“I have asked my friend, fellow-writer, and marketing assistant Christine Bierma to write a guest-post for me today. I think you’ll see that her recent experiences have made her uniquely qualified to write about the appalling racial injustice that we’re seeing in America.” ~Lynn
I attended my first political rally in 47 years last week. It was in my hometown, just a few miles up the street. I read about it on Facebook and felt compelled to attend even though I was only 10 days post-op from knee surgery. Why? I went because God introduced me to the most wonderful group of loving Christian women I’ve ever met about 2 years ago. And they happen to be black.
Ella, “Peaches” was the first lady I met. She had intentionally sought out a primarily white church and attended a Bible study there. If you ask her retell the story about her experience, she will tell you that it took two weeks to summon up the courage to walk through the doors. She knew she would be the only black woman in the room. However, she has an incredible ear to hear God’s voice and his instruction was “to go.” As she sat in a room full of women who she didn’t know and who didn’t look like her she heard God yet again instruct her to speak.
Speak to the woman sitting to her right and ask her to teach at the yearly conference Peaches’ women’s ministry was holding later in the year. The woman she asked to speak was my best friend.
Later that week, my friend asked me if I would come for lunch and meet Peaches. My friend was unsure how she should react to a woman who spoke so powerfully about hearing and obeying God’s voice. It was over chicken salad and lemonade that I met and listened to Peaches tell me about her vision for a women’s group that included white women and black women and hispanic woman; women of all races and colors. She had a vision that one day, this group would come together in unity and praise God together. She was already leading a group of black women from her church who called themselves, Daughters of Grace. Now, she felt she needed to find some white women to join them. And that she told us, is where we came in.
Instantly I was mesmerized by her passion and her love for God. I never heard anyone speak about race so plainly and I never dreamed of being part of a multiethnic group before, in fact, most of my upbringing was about segregation. I’m not sure my community was inherently racist, but it had been built on the principle of separatism. I grew up in a Dutch family, went to a Dutch conservative church, went to a Dutch school, a Dutch college, married a Dutch man. My whole life had been defined by being around people who looked like, thought like, lived like and worshipped just like me. Even so, Peaches had captured my heart in a way I was not prepared for with her fervor and the way she spoke about the Holy Spirit. It was compelling, unfamiliar and I wanted to know more.
The first meeting my friend and I attended was at Peaches’ church in a town about 45 minutes away from where I lived. I was nervous not knowing what to expect. As I pulled up to the church, a young black man was standing outside the building and as I looked at him, I realized I was afraid. I am ashamed to even write about my fear because of what I know now. Now when I see this man, I know his name and have held his children. But at the time, I was suddenly confronted with the racism that I didn’t even know existed in my heart. Somewhere during my life I had learned, accepted and believed that black men were dangerous. I do not have one reason, not one experience that led me to believe that except that at that moment, I couldn’t deny it.
The night at the church was filled with many firsts for me. It was the first time I was one of only two white women in a room. I was very aware of my race and that I did not look like everyone else. It didn’t help that Peaches stood up and told the whole room that she had brought two guests with her, as if everyone there hadn’t already realized who we were! As we sat there and watched, listened, worshiped and prayed my fear began to fade away. I was still hesitant to let down my guard but that didn’t stop the group from embracing me. They hugged, prayed over and prayed for me with genuine love. It was overwhelming. Although I didn’t understand everything that I saw or heard that night, the Holy Spirit was evident and powerful.
At the end of the night we stood in a circle around the tiny sanctuary and linked arms and sang, “There’s a sweet sweet sprit in this place, and I know that it’s the spirit of the Lord” As I looked around the room at all of the beautiful women and listened to them sing I was compelled to share that experience with more of my white friends. I saw and felt a unity there that I had never known before. God was so evident in that room that night but in a way that was totally new and different for me and everyone in that room. He was showing us a facet of his beauty we had never seen.
That is the story of how I became a member of Daughters of Grace. The story of how God introduced me to a community of beautiful believers who have welcomed me and my whole family and included us with open arms.
It is because of those relationships that I went to CVS last week and bought a poster board and spent an hour writing out Black Lives Matter. It is because of those relationships that I limped through my town’s city center with my son and my husband and said the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and took time to think about the injustice that many of my friends experience daily that I never have had to confront or name.
A few days after the protest I was on a Zoom call with the board members of Daughters of Grace and was asked to lead the group in a closing prayer. I took some time to tell my sisters that I loved them and that my heart broke for their sons, husbands and nephews. That I was worried about their safety and that I was sorry that I had never thought about it before. Then I asked about their thoughts and experiences.
Peaches told us that she is afraid every time one of her sons is pulled over. She is afraid one of them will say something that will put them in danger. I’ve thought about that for days now. I have never been afraid that one of my sons would be in danger when interacting with a police officer. I’ve never been afraid that someone would call the cops on them. Ever. Her story has made me think about how different our experiences are and how unfair that is.
In John 15 Jesus commands us to love one another and then he goes a lot further and says, “greater love has no one than this; to lay down your life ones friend.”
What is the answer to injustice and racism? Love is.
What I have been learning with my sisters in Daughters of Grace is that I can not truly love you if I don’t know you. Once I get to know you, you are no longer a stranger. Once I get to know you, I am no longer afraid of our differences. Once I look into your eyes and listen to your hopes and dreams, once I meet your family and hug your babies, I am no longer afraid. And even though we look different and we may worship differently and we may speak differently, we are no longer strangers, we are now friends. If you are my friend and I see that you are being mistreated, misunderstood, misrepresented and that your power, your voice, your life is not being valued, when I see that, I can’t help but stand. I can’t help but cry. I can’t help but pray and long for a better tomorrow. Because I love you!
As I look at the life of Jesus, he never met anyone he didn’t want to get to know more, unless it was someone misusing their power. He had no time for people who believed they were better than others. What Jesus did have time for were those who were marginalized, forgotten, poor, broken, abused and misunderstood. He went out of his way to be with people who didn’t look like him, didn’t act like him and didn’t come from the same place as him. He loved people so deeply that he would stop everything he was doing to listen. And today, I think that is what we as Christians are called to as well.
When I say “we,” what I mean is those of you who look like me. White people. We need to listen. Listen without talking. Listen to what our fellow brothers and sisters of color are saying about their experiences.
Assume a posture of humility for a moment. Humility will lead us to reconciliation and unity and love. Love is the answer.
Today, would you take a moment to ask yourself, what would it mean to love like Jesus did?
To read more from Christine Bierma visit her blog at www.christinebierma.com