Dear Ila, Jane, and Ruth,
Did you see what I did there? I totally mixed up your birth order. Ila, that one is for you, kid. Middle children tell me they often feel neglected. I’m a youngest child and require maximum attention, so I wouldn’t know.
Anyway, 2021 already started out with a myriad of historical events and we are only ten days in. There are certain things you will need to know about my life and the life you’re currently living and I want you to hear the raw, tough stuff from me. Here are some nuggets I hope you glean from the first ten days of this year:
1. What happened this week…
By the time you read this I will, Lord willing, be a pastor. That said, the church, like any organization run by humans, has its ups and downs. Simply put, God is God and we are not, so things get sketchy quickly.
Part of our condition as people is our propensity to latch onto things and make them a god. This is what happened with Donald Trump and a “prophet” named Q. On Wednesday, January 6th followers of these folks I mentioned, in the name of white supremacy and nationalism, terrorized our U.S. Capitol building while it was filled with lawmakers, during a global pandemic. Some people were maskless with guns, bombs, and other materials to hold people hostage in the name of stopping a vote that was nearly certified. People died, including officers who attempted to stop the evil surrounding them.
I’m missing details, but that was a decent summation. There were also confederate flags, horrific shirts and signs disparaging our Jewish brothers and sisters, and signs that read “Jesus Saves.” I want you to know I condemn any acts done in the name of God related to the events at the Capitol this week. Fortunately, the National Association of Evangelicals amongst many other ministers of the faith, came out against this violence. However, there are many churches who see nothing wrong with this extremism and those who applaud it. My advice in times such as these would be to look to leaders of color, women, and other folks on the margins who love the Lord and take your cues from them. During this entire year I’ve found their leadership to be honest, bold, and edifying.
2. Standing with survivors…
Needless to say, this violence disturbed many of us on a number of levels. Our family and friends of color and our Jewish friends were particularly hurt by the hate-filled symbols, apparel, and signs on display Wednesday. I am glad to say your school and district, led by women of color, did a phenomenal job in addressing these atrocities and creating space for students to process last week’s events.
It is our duty as people who follow Jesus to live out his example. Jesus did not give his life so people might live in maximum comfort, basking in earthly riches. Rather, he called us to a radical love of others, especially those on the margins. In the Bible and in our current context, those who are oppressed are usually the poor, women, and people of color.
Standing with folks on the margins and speaking out will not grow your popularity. But speaking truth to power is the right thing to do. The apostle Paul calls the Ephesians in chapter 1 verses 15-23 to earnestly ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and understanding and that is what I ask of you. I want you to ask for Spirit-led understanding so you would wisely and courageously act upon the knowledge God gives you to create a beautiful witness to the person of Jesus.
3. Triggers for survivors…
As a survivor of various kinds of violence toward my body I want you to know how difficult weeks like this are for people like me who’ve been through unspeakable things. The folks at the Capitol building remind me of the people who took advantage of my body, mind, and soul. In fact, some of those folks continuously purport this destructive propaganda.
I could barely sleep this week. I let go of some relationships this year because of their deep, idolatrous lust for our current president and the “prophet” Q. The assaults on my character through text, email, and social media rehashed so much of my past trauma. This is a reminder to you that it is okay to have relational boundaries with family, friends—anyone who does not treat you as if you’re made in the image of God. This is not cancel culture, but soul care. Take exquisite care of yourself. We cannot “love our neighbor as ourself” if we don’t attend to healthy boundaries with others.
Another reason I mention triggers is because empathy is so important. My therapist said it best when he noticed the massive lack of empathy folks displayed during this pandemic. Empathy helps us connect to others. It leads us to right relationship with one another. Whenever you interact with someone at a store, restaurant, on the street, remember that you have no idea what this person has been through. Let the loving kindness of God be your compass while interacting with people.
I will stop right here because I am exhausted. I adore you and I pray you will become women who stand firm in truth. My heart beams with pride knowing how well you love God and people already. Your generation gives me so much hope. I can’t wait to see what you do with all of the intelligence, courage, and creativity God placed within you.