“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the Rebellion.” – Hebrews 3:15
This verse is my verse for the year. I usually don’t use the part of the verse where it says “as you did in the rebellion,” because it brings up the whole history that doesn’t always relate. You see, when the people of Israel fled Egypt, God showed them miracle after miracle, leading them through the sea, through the desert, providing food and water, everything they needed!
But when they got to the land that God promised them, they sent spies to see what kind of people lived there. Twelve spies went out, and what they saw was a land full of giants, and full of amazing abundance. Of the twelve that brought back the message, ten of them said “we’ll never be able to conquer this place” and only two remembered how God had shown his power. Everyone lost heart when they heard the kinds of obstacles they were up against, and they refused to enter the land God had promised.
My word for the year is “Heed.” To heed means to listen and to respond to what you hear with action. In this moment, I believe we stand individually and collectively at the border of a promised land. We can imagine the abundance of a future where all people have dignity, opportunity, and can live without fear. But many of us focus on the obstacles between us and that future. We see our broken education system, we see the way we build our cities to widen gaps in privilege, we feel how powerless we are against the evil in our systems. But don’t forget the faithfulness of God, who has brought us this far. Don’t you believe that God will finish the work of correcting injustices that he started?
I ♥ NY
Like many people, I have watched in horror the videos showing the police department of New York City ramming vehicles into protesters. I have heard that there has been a brutal response in this city. This city famous for the Statue of Liberty and the opportunity that represents, for Wall Street, and Harlem and the Bronx. It should come as no surprise that the economic center of the free world is one of the places on earth with the worst demonstrations of injustice. This is my country, and we have believed that economic prosperity comes at the cost of exploitation. We have believed that opportunity is something that you must take from someone else. We have put our trust in our economic prosperity, quite literally setting up the cast image of a bull in the sacred temple of prosperity.
But what can I do?
If you are white like me, I want to share with you some tools that have helped me in dismantling my wrong beliefs. Here are three ways to approach conversations in the weeks and months ahead.
As you move into new spaces, I invite you to listen to the stories, the experiences, and the pleas of those who have been treated differently because of their ethnicity. Listen to them, read what they write, watch the films they make. Allow yourself to dwell in the difficult thoughts and emotions that spring up.
Notice your knee-jerk reactions, and wonder why they are there. Any defensiveness you feel, wonder what you are defending yourself against.
Meditate on passages of scripture that talk about justice. Read the words of Lamentations and notice the parallels to our modern context. Find the words, stories, quotes, and verses that break your heart and weep.
Understand your own place in upholding unjust systems, and repent – in words – before God. Like David, ask God to wash you from the guilt of bloodshed.
When you are in difficult conversations about race, privilege, and injustice, lean into the discomfort. Allow the other person’s perspective to be the centre of the conversation, and de-centre your own feelings, thoughts, and experiences. What this means is becoming aware when you start doubting what someone else says. “No, she couldn’t have said that. She’s so nice!” or “I think you’re making this a bigger deal than it needs to be.”
Notice the thoughts, and remember that your own experience is not everyone’s experience.
A new world – of justice, mercy, and right relationships with our neighbours – is stretched out in front of us, just over this mountain. Today we have heard God’s voice. Join me in following him into this unknown territory.