I have so many things going on in mind right now and I wanted to put some of these thoughts down because I know this is important. I don’t usually type out/publish things that aren’t kinda resolved yet but I’m documenting this anyway because maybe someone else can relate or can pray for me as I process all of this. I know that God is working and some things will take time. Also it’s just plain uncomfortable to be in this season. I don’t want to dump all over people sharing with them my thoughts, because I have so many, so many thoughts and concerns. I don’t want to scare people away because of my thoughts but I’ve been wondering about the church. I’ve been wondering about race and culture. I’ve been wondering if we, or rather am I living the life that God has called me to live as a true Christ follower? I think about the fact that Jesus, humbled himself to come to Earth and put on flesh. He was born as a helpless baby and raised by parents here on Earth, limited by the frailness of our earthly human bodies and all it’s physical needs. He lived 30 something years on Earth dealing with people who often misunderstood Him, tried to trap Him, betrayed Him, asked Him for favors, spread lies about Him and ultimately He willingly went along with man’s punishment of death by severe beating and cruxificition upon a cross. He did that, for us, that we would have a way to be in a right relationship with a holy God. He did that because He knew it was the only way. He did that and He saved us because He took our place upon that cross and He did not stay dead. He is alive and that is because while He was a human man, He was also fully God, God the Son.
A Christian is a Christ-follower. My goal in life is to submit to Him as Lord over everything. It’s all about Jesus and it’s not just words. I want this truth to show up in how I life out every part of my life. It’s not a rule-following thing, it’s a true life thing. God saved me. Really, He did. You probably have no idea my life and the things I was involved with and have done many years ago. Not that I’m perfect now but now I justify my sins in an effort to feel good about myself. I mean don’t I? I’ve made excuses as to why we can’t really give up EVERYTHING because we still have to be smart. We still have to live. Be reasonable. C’mon now, use your head! …. This is what I hear and this is what I say to myself but sometimes I act out because I think, WHY am I trying to preserve my life? Where is the humanity and love for people? I scratch my head at this; I wrestle with this and I don’t understand how to determine the balance. (You might have seen the video here where I explain to a friend why I picked up a hitchhiker, which everyone is telling me I should not have done because it was really unsafe.)
I love super-hero movies. Or any kind of movie where the bad guy is stopped and hurting people are helped. It always comes at a great cost. The hero person or even the regular every-day person risks their life for someone else. They they risk embarrassment, they risk losing their stuff or their money/ space/ time for someone else. They are often COMPELLED to do it. It just makes sense; the person in front of them needs help and so they help. Sometimes you see their growth in how at first they would never do such a thing until later, by the end of the movie, they do. They give it up for the person in front of them.
But what about me? What have I given up? What am I doing?
I’m wrestling here. I’ve been feeling this way and having all these thoughts for weeks now and they are just getting bigger and bigger.
Today in processing this with my (poor) husband (I know he really gets a lot of my thoughts but it isn’t even ALL of what goes on inside my head…), I realized that I, too, was once ignorant. At the time, I didn’t think I was, but I was. For example, many years ago I was a Soldier. As a Soldier I stayed in Bangkok, Thailand for 3 months as a part of an advance team for an annual military exercise (many years ago). While we were there we did some sightseeing. I remember going to an event, an XXX rated event. I saw things I never even thought anyone could do but there was everything revealed for all to see and cheer over and be amazed by the “tricks” they saw. I admit, I was pretty shocked and amazed too but frankly, I didn’t think too much of it. It was on to the next thing. There were a lot of new sights to take in as a young person (early twenties) at that time. Sadly, years, I mean MANY years later, I realized that what I saw back then wasn’t the whole picture. Did those women want to be there? Were they forced to work for their freedom? Did they think this was the only way to feed their families? This is called human trafficking and sexual exploitation. We didn’t know. Or I least I hope no one else knew (or realized what that was and willingly participated) because I surely didn’t know. And even if I did know, would it have stopped me from being the oddball who wasn’t interested in going? Or even, spoke up about and encouraged others not to go? I don’t know and that wasn’t even the case. I was completely ignorant to that life. I just had no idea at all. But this type of thing doesn’t just happen in Asia, it’s also happening in various ways right here in our home country. (The movie “Priceless” might help shed some light on this topic. What are some movies that you would recommend?)
Another example of my ignorance is in most of my selfies that I now take because I’m constantly thinking about capturing the moment (this is another topic altogether). As I review my photos trying to find a photo that goes along with what I am going to post, I notice the wedding ring on my finger. It has a diamond on it. I remember wanting it sized up when we went to pick something out 14 years ago in New York. At that time, I thought, this was the fulfillment of every girl’s dream. The thought of wearing a big diamond that someone else purchased for me was what every girl wants right? It was in my head for years and years put there by the media, magazines, books…. I saw the older adults I knew (well not all of them) but some of them wore a ring on their finger. I imagined theirs was huge. And now I was getting one too. A real one. And it wasn’t even the biggest one in the store at all (look at me being modest). But I had one. Well, I’ve been wearing this ring on my finger for so long that I really don’t think about it at all until I see it in the photo that I’m trying to post. When I look at it, it really stands out to me. I don’t want others focusing on it, as if that was the point of the photo (which it’s not), and so because it bothers me the message I might be portraying, I find myself either choosing a different one or trying to crop it out. It’s been years of not questioning our diamond engagement ring purchase so why do I care about it now? My eyes were opened. We saw as a family a peek behind the curtain from watching the movie, “Blood Diamond.” After it was over we had a little discussion and when I see my ring, I think of that movie. I didn’t know when we bought it years ago the lives that the import of these rocks cost, but now I do. Even if I didn’t know and even if I would never (of course not) willingly endorse the horrible treatment of other people just so I can wear this- IT MATTERS and especially to those who DO know and are informed. I was ignorant before on this but now I’m more aware on this topic. There are so many others…
I’m thankful for the different ways we can see the light. Sometimes, it’s often through movies and media. These movies help to bring awareness. I’m sure the writers/directors hope that the message would inspire others to investigate these topics even further and perhaps even help ignite people to action to do something about it. You know, regular people being compelled to act. To pray. To spread awareness. To support their local or global organizations that are already doing work in areas that need it. Those are all ‘somethings.’ I FEEL discontent and unsettledness in my heart and in my soul. But what am I doing about it? What am I doing? What should I be doing? It bothers me because this feeling isn’t going away, it is growing and I don’t know what to do with it. Reminders pop up in my life and it pricks at me because honestly, I know I never really did anything about it. I never even went to Lord about these issues past the week or so after the fact they were revealed to me. I know that isn’t all I was supposed to do.
I give these examples because I understand how ignorance can exist even today in 2021. Thinking of my examples, you might think that I should have known these things, but I didn’t. It wasn’t really on my radar, but now it is. It is the same with my ongoing thoughts about race and culture in the church. As organizations are investigating their histories of their historic institutions or denominations, they are seeing how slavery, racism, and the mistreatment of people was definitely a part of life back then. History says that people groups, generally speaking, came in and took what they wanted. History says that people groups brought over other people groups – against their will – and enslaved them to perform various labors for years and years. History also says that when people tried to speak out about it they were shunned or run off to go elsewhere so that their way of life wouldn’t be interrupted. Everyone did it so it wasn’t even a thought that maybe this wasn’t right. Laws were written in the fabric of our country that reflected that it wasn’t even an issue for the ones with the power. I get that. I mean, I too was also ignorant of many things until I saw the light of another perspective and the cold, hard truth of reality. Many times for me, realization only came years and years and years later. So here we are today and honestly, I really don’t know why but for me, this topic of race relations, especially within the church, won’t let me rest. I think it started when as an assignment for our “Spiritual Formation” class we read chapter 11 entitled “Overcoming Evil Within and Around Us.” That chapter followed Chapter 8 “Discovering God’s Call for our Lives” to which I already thought I knew where I was headed. However, in thinking about the evil inside my own self, I realized my “complicity in societal evils.” (“Discovering Our Spiritual Identity” by Trevor Hudson, page 115) I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to face it and acknowledge it before because it was just too ugly, but it is right there, plain as day. (I’ve been watching and listening to how one Christian University has been handling this here. Later, I found this to be a great webinar here.)
I am reminded, nothing is perfect. Nothing here on Earth (now) is perfect- no person, no organization, no society, and no church has gotten it all figured out. We have messed things up along the way. I get that. Especially as I think about my own life. But when you see it, when you recognize the evil within, you have a choice to deal with it or to ignore it. I tried ignoring it but as I said these things keep popping up for me. I think it is time for me to buckle down and deal with it. I can’t do anything else. I don’t understand why it won’t go away. A loved one suggested that education enlightens you; you can’t NOT see what you now see. I think they may be right. (Movie suggestions: Just Mercy, Green Book, Jojo Rabbit, the Zookeepers’s Wife, the Florida Project, the Great Debators, the Silent Voice/ The Shape of Voice, Tsotsi, The Dropbox. These are films our family has seen that show another perspective and the different reactions of people towards people- good and bad.)
This time of waiting is uncomfortable. Why do I have all these thoughts? Do I speak up or do I keep quiet? This has been eating at me and causing a barrier between my participation in corporate worship and the Lord at church. Does this mean that I need to speak or does this mean that I need to move and act? I really don’t know.
In the meantime, in my Leadership in Ministry class, we are currently reading various texts on institutions, organizations, networking and ultimately how our old models aren’t sufficient as they are, for today. I can see this and I wonder how do we adjust? What kind of new imagination is required from us to adapt during these times of uncertainty? Am I the type of leader that can help with this? I see the needs, I ask the questions (in my mind for now) but what am I supposed to do with it? I have been bringing it up to some people but then I wonder, am I complaining? Why can’t I just relax? Maybe they are okay with things as they are, why do I have to go and rock the boat? (By the way, I’m not even that type of person. I sincerely LOVE the church. I believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and we are His body, gifted differently to serve the church. Yet, I look around and in the western church- I’m not sure this is what I see. THIS is what ultimately bothers me. THIS thought is not new. I’ve had these thoughts for years and I try to conform and push it aside and find SOME OUTLET or make an outlet for me to BE THE CHURCH where ever I am. But… now that I’m in school to do this formally…. I keep wondering are we doing this all wrong? What is going on here? Does ANYONE ELSE sense this too?Lord help me.) Am I able to inspire others within the church who seem like they aren’t even aware of what is going on to see what is happening with the people in the world that we want to reach? I believe they want what I want but I’m not seeing a humbling before the Lord, a seeking to involve everyone’s gifts, an urgency that this is the day and the opportunity we were given to act. I wonder am I off track here? What happens to me in all of this? Is this really what I want to be a part of? How do I stay focused on Christ too and not reliant on me? Would it just be better if I went to a different place that has it all figured out already? Is there even such a place? Am I just trying to run away? Can I be uncomfortable while God works in His own timing and in His own way, even if it is through me? I say yes, but am I really ready? Who is ‘ready’ enough to even help me?
All I know in response to all these questions is that I don’t know. I don’t know the answers or if there is even ‘an answer.’ At the same time, what I DO know and truly believe is that God knows. I know He knows how this will all work out. I have experienced undesired situations work itself out over time whether in my life, other’s lives or even within the lives of the people in the Bible. I know God is at work. I trust that God is at work. But what do I do while I try to be patient and wait?
Prayer. True prayer. True confession, again and again, as I uncover more and more of where I lack. I humble myself before the Lord. And since my main concern right now is the church, it would behoove the church to come together to pray. We don’t need all the bells and whistles that distract. We just need dedicated time with the Lord. We need to repent where we have fallen short. When we didn’t want to see and acknowledge what was right before our eyes. When we did nothing to change when we realized something was wrong or people were suffering even within our midst. Do we try to understand? Do we really want to engage, get involved, and to know – to SEE? No. I think as a whole, we’d rather not. That’s how I was and am at times with certain things that I am ignorant about. But now, I just can’t keep driving on just as I am and I don’t want to be complicit any longer. However, I do realize I need to wait on God’s timing to act. God help me. God help us.
Lord God, I see my shortcomings and failures. I know you have been opening my eyes for some time now, more and more I see the evil in our world and even within myself. I recognize that on some level I can act. I can speak out. I can help to spread awareness. I can pray. I can gather others together to pray. There are many things that I can do. Lord help me to use these various gifts that you have given me to do the work that YOU have prepared for me to do. Give me wisdom and discernment to know when to pray and when to respond in words or action. I know you didn’t open my eyes just so I can pretend I can’t see. I am changed. I don’t know what to do with this ‘holy discontent’ that exists inside of me as I see your people, my people, not give up their lives for others as you gave up your life for me. I even see that within my own self in some areas. I don’t want to continue doing that oh God. So, I ask, what do you want me to do? How should I respond? Continue to open up my eyes and my heart to the Truth and to the people that surround me here in my city but also people I can’t see but know are in the world. Give me YOUR heart oh God, a heart of flesh, and renew my spirit within me. Search my heart and remove anything that is not pleasing to you. Get it out of my life oh God. I cannot do it without you. Lord, help me to see the people you place right in front of me each day. I want to see ALL the people. Let me not look away because I don’t know what to do. Give me wisdom oh God. I thank you for your grace and for your mercy on my life. I ask that you help me to use all that I have for YOUR glory. Even though I still struggle and I don’t have it all, nor know it all, I recognize that I have more than I need in you, spiritually and physically. I thank you Lord. Please help me open up for someone else that they may have what they need too through you. Also Lord my God, I also ask that you would send me help. I need wisdom and encouragement from your people who are willing to push me forward or reign me in per the Holy Spirit and in Truth. I need to continue to be prepared as I step into whatever you have for me. And please continue to allow me to recognize that I am a sharpener for others as well. May I courageously act with humility rooted in You, respectfully speaking Your words of Truth quickened by Your Holy Spirit. Lead me oh God. You know how we need you. Thank you for Jesus.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV