longer.

I walked away that evening reflecting on several situations through the years that cause me distress.  I thought of the scriptures that call us to forgive and reconcile.  I felt like a failure in many ways because even despite my willingness to forgive, there were relationships that were not reconciled.  I had sold myself to believe that I couldn’t more forward until reconciliation had happened.   I resolved that those relationships wouldn’t necessarily reconcile to what they once were, but that to at least be on “civil terms” would be enough.  When that couldn’t happen, I felt like I failed.

Now, that burden was lifted.  I had permission to walk in that freedom of forgiveness, even I was walking alone and the other parties were not ready to join up yet.  Today, I watched a video from The Gospel Coalition on forgiveness without repentance.  One of the things I took away from the video is:

Reconciliation requires repentance and forgiveness from both sides.

It can’t be both sides saying they are sorry, and no one changes.

It can’t be a change of behavior by both sides, without anyone actually apologizing.

It can’t be an exchange of apologies, modified behaviors, when one or both don’t truly forgive.

Forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation may not come in that exact order & not all at one time.  It may be a process that can span days, months, or even years to complete.  Reconciliation may not even come this side of heaven. 

If we have chosen to forgive, and if we have identified our own mistakes and repented… we may have to be okay with reconciliation’s slow arrival.  If it even comes at all. 

For each of us lies the responsibility of our own actions.  Have we come to God and asked Him to reveal if we are part of the problem?  Is there more to this than being sinned against?  Are we too guilty of sinning against the other person?  If you have a trusted mentor, have you shared the situation with them and sought their counsel and guidance? 

Once you have taken an honest look at yourself, if there is a need for you to apologize then you are responsible for taking the step of repentance and seeking forgiveness.  Then you can also extend your forgiveness to the other person and work toward reconciliation, should both parties agree.  However, if you are truly the only one who was sinned against and the other person is unwilling to repent and ask for forgiveness… you can still choose to forgive as Christ has forgiven.

All of our sins are against a perfect God, who has done nothing wrong to us.  Yet He is able to forgive our sins and cast them to the oceans depths.  If the Lord can forgive me, how can I not forgive those who sin against me?  Reconciliation may not happen, but that doesn’t mean that forgiveness is impossible.

The scriptures state that as much as it is possible, and is up to me, to live at peace with everyone.  Reconciliation isn’t entirely up to me, it takes both parties to happen.  But forgiveness is a choice I can make to bring peace into my heart, life, and relationships.  Then we can lean into trusting the Lord to do the work in the other person, and if reconciliation is possible it will happen under the guidance of the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

When we forgive, we can live in the freedom of Peace.  I choose Peace.

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More Than Words

praytogether

The email comes:

“Please pray for our family, my husband lost his job today.”

The text message arrives:

“Prayer request, my daughter has cheer try outs today.  This means a lot to her.”

She stops you in the sanctuary:

“I have a doctor appointment this week, they found a lump.  Would you pray for me?”

You pass the terrible accident…

A person keeps coming to mind, maybe someone you haven’t thought of in years…

At bible study you jot down all those names and requests during prayer and share time…

“I’ll pray for you!” –you promise.

“I should pray for that person…” – you consider.

Your intention are good.  The moment passes, the day passes, weeks pass.  You read the headline about the fatal accident you passed by.   You learn from mutual friends that an old friend of yours (that name that kept coming to mind) lost everything to a house fire.  The woman catches you in the sanctuary and thanks you for your prayers, her tests came back clear.

But, you didn’t pray.  You forgot.  You didn’t mean to forget, you were sincere in your promises.  Distractions got in the way.  Life interrupted.  Your own problems grabbed your attention.

We must be more than words, when we agree or offer to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Being distracted shouldn’t catch us off guard, we know how life goes.  Instead, we need to be intentional and take a step beyond words.

Stop in the moment and pray for the person, instead of putting on your to do list.  Grab her hand and lead her to another woman in the church, pray together for her corporately.   Even when you a driving, when you can’t bow your head and close your eyes… we can still call out to the Lord while we drive past the scene of an accident or hear sirens in the distance.  Email or text back a written prayer, so that your friend can see your words and return to them as she needs to.

Prayer is a beautiful conversation between us and the Lord.  Talk often.  Pray when you can pray, cry out when the words fail you.  But, when others come to you for intercession… be present with them in that moment of trial.  Stop what you are doing.  Pray.

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

badmoms.jpg

First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Beautification Proximation

paintedhouse

There is a phenomenon that is rarely discussed (but well known) when you live in the burbs, the zero lot line… small yard, everyone is super close to each other neighborhoods.  This is phenomenon is called the “Mowed Lawn Phenomenon”.   Many are impacted by it’s domino effect.

It starts simply, OCD neighbor mows his lawn as he does every Saturday at 8am.  His neighbor notices that OCD man is out there mowing as usual, and sees his nice and tidy yard.  Within a short amount of time, the neighbor also realizes that his lawn needs to be mowed as well.  By the end of the day, the lawn is mowed.  Mr. Works on Saturday comes home after a long day and sees the mowed lawns next to him.  He realizes it is also time to mow his own lawn, as it is looking pretty shabby.  On Sunday, after church, he mows his lawn.  This continues until the whole neighborhood has collectively mowed their lawn.

Until OCD neighbor mowed his lawn, no one realized how shabby their lawn looked.  In fact, even Mr. OCD may not have realized his lawn was shabby either.  He was mowing because that is part of his Saturday routine, whether the lawn needs it or not.  But certainly after mowing, Mr. OCD had a measure of satisfaction in how his yard now looked in comparison to his neighbors.

What I have begun to realize is that this is more than just a phenomenon related to mowed yards.  It’s really Beautification Proximation.  When a neighbor gets a new mailbox, suddenly we think “Hey, we probably need one too”.  Someone in the neighborhood starts a landscaping project?  By the next week the everyone in the neighborhood made a trip to Lowes.  Paint your house?  Let the painting parties begin.

My husband and I decided to paint our house this summer.  By my husband and I, I actually mean my husband… and I blame Dave Ramsey because my husband was holding out for a sale on the paint.  And of course, who paints during the SUMMER in Florida????  Which means paint was on sale trying to talk people into this nonsense.  But, I digress.

We decided to replace the lawn chairs that were in rough shape with some newer ones that fit the house theme better.  Our old ones went to the curb, we knew in less than 24 hours they would be picked up.  To my surprise a neighbor knocked on our door to ask about the chairs before just taking them.  He complimented us on how the house was coming together.  I thanked him.  He then pointed out that now his wife wants to paint their house.  I apologized.  We laughed a moment, and as I walked into the house I shouted to my husband…

“I told you it would happen….”

He replied, “What?   Someone already picked up the chairs?”

“Well, yes.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I told you that as soon as we were done painting the house… the neighbors would start.”

I saw it coming.  I knew that a fresh coat of paint was inspiring and motivating… just like new plants in the garden, cutting down old dying trees, and a freshly mowed lawn.  It is the nature of “Beautification Proximation”.

Which basically means when we are near something beautiful, we desire to be beautiful. When we are near something beautiful, new, repaired, or well conditioned… we are more apt to notice our own flaws, chipping paint, and overgrown gardens.  When we see others working hard to make something more beautiful, we are motivated to work hard too.  Which is why we are more committed to going to the gym when we have a friend to go with.  It’s why I painted a house in July… because my husband was out there working hard.

“Beautification Proximation” also shows up when we see something or someone change, and we too desire that change.   A sick person gets healthy, and we want to know how they did it… so that we can be healthy too.  A woman with a hard heart comes to Jesus, and those around her see that change in her… and they want that change for themselves.  When a neighborhood that has been neglected decides to hit the streets cleaning up trash, painting buildings, replacing broken signs, and fixing potholes in the street; we call it a “Neighborhood Beautification Project”.  This project on a main street is meant to inspire the surrounding streets and neighborhoods to do the same.

There is another “Beautification Proximation” that happens when we surround ourselves with people who are different than us.  People who have different life experiences, different backgrounds, different history, different trials and tribulations, different colors of skin, and their day to day lives are full of different interactions than our own.  The more we surround ourselves with the beauty in these differences, the more we change inside.  We see their beauty, created in the image of God.  We see the unfair treatment and injustice they face, despite being created in the image of God.  We can no longer cast our eyes aside and justify what happens in the world.  Instead, we are motivated to change.

When we recognize the beauty of others who are different than ourselves, when we see the trials they overcome, the smiles they wear in spite of fear/worry/anxiety… we want to be part of that beauty.   We begin to see the tatteredness of our own ways.  We become more aware of our careless words, privilege, and attitudes that are not honoring our brothers and sisters, WHO WERE MADE IN HIS IMAGE.  We begin a beautification project in our very soul, because of the proximation we are to beauty around us… because beauty comes from ashes too, when we rise up together and say NO MORE.

Beauty comes from having a heart that loves the Lord.. and to love the Lord, is to love His Word.. .and his Word tells us that we are to love one another.

Lord, create in me a clean heart Lord.  Give me the eyes to see your creation, in all of it’s glory, as you do.  So that in all things I see, I know that it is very good.  Give me a voice that speaks against anything that brings harm to your creation, and those whom you have created in your image.  Give me hands to help, feet to walk, eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart the loves. Amen.

The Uncomfortable Conversation

MBA

A few weeks ago, I was at The Gospel Coalition’s conference with a good friend.  Conferences are a great place for me to get away from the every day, and soak in the word and wisdom of those the Lord has gifted.  It usually becomes a place of introspection for me as well.  I was grateful to be there with a friend who was willing to talk freely about the topics rolling through my mind. I was also glad to be able to do the same for her.  We talked so openly and freely, and it was just a beautiful thing.  It also doesn’t mean that we agreed with each other on every point, or saw things from the same perspective.

We talked such authenticity, and with such vulnerability.  We were honest with each other, but even more so … we were honest with ourselves.  I know that we both walked away from that conference with a gain on perspective.  Something that has stuck with since the conference is a simple statement my friend made.  She said:  “We have to be willing to have the uncomfortable conversation.”

But what is the “uncomfortable conversation”?

It is any conversation that takes a measure of bravery to bring up.  It is the conversation where we establish healthy boundaries or put an end to toxic relationships.  It is the open an honest conversations we have about subjects that are not easy or controversial… whether it be about religion, personal relationships, or in light of more recent events  about race, gun control, and human rights.

Why is it so hard for us to have real meaningful conversations, even when they are difficult, uncomfortable, or awkward, with those who are close to us?    Is it not funny how easy we can take positions and debate controversial subjects online with complete strangers easier than with our own friends and family?  It is not strange that we can go off to another country to share the gospel, but we won’t share the gospel with those closest to us?

Why are so we guarded to those whom we love, and love us?  Do we fear the loss of that love and relationship?  And do we fear that loss more than telling truth about who we are and what we believe?

If we want to be people who are world changers, we must be willing to start a change in ourselves.  We must be willing to have uncomfortable conversations and that first conversation is going to be between God and ourselves.  We pray that God will reveal the planks we are carrying around in our own eyes, the sins that we are trying to hide, and the wrongs we have been responsible for.  We do this for confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.    We pray that the Lord would take away our spirit of fear, and replace it with a confidence in Him and His word.   We pray for courage to have the uncomfortable conversations, the ones where we need to own wrongs and apologize… and the ones where we need to confront those who have wronged us.

We also pray that the Lord would give us a voice for injustice, a voice for the voiceless, a heart and compassion for those who are marginalized, discriminated, and hurting.

Then we step out in faith to have a lot more uncomfortable conversations with the purpose of being part of the change we want to see in the world.

A Fixer of Things

MBA

Some people are just fixers.  It wasn’t until a very recent conversation that I realized how much I fall into that category.  I love solving problems.  I appreciate seeing something that once functioned poorly, now working effortlessly.   I have fixed the dishwasher, saving my husband from having one more thing to do when he gets home (or money in parts, replacement).  I have fixed organizations and systems, friends problems, etc.

I also realized this is something I have always been fairly good at doing.  In high school, I helped fix our dwindling Drama Club.  In college, I wrangled in a campus club that was off kilter.  In my career in retail sales, I would be moved from department to department & store to store, solving problems that others couldn’t.  I prided myself in my ability to see the problem, find the solution, and execute that solution in an expedited fashion that would save money.

I didn’t realize it, but my affinity for fixing things is quite like a hunter on the prowl.  He looks for his prey, I look for problems.  He locks eyes on his target, I come up with a plan.  He brings down his game with grace and precision, and I execute my solution effortlessly.  The hunter walks away with the satisfaction of a “good kill”, and I pat my back with the satisfaction of a “good job”.  However, we do not linger in that satisfaction.  Instead we already begin to set eyes on what comes next.

In recent years, big game hunters get a lot of heat on the internet.  The reason?  People don’t see the need for the hunt.  We have plenty of food in this country, so what reason could someone possibly have for wanting to kill big game animals?  They see it as unnecessary.  Not everything needs to be hunted down for the sake of hunting.

What finally hit me, as I was enjoying serious conversation with a very wise friend, was that not everything needs to be fixed for the sake of fixing things.  We have all heard that phrase:  “don’t fix what isn’t broken”.  Which is totally something that I deep down believe.  I’m not one for reinventing the wheel, or trying to make something better that is actually functioning well and doing it’s intended job.  That didn’t prevent me from being on the hunt to find something to fix.

After solving one problem, I needed somewhere else to put to use my gifts and talents.  I wasn’t content not having some sort of project to work on.  So, I would find my next target.  However, I’ve learned a new phrase:  “not everything that is broken wants or needs to be fixed”.  Even more convicting is the phrase: “not everything broken is supposed to be fixed by me”.  Let’s unpack those thoughts a bit.

Not Everything That is Broken WANTS to be Fixed:

This scenario often deals with people more than things or projects.  You may be watching a person spiral out of control, personally or professionally.  But, unless that person truly wants help any attempt to fix it is going to be pushed away.  We can talk until we are blue in the face, throw suggestions and solutions in their direction, but none of it will matter if they don’t want to hear it or change their lives.

A friend who is struggling through addiction, who has begun having an affair, who is blowing all of their money shopping, etc… are all REAL problems.  But if the person is not at a place to desire change, you can’t fix them.  And, it’s not our job to convict their spirit to desire those changes.  That is up to the Holy Spirit, which is a job that none of us are qualified for.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t pray for them, and even make ourselves available for when they are ready.  It does mean, however, that we are not going to beat a dead horse.  The more we push, when they are not ready, the more they are going to distance themselves.

Even in ministry work, if you see that the ministry is dysfunctional… but you are the only one that seems to have a problem with it…. then it may not want to be fixed.  You have to be willing to step back.  We must pray that the Lord would put His hands on the situation and bring about the desire for change or repair.

Not Everything That is Broken NEEDS to be Fixed:

Many years ago I was lamenting to my husband about a problem I was seeing in an organization that I was volunteering with.  I could see the writing on the wall, if these issues were not fixed the ministry was going to fold.  It broke my heart to see that happen, because I believed in the potential of their work.

My husband, in his wisdom, pointed out that perhaps God didn’t want it fixed?  Even though the work they were doing was good, it may not be Kingdom work.  If it’s not Kingdom work, then the Lord may have better use of those people and resources.  I had to be willing to let it die, so that something better could be born.

We can spend many hours super gluing a shattered plate back together.  Carefully piecing it together, using the best of our tools to get the job done, but the second it gets the slightest tap… it shatters back into pieces.  There are times where things are broken beyond repair, to spend so much time trying to fix it becomes a waste of our time, resources, and the gifts the Lord has given us.  We must seek God’s discernment on whether something is worth saving.  Just because we can save a ministry, program, church, event, etc… doesn’t mean we should.

There are times where a group or project is not functioning well, but getting the job done.  We can see the hundred ways it could run better, and even the greater potential that is being overlooked.  However, those who are overseeing it may not desire anything greater than what it is currently doing.  It may not need to be fixed, because the job is getting done and the details of the “how” are really not important.  We need to seek God’s wisdom in knowing when something doesn’t need to be fixed at all, or when it’s simply not my job to do it.

Not Everything That is Broken is MY JOB to Fix:

Quite some time ago, I was involved in a ministry project.  Each team member had a very distinct role, and I was fulfilling my part.  However, I was seeing that another portion of the project was struggling.  I offered my opinion to the person in charge.  It was dismissed.  I offered my help, I was turned down.  In my arrogance, I tried to assert myself more.  This resulted in a come to Jesus meeting, and I was the one invited.

The fellow leader was brutally honest with me.  “I know this isn’t coming along perfectly.  I know that you could do a better job.  If you want my job, just tell me.  Otherwise, I need you to let me do this my way. Right or wrong.”   She was absolutely right.  She never asked me to come in and fix it, she wasn’t even in denial that there were some problems. It simply wasn’t my job to fix it.  It was up to her, to do the job she was entrusted with.  I apologized immediately, and I learned a tough lesson.

What I find almost humorous about this, as I reflect, is that one of the things that gets on my nerves the quickest is…. unsolicited advice.  But, there I was… dishing it out.

Occasionally, everyone can see the problems in the organization or project.  You may have all the answers, but in simple terms… it’s not your job.  The Lord may have someone else who is going to work those problems out.  The Lord may need the ministry to stumble in your absence to draw attention to the bigger issues.  Or, the Lord may have a greater plan that what you can imagine down the road.  He may be trying to get you out of the way, so that He can do something beyond comprehension.

Because no matter how much you think you can do to fix the problems, hiccups, and hold backs… HE CAN DO GREATER.  We need to be in prayer that we would not only get out our own way, but even more so that we get out of God’s way.  Let Him do the work, open the doors, and work out the miracles.  All you need to figure out is if you are going along for the ride, or if He is directing your gifts and talents to another ministry.

In the end…  generally speaking… if something is broken and we have the capacity to fix it, we should.  This piece isn’t about standing back and doing nothing.  Instead, this piece is a reminder that all the things we can do need to be in surrender to God, His glory, and His plan.  If we seek Him before we act, we will understand our role.. to fix, to pray, to let go, or to step aside.

Opened Eyes

MBA

Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend.  We were discussing racial equality, because any of my friends will tell you … I’m not afraid to talk about deep stuff.  Generally speaking, I prefer to do it in face to face conversations with people who know me.  Why?  Because I know they can see my genuineness vs. written conversations that lack tone, body language, and that personal touch that comes with seeing someone’s face.

I was sharing with her my inability to see that racism and discrimination were still as bad as she claimed they were.  (You most definitely can eye roll at this, Lord knows I am eye rolling myself so hard… I’m going to get a migraine.)    The argument she gave me, at the time, was that I didn’t understand what it was like to be discriminated against.  And I retorted back that I in fact did know.

As a woman, I faced discrimination.  As a professional working woman, I once had a man refer to me as “little girl”.  I couldn’t even count the number of times a man wanted to speak to my manager, only to see his disappointment when he found out my manager was a woman too.  Nor, the number of times this same scenario happened and I was in fact the manager.

Before that, in my youth, I can recall walking into local stores and being looked at suspiciously because of the way I was dressed and the people I was with.  The instant look of distrust, eyes watching us the whole time we were in the shop, just waiting for us to do something wrong.

At the time, I felt like “I get it” and “it’s not exclusive to any race”.    I’ll pause a moment, and let you get a few eye rolls in… and even a few verbal responses too.  I know…I know…

Now, I’m looking at things with a new set of eyes.  Why?  Because there are women who have taken the time to help me understand.  They are willing to have the uncomfortable conversations with me.  THANK YOU, ladies, for being gracious and not smacking me upside the head for my naivety.

These conversations don’t discount the fact that I faced discrimination as a woman.  However, even within those discriminating moments… there was never “hate” because I was a woman.  My male peers and counterparts respected me, my work ethic, and trusted me to do the job I was hired for.  My discrimination came only from those who didn’t know me.  Customers and clients who were interacting with me for the first time.  Even then, when they realized my authority (like it, or not)… their attitudes did shift.   In fact, one even came to prefer working with me exclusively after he was able to get over himself.  This is a different response than you’ll find in racial discrimination.  Where people of color (whatever ethnicity they represent) may not even be given that benefit of the doubt.

I recently reflected on a young woman I worked with, and how a customer once treated her.  She was a beautiful black woman, her skin was like midnight.  She was also disabled, only to the point where she moved a little bit slower than the rest of us.  Yet, she was one of my staff members that I could count on the most.  Need someone to stay late, she was the girl.  Need someone to fill in for another staff member out sick, she’d come in on her off day.  Never once did I have to fix a mistake she made, her work was accurate and dependable.  I can still recall MANY times I had to intervene with a client who was anything but pleasant with her.  At the time, I thought this issue was her pace.  But the more I have thought about it, the more I realized this was not their issue.  It was the “safe” complaint they could make, under the public eye.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook her thoughts about racial discrimination and our response to it.  She’s not a Christian… and her post was riddled with curse words that would make some of us a bit uncomfortable.  So, I’m going to paraphrase her (if you read this, I hope I do justice).

If you have never had to

  1.  run through scenarios of what not do in public places so you are not perceived as a criminal…
  2. have your parents explain to you how to behave if you get pulled over by the police so that you can survive
  3. wonder if a picture of you will be used out of context to justify you were a bad person…

… then sit down.

If your only contribution to the current conversation is to point out all the mistakes a person ever made as a reason why they deserved to die…

If you have a clean record, college honors, amazing career, beautiful family…. but do not have to live with a baseline of fear of being killed in the wrong circumstances…

… then sit down.

She was sharing her real feelings about her every day life.  This is her reality, so yes the news causes her to respond with her feelings.  And one thing I have learned over the years is that we all have a right to our feelings.  Regardless of the situation, our feelings are real.

And, as she finished her post she left the question:

Is that feeling worth at least a conversation?

Yes.  Yes it is.

It’s also worth some serious introspection.

You see, back in the day… when I walked into those stores and distrust was flung my way.  Yes, you could say I was discriminated against by the way I looked.  But, let’s be honest.  That look… I chose it.  Those friends… I chose them.  I could have walked right out of that store, gone home, changed into plain jeans and a t-shirt, adjusted my make up and hair, and returned to a very different response.  I would have been welcomed, no eyes would have followed me as I perused the shelves. I would have been greeted with a warm smile, a friendly how do you do, and thanked for my business.

That is not the same outcome for people who don’t look like me.   It wouldn’t have mattered if they walked in a track suit or a 3 piece custom fitted suit.  I could go home and change my choice of clothes, but they can’t go home and change their skin color.

My husband and I were talking about it, and he said….

It comes down to this, if you are pulled over by the police… what color do you want your skin to be?

He grew up in a predominantly black neighbor, and he can recall his own interactions with the police.  He told me that the cops in that area were hardened.  They were used to being lied to, and they expected the worst from everyone.  Everyone was suspected.  However, he also shared that he knows his interactions with them were far better than if he was a black kid.

Watching a documentary one night, our eyes were opened even farther.  When you can see the long standing distrust of the police in a community, from not so distant days where bathrooms were not only defined by gender but also color… you begin to understand.  You can see why communities, as one of the women interviewed stated, “protect their own”.  Because, at one time… innocence or guilt didn’t matter.  Those neighborhoods wouldn’t be so quick to hand over someone to the police, but instead would deal with it in their own way.  They took the risk that their lies to protect the innocent might mean a guilty person got away with it.  The recognized that the punishment that would fall on the shoulders of the guilty black man would weight heavier than if he was white.

If you think that doesn’t still exist, just look at the news.  A white, student athlete from Stanford raped an unconscious woman after a party… he was given a six month sentence.  A black, student athlete from Vanderbilt raped an unconscious woman after a party… he was given a fifteen year sentence.   And we wonder why a community of people has a distrust for our legal system?

We wonder where anger stems from?  We wonder where suspicion stems from?  We wonder where the pain stems from?  We wonder why “they” feel the way they do?

In the words of my friend:

Is that feeling worth at least a conversation?

This is where I believe we all start.  A willingness to at least have the conversation.  Maybe you have not experienced this discrimination or witnessed it.  But, I would challenge you to have those awkward conversations… the uncomfortable ones.  It exists.

It shows up when the teacher asks for the “black perspective” on a piece of literature from the only black student in the honors literature class.

It shows up when we assume a college student was accepted to an ivy league college because of the color of their skin vs. the merit of their work.

It shows up in how the media reports potential crimes, the photos they use and the details they share.

It shows up in how our judicial system dishes out punishments.

It shows up in the conversations that parents have with their children, and how different their life lessons are.

When we are willing to at least have the hard conversations, our eyes are opened a little wider.  Maybe things are not quite as we see them.  It may not be as bad as it was, but we still have a long way to go.

May we see each other with the same eyes that the Lord does, image bearers… our family of believers.  All of equal value, merit, worth, and love.

Thank you to those who are willing to have the conversation.  Thank you for the grace, as I am still seeking to understand.  May the conversations we have be fruitful!