When Prayers Aren't Enough Part 2

This is part 2 of a piece I started last week – which began with my shredded heart.

As I was writing this piece, I was reminded that I used to eat my pain away – stuff it down – first with cookies and ice cream and eventually, if the pain was bad enough, compulsively with foods I didn’t even like.  I’ll write more about that journey next week, because I know a few of you also sometimes use eating – or not eating – as a way to deal with the challenges life throws.  If that’s of interest to you (or someone you know) and you aren’t already on my mailing list, you can do that here.
Last week I told you about how my heart was shredded by news of another violent arrest of a young Black teen.  And how I paused, moved into and then past the heartbreak and overwhelm and figured out what my next step was…which was a combination of hiking, writing and doing performance reviews of my staff at the university where I work. 
And, as it turns out, part of my part is to send an email to the sheriff and the state attorney in relation to Lucca’s case.
By Saturday night Shaun King had posted information on who to contact to support Lucca.  I woke on Sunday morning, Easter Sunday (a day when Christians celebrate Life overcoming Death – seems appropriate somehow) clear on my next step.  I will send an email in support of Lucca, but I won’t ask that the officers be fired, as Shaun King is understandably encouraging people to do.  That’s his part and I’m not criticizing it.  But my part is different.
My part is to write and suggest that the whole police department take the implicit bias test and invest in anti-bias and anti-racism training.  The WHOLE DEPARTMENT.  Because these men did not act in a vacuum.  And firing them might make it seem that the problem has been solved without requiring the rest of us to take ownership for how all of us are complicit in supporting the racist structures and ideas that lead to these kinds of actions.
Not that the individuals shouldn’t be held accountable.  Absolutely they should.  And so should the department.  And so should all of us.
Taking responsibility and calling for justice doesn’t preclude the need for mercy and grace.  That is, if we want to get to healing.
Because being human means that we are often amazingly blind and unaware of the great harm we are doing to others – unaware even when we do it intentionally, like when a police officer beats someone because he thinks it’s justified. 
And unintentionally like when I refer to my dear friend Jess as “she” when the pronoun that aligns with her identity is “they” because my brain has not yet formed a new groove that leaves room for their authentic gender identity.
And through our inaction.  Like…well, you can probably fill in the blank with your own examples here.
I don’t know about you, but as I sit in this messy place of heartbreak and love, I need to hear stories from places like Corrymeela – a community dedicated to reconciliation in a land (Northern Ireland) that was torn apart by decades of violence they now refer to as “The Troubles.”  A place in which people from both sides have gathered.  In the On Being interview, Paidrig O’Tuama tells the story of one of these gatherings in which a man who had been active in the violence said, “I never murdered anyone. I never murdered anyone.  I only killed legitimate targets.”  And another in the room said, “Well then I guess I would have been a legitimate target for you.”  And the miracle is that the conversation didn’t stop there.  At least it didn’t sound like it did.  It sounded like they stayed in the conversation and kept seeking understanding, healing and reconciliation.
How in the world do we move past this kind of pain and violence? 
For my part, I am seeking to follow in the footsteps of people like Amanda Kemp and Erika Fitz (see last week’s post for more on what I’ve learned from them) and Paidrig O’Tuama.  And Paidrig puts his money where his mouth is in another way that hits very close to home for me as a former evangelical Christian.  He’s building connections across the divide between Christians who believe that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is sin and those for whom that stance feels like a complete erasure of who they are – and often also a (usually fatal) blow to their faith in God.
On top of having lived through “the Troubles” in Ireland, Paidrig O’Tuama is a gay Christian priest and poet who was put through horrible suffering at the hands of the Christian church because of his sexual orientation.  And yet he has chosen to stay Christian.  He believes that there are people who believed he was inherently sinful because he was gay, so sinful that he needed exorcism, who also genuinely loved him.  He has chosen to show up for reconciliation and healing with those who want to show up for it too - people who are (in his words) “cautious” about broadening their acceptance of a range of sexual orientations and gender identities, but want to walk the path of understanding and reconciliation. Gosh there are so few places in American Christianity where we can have that kind of listening conversation across beliefs about sexuality.  I personally haven’t been in one yet.  The issue is so emotionally and politically charged for us – not unlike immigration, and women’s reproductive health.
We need safe spaces and skilled leaders and love and prayer and listening and forgiveness (and personally I need prayer and trees and earth and water and connection with people who are on the same messy journey.)
And we DON’T need do this kind of healing work with people who aren’t interested.   That would be unsafe.  We don’t need to do it on the days when what we need most is to protect our own hearts.  In fact, I don’t even believe all of us are necessarily called to do the work of racial healing and reconciliation.  I think it’s possible that some are just called to do the more confrontive, angry, speaking-truth-to-power work.
And (caution to white people and men and heterosexual Christians especially here) we CERTAINLY don’t have the right to require people “on the other side” to explain to us why they are angry or heart-broken or to require them to tell us their stories of being harmed by unjust structures, unkind words and unwelcoming spaces – or by us.  We don’t get to do that with people who haven’t consented to being part of our learning journey.  We don’t get to judge those who don’t want to.  What I think we do then is assume that they are making the exact right choice for the health of their own hearts, for their own healing, for the work they are called to do which might not be to educate us in this moment – or ever. 
And if they do choose to tell us their stories, we do not have the right to require them to defend their point of view. 
And if we do show up for this work coming from the side of having been wounded – we don’t get closer to healing by judging the “other side” as evil, ignorant and wrong, or dehumanizing them – as is being done regularly in my country by (again, my people) liberal Christians and liberal Democrats in relation to conservative Christians and Republicans.
To take this path we must know that understanding doesn’t mean agreeing.  It doesn’t mean condoning. 
But to understand each other might actually help us to heal.  Paidrig O’Tuama and others have found that to be the case. 
And I believe part of my part in this work for race and gender justice and healing is to walk this path too – not that I know how, but I’m learning.
It might be part of your part too.  I don’t know.  But I know we all have some part to play.  And if you’re still here, I’m guessing you know that too.  So, I hope you’ll pause, offer yourself some kindness and compassion, and listen for a hint of what your part is. Your part in bringing more joy and justice into the world. 
It might be very different than what you expect. 
If you need help figuring out your next step, I’d love to be a part of that journey.  I’ve got a new course coming up called Less Stress, More Justice that might be a great place for you to start so keep your eyes open for more info!!!  Or you can sign up to talk with me here (see below for what to expect on the call.)  Or just reply to this email with your questions and I’ll do my best to help you.
And if you know someone would be encouraged by this post, would you please send it their way?   Or share it through Facebook which you can do by accessing it here.
Here’s to thriving.  And equity.  And much healing.
P.S.  I’ve strengthened my commitment to ensuring that all of my marketing supports full consent on the part of anyone who says yes.  So I want you to know in advance what you can expect if you sign up for a free call: 1) we talk about what you’re longing for, the change you want in the world and in your life; 2) we talk about what’s in the way; 3) If I think I think working with me might help you, I’ll ask if you’d like to hear about options and if you say yes I tell you about them. If not, we’ll talk about another tiny action step you can take to get yourself moving toward the goals you just clarified for yourself.  4) If you’re saying you want to work with me, but are struggling ONLY around the cost, I’ll ask if you’d like help sorting through whether it’s really about the money or just old patterns getting in the way (which sometimes it is, but not always.)  If you say yes, then we’ll keep talking.  If you say no then we won’t.  Cuz that’s how consent works! 5) You’ll decide whether working with me is a good next step for you or not.  If yes, you’ll put some money behind your decision within a set period of time (but not on the call.)  Because I’ve found it doesn’t help anyone to keep wavering long-term in trying to decide.  The scared parts of us start working hard to stop us at that point – and you want that energy to be moving you forward!