Grace Brings Us Together
As followers of Jesus we have a responsibility to understand the whole picture of our history, including those parts that have impacted the people around us at work. Unfortunately for some of us, myself included, we’ve only been told parts of the story of what our Black sisters and brothers have endured. If I am being real honest many of those parts I understand now to be romanticized.
Like many of us, I was confronted with systemic racism in the year of our Lord 2020. Between the news headlines and the social media posts of lament I was met with an overwhelming cognitive dissonance resulting in a profound sadness and introspection that pushed me to consider what do I NOT know about Black History. How could that change my understanding of the story I’m living today?
So I started reading about Black history from Christian Black authors who presented a different perspective than what I am used to. They shared stories I had never heard taught in the classroom. One story in particular really rocked my world―The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
Tulsa Oklahoma was the home to one of the most affluent African American communities in the early 1900’s. It was nicknamed “Black Wall Street” because of its thriving business district filled with black lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs despite the Jim Crow law of the land. The community of Greenwood was home to over 15,000 residents and 600 Black-owned businesses that were completely demolished by an angry mob of white supremacists that chose to allow fear to motivate their violence. 300 people were killed in the attacks not to mention the businesses that couldn’t recover from the demolition of hate. An entire legacy of Black history was gone overnight affecting the lives and future of Black families impacted by this event.
This story alongside countless others broke my heart. My soul grew weary. I knew the world was broken, but I could not fathom the depth of its brokenness. I felt guilty because I realized I was benefitting from a system that oppressed my brothers and sisters of color. I could feel fear starting to fester inside me and I could not let it win with silence or complicity any longer. I felt Holy Spirit nudge me to reach out to a close friend of mine. So I texted her:
“Hey girl, You’ve been on my mind lately and I want you to know that my heart is breaking over the recent events in the news. I want to learn more and to help with the change that so desperately needs to happen where I can. I am so sorry. If there is anything I can do or if you need a friend to listen and lament with you, I want you to know, I am here! I love you sister!”
This was the beginning of my journey to understanding the Black experience. Her gratitude in response overwhelmed me. She opened up about her feelings of despair and betrayal from friends who ignored the pain she was going through due to the news. Her message ended with these heartfelt words: "Thank you for recognizing the situation, thank you for acknowledging its impact on me, and thank you for caring."
It was in this moment I realized that grace brought us together.
Grace that erases fear.
Grace that sets the table for mutual submission in hard conversations strengthening relationships.
Grace that allows space to listen and understand the lived experience of someone who looks different than me.
Grace that compassionately guides me to consider areas of life where I may have benefitted from the system and wrestle with the next step forward in proactively making change in the world.
Grace is not passive. Grace actively breaks down divides and actively calls us to build full life in the communities that surround us.
Grace may lead us into spaces that make us uncomfortable, but it is in the discomfort where we grow in our understanding. In the raw and hard conversations that force us to examine how our past, present and future affects another’s lived experience requires humility, empathy and compassion that only God can provide through His grace.
As Christ-followers, we are called to die to ourselves each day and seek out the greater good for all, as servants dedicated to the mission of building the Kingdom in our current reality. When we choose to follow Christ, the “I” goes away and the “WE” rises to the top.
Ephesians 4:32 says:
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Without this heart posture unity is impossible. With God all things are possible!
In the workplace, promoting unity can be challenging, but it is important to recognize and appreciate the unique qualities and perspectives each individual brings to the table. A next right step towards this appreciation is to educate yourself through listening to voices that look different, sound different and have lived different life experiences than you. This could be as simple as inviting a co-worker out to lunch to get to know them or intentionally seeking out ways to expand your understanding through a different perspective.
Below I have listed a few of my favorite resources that launched my educated pursuits. I am still learning, but there is one thing I do know: life is complex. There are over 7 billion, unique, lived experiences in the world―yours is only one of them. I pray this list inspires you to take your next right step and the road you walk is laced with the grace only God can give. Keep moving forward friends!
Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison: Latasha talks about systemic racism through the lens of a biblical worldview. She speaks truth from a place of love and prompts you consider and reflect on your own life experience. She hosts a podcast by the same name where she interviews
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby: Jemar is a storyteller and does a great job highlighting stories from our history that were never shared in the classroom. This book revealed to me a deeper and more complex narrative of America’s history.
Compassion and Conviction: the AND Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement by Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler: This book challenged me to consider how we can approach politics with compassion and conviction.
He Saw That It Was Good: Reimagining Your Creative Life to Repair a Broken World by Sho Baraka- This book is a deep exploration of the intersection of faith, creativity, and justice from acclaimed hip-hop artist and creative polymath Sho Baraka. Sho Baraka’s music has the same depth as well. Highly recommend
Hallease is a digital storyteller, filmmaker and film producer based in Texas. She shares stories from her chaotic good life, uses her platform to highlight creative voices of color, and is overall an inspiring and generous creator.
Dream of You and Ready to Rise by Jo Saxton: These books as well as her social media posts paved a way to understanding the black experience and consistently calls the church to action in order to respond to the oppression happening in the world.
Gay girl, Good God and Holier than thou by Jackie Hill Perry: These books and her social accounts challenge me to go deeper in scripture and to consider how to live my life in a way that brings God all the glory.