My friend Katie and I talk about how sometimes circumstances in our lives "kick the bucket" of our hearts and cause what's already in there to spill out. It's not that the ugly wasn't there all along--it just hadn't been exposed.
I feel like the events of the last few weeks have kicked our nation's collective bucket and our mess or racial disunity (which has been there so long) is spilled out in front of us. We can tiptoe around it, ignore it, throw blame, or stop, take a long look, and ask God how we can help with the clean-up.
I was raised in a pretty diverse environment, but in the end I'm realizing that I don't know what it feels like to be an African American in this country, or a person of any color for that matter. I've watched African American friends in my church and online grieve in a way I didn't understand. So I've been challenged to learn and listen. Do you want to join me?
The best way to start is probably to sit down with our friends that look different than us and ask them some questions that will probably make us squirm:
- How do you feel about what's going on in our country right now?
- Have you ever been made to feel like your life doesn't matter?
- Are you scared for your family members?
- What does it feel like to be the minority in this country/city/church?
- I appreciate this post ("Dear White Christian Women") by Jess
- Chrystal Evans Hurst and Ashley Irons provide some really practical ideas how we can build bridges in our every day lives in this podcast ("What I want my white friends to know)
- I learned some important things from this Podcast ("The one where we model the awkward race conversation") over at this blog.
- Jenny Allen and Tasha Morrison talk about unity in the church and break down the idea of having to "pick sides" in this podcast here
We have so much to gain if we're ready to calm our emotions and bear each other's burdens. That's what the family of God is called to, because we belong to each other.Unlike the mamas in the podcasts above, I don't have to have the gut-wrenching conversations with my son in which I have to explain that some people might not value his life, so he has to be ultra-submissive and calm with police officers if he ever has an encounter--so he can just come home to me.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:24-26
I just don't have to think that way.
But if I want to be a part of making those kinds of conversations a thing of the past in our country, I can start, first in my own heart, and then by talking to my kids about race.
And I'm talking about everyday, as-we-go conversations (complete with plenty of inappropriate kids comments) along with intentional education.
"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV)Now and over the years as we raise up these children in our home, I hope we talk about these things:
Let's talk about how people are valuable because God knit them together Himself.
Every person came together in the mind and heart of God. Think of the care you've taken to raise your own children, how much you've invested in them. Multiply that by the greatness of God's love for His image-bearers (see Genesis 1:27). Yes, we're sinful, fallen, broken, but none of that changes the core of our identity.
It should grieve us greatly when a person is seen as less than God sees him or her. And maybe we need to toss this idea that God is colorblind--or that we should be. Our color is part of the way that God has knit us together. Because He delights in color and diversity, so can we!
Let's talk about our country's history and how we're still entwined in it.
Race will always be a part of our family's story, so we're going to talk about it. My kids already know that they are a mix of black and white. They know that some of their ancestors were slaves and some were probably slaveowners (you can read all about it in this book: The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White). Other ancestors were immigrants.
Let's talk about the sinful things people have done to each other in this country (and many others around the world) and how, even though we don't do them anymore, we're still affected by them--in our neighborhoods, our cities, the workplace--and in our hearts.
To do this, we've got to go off-textbook with our understanding of history. There are some recommended resourced HERE that you might want to explore. Knowing our history helps us understand how we got where we are today.
Let's talk (in age-appropriate ways) about the things going on in the news. Ask them how they think people are feeling and why they might feel that way.
Let's talk about how everyone has a story worth knowing
The way we look is one part of our story. Each human is a fascinating mix of their family background, their talents, their interests, their experiences, and all the other things that make you YOU. Let's learn to seek out each other's stories.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:1-8 ESV)In our church, we call this seeking out of another's story "rocking Philippians 2" from the passage above.
Let's talk about how different is fascinating, not intimidating, and give them them plenty of opportunities with "different."
I remember when I returned from Thailand, an elderly woman I worked with asked me very sincerely, "What are they like over there? From the pictures their eyes all look so vacant."
"Well, they're people just like us," I said. "Yes, their culture is completely different, but they love their families and struggle and worry and enjoy life just like we do."
I realized that my friend didn't have much experience with people outside her own culture, so to her, Asians were so mysterious. I think this is true for many Americans, who are raised in a sort of cultural bubble.
Let's help our kids out of that bubble. I think the more our kids are exposed to different, the more they'll realize that people are different, but really not different, in the most fundamental ways. Then they can learn to delight in different instead of being intimidated by or afraid of it.
When we know people who look different than us personally, it's easier us to empathize with other human beings. When we see a story about someone like Philando Castille on the news, we think of how he reminds us of our friend Tasha's younger brother Marcus who ran track and played the drums in church, not just another black guy.
"Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor." James 3:17-18 (The Message)It takes work to get to know people different than us. It takes a willingness to live with "awkward." It takes a willingness to feel like an outsider. If you're white like me, you've probably spent most of your life in the majority culture, so it feels strange to be in situations where you're the minority.
Let's talk about how our silence in the face of wrong equals agreement.
The first time I heard the "n" word used was in a car with a group of kids driving me home from a high school event when I first moved to North Carolina. "That's where that n- cop lives," the teenage boy said (the cop was our neighbor). I didn't say anything, just burst into tears when my mom met me at the door.
The next time I heard it was in the dark at a sleepover with some girls from school. It was tucked into a racist joke. I dug deeper into my sleeping bag and didn't say a word.
Later in college, I was getting a ride home from a friend when we stopped for gas in a mostly black neighborhood. She made some comment about the "n's." Finally I found my voice. "That really offends me," I said. She gave me a surprised look, as if the possibility hadn't crossed her mind.
I was surprised to realize that my silence would have communicated complicity. That's very sobering to me.
So let's talk our kids through what they can say if they see or hear something they know is wrong. Let's give them the words they can use so they're prepared.
What if we raised a generation of kids who really valued others, especially the marginalized, so that no one would have to question if their lives mattered to us?
The (capital C) Church has a HUGE advantage when it comes to racial unity.
Friends, I don't know what's going to happen in our country, but I know that there is great hope for the Church (the body of believers). Ya'll (I've lived in the South long along to use that, right?), we have the same Spirit. I know that doesn't make this easier, but it makes us empowered in a way the outside world can't imagine.
"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." (Col 3:9-11 ESV)"Here," where we're made new and being made new through Christ, we are ONE.
Because we've been forgiven, we know how to forgive. Because we're so well-loved, we know how to love well. Because God is so patient with us, we can be patient with each other. Because God overcame huge obstacles to love us, we can do what it takes to love each other well.
So, what are some practical things we can do?
Okay, so the most practical, right now thing we can do is to daily submit to the Holy Spirit and let Him and His word have their way in us.
"And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col 3:16 ESV)Let's also daily make little disciples in our home and ask God to transform their hearts and lives through His Spirit.
Then, we can try a few of these other practical ideas in our homes:
- Read books about a variety of people and cultures. We like this simple mostly-picture book ("A Country Far Away") and this one too ("People").
- Expose your children to different languages.
- Put yourself in situations where you're the minority.
- Support a child from a different country through and organization like Compassion. Write to them and pray for them. Know their names. Think of them as part of your family.
- Talk well of people of different colors.
- Watch the upcoming Olympics and talk about the different races you observe. Talk about how beautiful people are who look differently than you do. We liked this Karen Katz book, "The Colors of Us."
- Watch Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speach" on MLK Day and talk about our history.
- Talk to people who look different than you in the grocery store (but try not to be creepy).
- Go to or visit a church that is diverse.
- Visit local international restaurants or markets.
- Go to the park and talk to people from different cultures or abilities. Don't shy away from them just because they don't speak English or have a disability. Talk to your kids about them. Introduce yourself and your child. Ask them questions.
- Talk about your own family's history. Unless you're Native American, we all come from somewhere else.
- Expose them to music and dance from different cultures. Pull up a Christian Gospel station on Pandora.
- Maybe it sounds silly, but buy your kids baby dolls of different colors.
- Invite new friends into your home. Get involved in an international exchange student ministry if you live near a college or university. Most are looking for families to help students learn about American culture.
- Check our some more ideas for talking to your kids about racism at this post HERE
- PRAY with your kids for our nation!
If this kind of talk makes you uncomfortable, remember that God is so gracious and He longs to be merciful to all of us sinners. If God shines light on something sinful in your heart, He is only being loving to expose it. Let's let Him graciously heal us.And let's show the same grace to our kids as we try to teach them these things.
"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." (Isaiah 30:18 ESV)
Although I know this is weighty subject, I hope it is helpful. I know people have all kind of feelings on this subject. I love the advice Chrystal Evans Hurst shared in her podcast. She encouraged us to have REAL conversation within REAL relationships (rather than emotion-driven online "conversations"). So friends, let's all do that, okay? But first, let's pray.
"Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9-10 ESV)Now it's time to break out your variety of skin-toned crayons and color this Bible verse coloring page from Psalm 139:13! You can download yours in Spanish HERE and in English HERE (or by clicking on the images below).*
*I'm so happy for you to enjoy my coloring pages and printables for your personal (not commercial) use! All artwork and photos are ã Marydean Draws. Please share freely by posting a link back to this blog post. Please don't repost the actual file. If you share this, you're awesome (!), and as a courtesy, please link back to this post and not the PDF file. Any other uses, just ask! Thank you!!