Category Archives: brave

To love a girl who has lived through trauma

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A girl who has lived through trauma has lived through a situation where her body, her mind, her self was not her own. Where she felt disjointed, ripped from her self, safety, and sanity. It was a moment, an experience, a something where her trust was smashed, her worth was gone and all there was was pain.
A girl who has lived through trauma is the girl who was pushed into the deep end of the pool when she didn’t know how to swim, but somehow found her way to the ledge anyway. She walked through a forest fire and didn’t succumb to the smoke, but dealt with the burns and made it out in spite of the flames. She found herself in free fall but refused to break upon impact.

She survived. She did.

But the thing about trauma, is that even when it is over it never really goes away.

And sometimes trauma is loud. Sometimes it’s the monster banging at the windows and screaming gutturally and demonically inside of nightmares. It’s nails on a chalkboard and an earthquake that rattles everyone’s floors. It smashes everything in its wake and forces, no, demands that everyone acknowledge its terrible, terrible presence. She won’t have any choice but to sit with hands clapped over her ears making sounds that are barely human because she just wants everything to stop and it won’t.

But other times, trauma is quiet. It’s sneaky.

It’s the feeling that she is being watched or that she is walking down the street with the word ‘victim’ painted on her forehead in red and everyone is privy to her secrets. It’s the nagging fear that if she goes to sleep her dreams will be anything but restful. It’s the little whisper saying, “You will never be whole again,” that itches its way into the back of her mind and repeats over, and over, and over. And you won’t even see it because she convinces herself that she is the only one who knows that it is there.

It’s the feeling that she is a 100,000 piece puzzle of black and grey and everyone staring at the mess realizes that putting her back together is simply not worth the effort.

So when you love a girl who’s gone through trauma, you’re saying that you see the worth in helping her bandage the wounds. You’re saying that you see the worth someone else tried to bury. You’re saying you are not afraid of the bad days and you see the beauty in the good days. You’re saying that a lot of things may scare you, but trauma isn’t one of them.

When you love a girl who’s battled trauma, you’re really saying,

Love, let me help you heal because I believe you can.”

Loving girl who has managed to make it to the other side of a traumatic experience is like deciding to restore an abandoned house. She has the framework and the good bones, but you may need to spackle holes someone else left behind on the the walls. She has the the makings for beautiful, light-filled windows, but you’ll need to replace a few of the cracked panes with new glass. She has the door frame, she just needs a door.

She’ll make a lovely home one day, but there needs some care in order to make a space.

See, loving a girl with trauma in her history is not some choose your own adventure or some level in a game you need to beat. It takes time, it take patience. It’s not something you ‘win at’ it’s something you deal with day by day. It takes a level of commitment because reality is, loving her is not simple.
She is inherently complicated. She is stained with memories she wishes she did not have but that she will never be rid of. She is pieced together and the stitching may be tighter in some spots than others so you have to be careful to not unravel her with one careless tug.

But she is brave. And she is strong.

And when she realizes that you are choosing to love her, and not hurt her, she will love you back with the same kind of tenacity that it took to walk through fire.

And she will hold out her palm and show you the burn marks and instead of apologizing for bothering you with their appearance, she’ll trust you to hold her hand anyway. End link

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Sometimes waiting is the hardest thing

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Sometimes waiting is the hardest thing

New England Autumn is like none other. As a child, I was accustomed to the temperamental northeast weather. I paid little attention to it. I did not notice when the leaves changed. I enjoy crunching the them underneath my shoes and I also enjoyed crunching ice underneath as the frost and cold temperatures froze water. Spring meant a lot of work. Green. It’s what spring is all about…clearing the yard and preparing the garden, “spring” cleaning, mowing, hanging clothes to dry outside. You all would have thought we lived on a farm. I did not enjoy spring. And summer had one appeal to me: swimming.

Now as I am older, I have recently found myself having a hard time focusing on conversations if I am outdoors as these Autumn colors are grabbing at my attention, demanding I drink it all in, consume it. Bright pinks and stunning yellows. Mahogany’s and sunset oranges. I tried to wax leaves this year, as a way to preserve the colors to remember them by, but it doesn’t do the color justice. They are just so stunning.

In a week or two, the leaves will be no more here in New England. Barren trees and hiking paths and arbor ways. The winters can be painfully isolating. The house is cold. Outside is cold and wet and snowy. People are grumpy. It gets dark b y 4PM. Depression sets in for many people. And to be honest, I am still recovering from a brutal winter last season, a record breaking winter here in Boston.

And just when we think we can’t take it anymore, just as we start to wonder if it will ever become warm again, if winter will ever end, the green forsythia comes out. And it starts to bloom yellow, reminding us that spring is coming. One of the first signs of warmth and life amidst the slumbering winter temperatures. Green: a sign of life and growth and new beginning.

Things can feel awefully painful, even when we know the out come. Even when we are sure of what’s ahead, what is present remains challenging. I find this to be true of heaven and eternity. Even though I know that God is redeeming the brokenness, the sorrow, the grief.. even though I know there will be goodness and togetherness, it does not take away the pain of today, of the now. Life is hard and pain is deep. But right now, I can’t grasp what’s ahead, not in the ways I could at previous points in my life. Right now I’m in the stretch of winter, just trying to make it to spring, half knowing it has to come sometime, half trying to hope it still will, and a smidgen unsure at the moment. And that’s the reality of the roller coaster of my current life, somedays it’s bright pink and orange and blowing my mind, other days it’s green with growth and understanding, but many many days it’s dark and cold and feels bitter, and I just hold on. Waiting.

Because sometimes waiting is the hardest thing one can do.

FiveMinuteFriday: GREEN

31 Days of Writing

they don’t mean scary, costly, out of your mind dreams

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they don’t mean scary, costly, out of your mind dreams

A year or two ago, I received a card in the mail. On it was a picture of a driveway and with something to the effect of “Dare BIG Dreams” in chalky letters.

My heart leapt a little bit with that letter, with excitement that someone believed for me, and then I winced. I winced at the shock of my own hope, at the idea that they probably didn’t mean “BIG”, but rather “a little bit beyond what’s statistically possible” for me. You see,  I don’t imagine terribly unrealistic goals. I’m not one to believe in something if it doesn’t seem possible or realistic. I’m sort of pragmatic in that way. But I have always dreamed of one thing. I have held it openly, begged God to satisfy me, pleaded that if this desire should leave He must make it. Asked Him to take it if it was not of Him, if it was not good. But He hasn’t.

I have always believed something I rarely share with others, deep down. I believed I could belong. Really belong. As part of a family; a valued and wanted asset; a member.

A couple of years ago, I started to really believe it was possible for me, started to feel like I found a niche, a place to belong, people who were my people. You know, the kind that you call after a hard day, and they get it. The ones you build memories and traditions with and work out the really hard stuff that comes up with. I started to not just hope, but really believe it was possible. Inside, I even referred to some as family, something I’ve never been able to do. Something I’ve always wanted and have waited and internally hoped so patiently for.

Growing up unattached to a family is hard. Keeping all your belongings in a suitcase for years, very hard.  Having no one cheer you on, check your homework, and teach you all sorts of things that young teenage girls need, that’s even harder.

Against all sorts of odds, I went to college. I thrived. Our president at the time used to give the same speech year after year on the first day of classes. He would ask, “What’s your Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal” (Also known as a BHAG around our Christian campus). In my freshman seminar class I had to write out what mine was. I switched it to “Big Hairy Audacious Dream” (BHAD). My BHAD was to belong, in a family. I knew it wasn’t realistic. Who wants an 18 year old? Not many. But I still dreamed. I wrote my paper. I re-wrote it. I read it over and over again. I wept. The only assignment I never turned in, EVER, was this one. It was just too painful. It was one thing for me to know, but to share it with anyone else, that risked far too much disappointment.

Because really, when people say to dream, they don’t mean scary, costly, out of your mind dreams that allow God to actually be, well, GOD. They mean, safe dreams. Accomplishful dreams. Dreams that are doable and won’t stretch us much. Ones that you have within your power to attain. It’s been a hard road to figure out that what some say and what they mean can differ.

Well, I’ve been a few years out of college. The last couple years have been pretty tumultuous. My niche is sort of disrupted and I’m starting over in many ways. And I grieve the losses. Though I have EVERY reason not to dream and hope for a place to belong, a family to belong with, and eventually a family of my own. In the deepest parts of my heart, I still yearn for it. And I still believe it can happen. The shear fact that I have so many reasons to have lost hope and have not, that is one of the strongest indicators to me that this is truly a desire God has placed in me, and one that HE is sustaining.

And hoping and dreaming that such legitimate family and belonging is possible for myself and so many others is one of the few ways that keeps my heart soft. I know I will get hurt more times than I hope. But I think it’s worth it. I don’t want to be cold. I don’t want to be hardened. I’d rather weep for the losses then lose that hope that is as ingrained in me as water, in every fiber of my being.

Sometimes dreams are scary. They leave us vulnerable in the worst kind of way. We can get hurt. The sting is intense and long-lasting. But I want to keep dreaming and hoping, for myself and for so many others. Though our world may see things a certain way, our minds are being transformed not to the image of this world, but to Christ. And all of it, this is possible. Truly possible. Even when I’m too scarred and worn to proclaim it louder than a whisper. I still believe. Because I want to let the light win at the days end.

FMF Party: Dream

 

It is my hearts cry that those outside of the Christian subculture that we’ve created might be able to ask, “Even me?” and be welcomed with, “of course you.”

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Father’s Day is coming. It’s a harder one for more people than I think we understand. We celebrate fathers, but Father’s Day is also tempered with pain. Joy and pain, they often seem to go together. We have David and Bathsheba and Absolom and Tamar. I bet there’s far more Tamar’s in our church pews than we are aware of. Abuse, abandonment, neglect, coldness, shame in places where warmth, light, solidarity, and compassion were needed by fathers.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy- the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”- Brene Brown

The last few weeks have been filled with making choices that bring much fear. I have had appointments, visits, and engaged in conversations that flat out near terrified me. I’ve looked at systemic issues in my heart, made life altering decisions, and took steps to love, which riddled me with fear to points of being sick to my stomach. Just this morning, at an appointment a doctor asked me about a piece of my story, a painful hard piece, and I was reminded that fear can be good. It can protect us. It protected me. We SHOULD be afraid of some things. We OUGHT to have some fear in our lives, but sometimes fear gets distorted. Sometimes fear is misused. And too often, we carry the pain of that fear into our lives where it enmeshes into circumstances and relationships and inflicts pain and harm.

This morning I thought about Father’s Day and my step-father. He loved me, I think, in some way. But he did not really know how to love appropriately or well. He was hurting. He hurt so much that I can imagine he lived in a constant state of pain and agony. I do not know what caused him to be so calloused, so cold and angry that he would injure others, but he did. He had a history of rage and assault.

He abused many women. He abused many drugs. He created a small community of people who were terrified of him and his domineering authority over them. His crimes were horrendous. He was to be feared.

I want to care about this suffering world more than I care about my rights. It is my hearts cry that those outside of the Christian subculture that we’ve created might be able to ask, “Even me?” and be welcomed with, “of course you.”

And somewhere along the line all the avenues my step-father managed to cope with his rage caught up with him and he became ill. For 2 years he layed in a hospital bed, paralyzed on quadruple bypass. A couple weeks before Father’s Day I happened to have to spend the night in our van at the hospital overnight while my mother visited him for the night. I had not seen him at all since he first entered the hospital. No one ask if I wanted to see him. They just assumed it was clearly not a good idea. This was a fluke and I was not happy about having to spend the night at the hospital against my wishes. Mother didn’t have time to drop me off beforehand.

I used to see it in his eyes, the switch. Mostly he was cold, but sometimes the rage would be there. And those days and nights and weeks were the hardest. And every once in a while I’d see the sadness. And I hurt for my step-father in a very deep place inside of my little child heart. My little child heart knew his sadness as my own. In the midst of much chaos, neglect, and abuse, God created a gentle and compassionate heart inside of me.

Before I knew what I was doing, I was closing the van door. Walking into the hospital. I crept into the waiting room. No one was around. I turned the corner counting the room numbers. My heart was pounding. I was dizzy. I was afraid and fear gripped me, but I was also curious. I hardly knew what to expect. I glanced around his hospital room quickly to make sure no one was in there. I stepped into what I thought was an empty room, but as I got closer, there he was, my step-father, in his bed. Emaciated. Dozens of tubes coming out of him.

He looked at me, shocked. He couldn’t speak. He physically was unable. He couldn’t move. He was dying. And I looked into his eyes, such sadness. And I saw it, the lone tear fell from his eye as he looked at me.

Fear dissolved and my small teenage self filled with something I can only call the fullness of compassion. I whispered, “I forgive you. I’m okay. God loves me. He sees you. He loves you too. He wants you. He always has.”

And friends, his tears rolled down his sunken and bruised cheeks. I stood for a few more moments and walked back to the van, never to see my step-father again. You see, Jesus had gripped my heart a few weeks previously and a whole new world of faith existed for me, a world of  hope and possibility in a place that was once dead. I was more alive than I knew possible. And if we are only good news to each other, what good will that do for the Kingdom and our world? There’s real, living people in need of hope in their darkest and most painful moments.

Love conquers death. Love restores fear to it’s rightful place. Love corrects wrong, brings justice.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love conquerors a multitude of sin. Love never fails. Fathers may fail. Families may hurt us. The weight of life and living may fall very hard upon our tattering souls. But God, he takes the things that are little and weak, he takes the pieces of our fear filled lives that “ought not to have been that way”, and he breaths courage into them, life into them. He heals. He creates places where those outside can now enter in, as equals. And the lamb can rest with the lion.

Check it out:

FMF: Fear & TestimonyTuesday

On Celebrating the Other Mothers on Mother’s Day

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On Celebrating the Other Mothers on Mother’s Day:

There are parents without carseats, diapers or pacifiers. Mothers who do not have bedtime rituals or middle of the night feedings. Parents without hand-stamped necklaces or birthstone rings. These are the other mothers – the ones in our midst who are quietly hurting.

So today I tell you, parents of babies who are not in your arms. I remember you on Mother’s Day, and you are celebrated.

I celebrate you getting out of bed.

I celebrate you waiting to cry until after your newly pregnant friend leaves.

I celebrate you balling up your fist at the complaining of another parent.

I celebrate you enjoying a quiet evening with your spouse.

I celebrate you crying in the shower at the overwhelming unfairness.

I celebrate you scrolling thru Facebook, steeling yourself against adorable joyfilled photos of families.

I celebrate you going to church and the park and Target.

I celebrate you enduring tests and procedures and needles.

I celebrate you as you slump on the bathroom floor, allowing yourself to feel the cycle defeating you again.And as you rise, choosing to do it all again tomorrow, I celebrate you.

I remember your babies. They, and you, are not forgotten. They matter. You matter. And on Mother’s Day, you, mother, will be celebrated.

 

When someone trusts you with bits of their story, that’s cherished, sacred ground. That’s a crazy, brave move they are making to share a jacked up situation or moment or, like me, a whole entire year.

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I feel pretty broken these days, pretty bruised, pretty forgotten and unnoticed. The grief inside me feels crushing somedays and the grief around me in the lives of others weighs heavy on me too. I never knew struggle could bring so much depth and so much uneasiness to my heart. Everyone has their own advice to give when you feel grief, sadness, hurting. Others judge the validity of your hurt. Friends that once felt safe, seem far from it. Friends that once seemed a bit crazy, seem the most sane and empathetic. And sometimes I wonder when this next season of life will unfold. Sometimes it feels easier to forget that this year existed and white her out, but I haven’t. Not yet at least. My world has been flipped upside down in 2014. And I still think it’s only the beginning of my story.

I have wished this chapter of my story was blotted out; this whole year can just get up and walk herself out of my history. I went from being in ministry, to a caseworker, to being disabled. From busy to flat out pillow fluffer. From living for years below the poverty line, to finally having more than enough to get by, to zero income. I went from known and understood to unknown and very, very misunderstood.

I’ve received all sorts of well intentioned advice this year. I’ve struggled to respond with grace. I’ve struggled to recognize that no matter how much I am told “I understand” by most people, the fact is, they really don’t. And it’s usually not their fault. Worse off, I can feel the lack of understanding in responses. I’m sure you can too. It’s taken me a near full year to learn to respond with grace. And I’m still learning. I haven’t given up.

When someone trusts you with bits of their story, that’s cherished, sacred ground. That’s a crazy, brave move they are making to share a jacked up situation or moment or, like me, a whole entire year. Especially when the story hasn’t ended, when there’s no magnificent happy ending. Sometimes the story just hurts. That’s it.

Maybe they fumble for words, cry, and wear the heaviness of shame or hurt or misunderstanding. Maybe they’ve thought for many days or weeks or years about telling you, about telling anyone. Maybe they are desperate for connection, to feel beyond grief or shame or despair. And maybe you’re the 100th person they told and the grief still feels no lighter for them. Regardless, people’s stories are sacred ground and should be treated with care. People are fragile in these courageous places.

Sometimes our best attempts to comfort someone in their grief come from areas that bring out our own discomfort. We start to feel the grief in ourselves that’s been buried so deep for so long. So it’s uncomfortable for the one trying to give comfort. Sometimes it feels like we, ourselves, are hurting so much that we can’t possibly take on one more story, one more hurt, one more need. I’ve been there, too.

I am told from time to time that “for what it’s worth, I don’t think you’ll be in this space forever.” My friend, THAT  IS WORTH A LOT.

Sometimes God shows up in the big things, but more often than not, He comes in the small things. He shows up in the Mrs. Meyers soap smell that reminds you of a more gentle season. He shows up in the aged and wrinkled face of an older friend that you haven’t seen in a decade who has lived long enough to know the pain of ministry burn out. He reminds you that you are not forgotten when you meet a friend’s grandmother who has such soft skin that you get a momentary glimpse of your own grandmother that you’ve longed to be embraced by each day since she died.

Sometimes God shows up in big ways when our stories are shared. But I think more so, God shows up by teaching us how to listen, how to hug, how to be near others in their grief. He shows up in the silence of discomfort when we don’t know what to say. And He shows up in the space when we feel like we will be in this place forever. My friend, THAT IS WORTH A LOT. And maybe the most beautiful chapters in our lives will be the ones that don’t go unnoticed because they’ve been painful or shameful or have no happy ending. Maybe these are the stories that need to be shared more than all others.

I do have racial tendencies. And It unnerves me.

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It’s been just a few days since a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Michael Brown, a black unarmed teenager, was shot and killed on August 9, 2014 by Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis.

I don’t have much to say about any of this that hasn’t already been said or written. I think there’s enough people who have followed this case much more carefully who have more respectable opinions than I do. I think you should read their thoughts. I think you should ask questions and seek out and find out what you think based on the information released.

But I have learned one major point about myself through Ferguson. I have realized that no matter how much I have believed and want to believe that “white privilege” doesn’t exist, that it’s a dated and foreign concept, that I live in a society where opportunity sees no color, gender, religious affiliation, etc., I do have “privilege” just for being white. I have opportunities because of the color of my skin and I’ve not had to feel the personal affects of deeply painful parts of this country’s history because I am white. I am treated differently. And I am uncomfortable outside of my white race. But I am trying to embrace what’s uncomfortable.

It’s true that I have worked hard. It’s true I studied hard. It’s true I’ve been in some really hard places and experienced ugly things that not many, if any, of my “white” friends can relate to. I have often thought that experience-wise, I’d identify more with some black culture. I’ve half joked that I should have been born black, that I’d fit better in a different race than my own.

It’s true that I find a different type of solidarity in a non-white church and prefer that to a predominantly white church. It’s true that I don’t love white christian music and that I know many talented non white instrumentalists, but there seem to be proportionately more instrumentally talented musicians in white culture in America than other races.

I have white friends. I have black friends. I have hispanic and latino and asian/indian, and yes, even Texan friends (because we all know Texas has it’s own brand of people). I never considered myself racist or racially biased. But what I am finding is that I am. And it unnerves me.

I currently go to church in a neighborhood of Boston that has a high crime rate. I lived in this neighborhood too. We didn’t walk home after dark. The summer was the worst. You would hear gun shots and teen fights from bed most weeks. I shut my windows before it got dark or else the smell of pot would waft in. It was a weekly occurrence to find condoms near our house entrance. Sometimes, I would stay in my car if I came home after dark and there was a man walking near my house. I would lock the car door and pretend to be on the phone. Sometimes we’d call home ahead of time and ask a roommate to leave the first door unlocked (quick entrance, less key maneuvering). I was one of a few whites living in a predominately black neighborhood.

Seems like a safe plan right? I mean people regularly carry whistles and mase where I lived. Seems like the obvious thing to do would be to sit tight until it was safe to exit car AND enter house. But one day, I found myself getting out of the car when I could clearly see a guy walking near my house. He was a white guy. That was my first indicator that I am not “free” or “clean” from this racial issue, this “second standards” issue. I felt innately insecure in the dark with an unknown black man but not necessarily with a white man.

This has repeatedly jarred me as I’ve encountered the same feeling in myself, the same second standards, over and over again. I recently left a church that happened to be run by white people. I am not in a church that is a “black” church. There are white people and other races present too, but the lead pastor and most of the core team is black. I’m never sure how others feel about me being there.

I’m not sure what’s okay in this new church culture. Is it okay for me to hold a black baby? Will she recognize I’m white and cry? Is it okay for me to comment on a black woman’s new weave or braids or hair style? Can I touch it? Can I ask if it’s her hair? What if I say “is that real hair?” Because sometimes I get nervous and ask that too. How do I comment? How do I encourage? What do I say? I’m not sure how I feel about being hugged and kissed in church. Is it rude if I back away from that? Is that expected of me? I’ve never heard hip hop in church until now. Is it okay for me to move to it? Am I comfortable moving to it? Will I be looked at funny or mocked because I’m white?

Is it even okay for me to use “black” instead of African American? What if you aren’t American or identify as something besides African? I don’t know these things.

I am finding I am more comfortable greeting some white people in the church than new black people. I naturally navigate to whites. I lose my words sometimes with black people. I don’t know what to ask or say all the time. I don’t know any white friends who grew up doing “step” or jump rope competitions or hop scotch. I even eat different types of foods. I know how white people dress, eat, and often, even argue. I don’t know how black people do. I don’t know what’s culturally, socially accepted or valued or esteemed or desired. I don’t know what’s not. I went to an african baptism once, with native dress. I had no clue what to do.

Please be gracious in my attempts. I may fumble with words or say things that you think are rude, but please know I am trying.

In some ways it’s felt like a strange white identity struggle. But it’s the good kind of struggle. I believe the gospel means to wreck my cultural and racial identity. Being a unified Body, a unified Church, is really hard. It means I have to be willing to admit what I don’t know in order to start to understand and ask the right questions. I may have some experiences that don’t fit in my white “privilege” race, but I don’t know what it’s like to be black either, or indian, or chinese, or latino.

I didn’t grow up with my race and cultural identity being ostracized. In fact, I grew up with little awareness of my race and cultural identity. I am still unsure of what mine is.

I don’t have relatives who were slaves. I didn’t have to fight for equal education or access to other resources. I never wanted my skin to be lighter or darker in order to have more access to these resources. I don’t have ancestors who feared lynching or beatings or starvation or rape because of the color of their skin. I did not grow up with a heavy cultural awareness or appreciation for my race. I don’t even have strong national pride. But maybe that’s indicator enough. I grew up knowing little of slavery or the hangings that some black friends of mine did. I don’t know enough about black heritage and black culture. But I should know more. I want to know more. 

Realizing what I don’t know and actively being in places to learn is the only way to really begin to understand, to ask questions, and live this gospel life alongside my black brothers and sisters. They have a rich cultural and racial identity. They have every reason to question what happened in Ferguson. It goes much deeper than Ferguson. It goes much deeper than my thin white culture & “privilege” understands. But I want to understand. The gospel calls me out from my comfort, from my perceptions and understandings, and beckons me to forsake them and fight what’s countercultural to me. This is the good kind of struggle.

This is a gospel struggle.