I had been composing a blog in my mind while pruning the branches of my weeping cherry tree, a blog about white privilege and all the cross-cutural training I’ve received through the years from Universities, scripture, the organization I work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship or being willing to engage in difficult conversations about ethnicity with friends who look different than me. It was a blog that was going to explore the privileges I have simply because I’m white- even something simple like coming from a family of plant loving gardeners who have passed along their knowledge of dividing hostas, putting in sod and what kinds of berries are poisonous. A privilege that got passed along to me because my family has owned homes, land and earned degrees and master gardening certificates over the genearations that enable them to know a rhododendron from a rose bush. Then I checked Facebook and began to see all the posts about the Zimmerman verdict- posts of anger, mourning, indifference, confusion, resentment, or the lack of posts- silence. Suddenly my mental blog about gardening seemed quaint and philosophical.
During the following days I thought, prayed and read responses like these from friends across the country. I drove my six year old son to swim lessons past the homes of his school friends who are mostly black, waving to them as they rode their bikes down the street. I thought about Reuben growing up with his friends to eventually be teenagers who will walk to the convenience store to get a drink and a snack and hang out at our local park. I saw my own son and wondered if I would need to have a conversation with him someday about one of his friends being senselessly shot. I felt like I saw Trayvon everywhere after the verdict. I saw black parents who would have to go to sleep each night wondering whether their son would be safe walking home from school. I went to bed with tears slipping down my face feeling sad and afraid for these sons and wondering what kind of future they will have in this country.
Why would I cry? I don’t know either of these men- I won’t have to have ““the talk” with Reuben about what to do when approached by a police officer, there are tons of reasons why logically I wouldn’t need to cry over this verdict. Yet I did.
One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is “Pain is God’s megaphone to us.” I also hate this quote because I would rather ignore pain, muscle through it, or plead to God to take it away. Usually I’ve thought of it in a personal context- “God, take away my pain, why are you letting this happen to me?” But in light of the Zimmerman verdict- Lewis’ words have made me ask about what this quote means in a communal context- “pain is God’s megaphone to us.” If members of my community are in pain and I don’t understand why perhaps I need to wake up to something God wants me to see, experience or understand. It’s tempting for white folks to want to move on, shy away, ignore, justify why something does or doesn’t happen because of ethnicity. It can feel uncomfortable, scary, vulnerable and confusing even embarrassing to talk about ethnic differences. Yet these are things I get to choose to engage in as a white woman rather than be forced to deal with them everyday.
I can’t help but wonder what God is trying to communicate through the pain felt in so many communities across this country- Trayvon’s family, Zimmerman’s community, and in the lives of friends and strangers, politicians and parents. I cry because there is more pain yet to be experienced to come to a place where Jesus will continue to tear down the dividing walls of hostility and make his peace among his people. I cry because I have to believe there is something better than the vitriolic arguments and opinions about ethnicity and gun control being spewed out in every corner of the interwebs. I cry because I see too many Christians caring about “me and mine” rather than “us and our body” in Jesus. I cry because I can’t imagine the painful loss of a son. We are at a moment where we will choose whether or not we will listen to the pain around us. Will we listen?
Jessica Fick blogs at jessicafick.com, lives in Cleveland, OH and works for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as an outreach coordinator. This is her first guest post for Wordy Nerdy.
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