There is invisible pain all around us and we embrace the privilege of moving on when Jesus did not.
Jackie* was assaulted by her boyfriend, blamed for it by her divorced parents and her Christian male friends did not come to her defense but joined in the chorus of people wondering if it was her fault too. Bethany* feels uncomfortable talking about race but wants to. Her father and sister aren't talking anymore because of Black Lives Matter and she knows that Jesus desires for there to be peace but has no idea what peacemaking actually looks like. Rebecca* was raped by a high school classmate who is now a student at her college. She is afraid for herself and for her classmates.
The above stories are stark reminders of the present and past invisible wounds that scar those we see every day. The pain is beneath the surface but drives so much of what we do/don't do each day including but not limited to the professions we pursue, who we attempt to be friends with, who we avoid and who we want/don't want to marry. And apart from an encounter with Jesus, whoever has the privilege of moving on will look away or not look at all upon those people that he/she deems unworthy of the same love, care, concern and value that he/she may feel entitled to. There is no program, event, or argument that will compel the type of sacrificial love necessary to transform one's heart from one of stone to one of flesh.
We are asking the wrong questions.
And because we all have unprocessed pain, sadness, fear, and rejection we are asking the wrong questions. There isn't a safe space with safe people to dive deep so our genuine and sincere connections with others are few and far between but longed for. This is true of college students, the parents who sent them to university, and the professors who are supposed to teach them. The level of emotional unhealth and masking of our frailty impales our ability to truly connect. I am guilty of this in one specific and critical way. My fear of rejection and need for affirmation drives my generosity and not a genuine desire to help others. God, forgive me.
Thus our questions about racism and poverty are surface level, distant and often formulaic. We work to reform a system without re-forming ourselves. We ask about what someone does or wants to do? We don't ask whom he/she would like to become or what happened to them that this is now their goal. And if we do ask those questions and he/she is unable to answer in our desired time frame, we don't have/make the time to unearth what's under the surface that they may discover it for themselves. We have to get to the next thing.
Our advice becomes general and non-specific filled with Christianese catchphrases or hashtagged tweets. We don't listen to people but instead invite them to listen to a podcast. Of this, I am also guilty, fearing that I would have to be vulnerable, sacrifice my facade, and be exposed as imperfect.
It is easier to blame or dismiss than to take responsibility.
And since we have unprocessed pain and hurt, they compound into an emotional inaccessibility so we seek out the latest Ted Talk and not a time of confession. We ask over and over again, "what can I do next?", not "why did I do that?" or "why did that happen to me?" This lack of confession leads to a "Christian" and others who live in Judeo-Christian framework never experiencing the grace of God and His blessing in the midst of our sin. It is true that we can only appreciate the wonder of the Cross and love of God to the measure that we can contemplate our own suffering. Consequently, since we receive little or no grace, we cannot extend it to others. Thus we blame, point fingers and criticize projecting our view of the god we serve onto others and not the One True God - Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
And it is these three thoughts that lead me into a time of repentance, confession, and a re-sending from God into the ministry of reconciliation. Please read my "Confessions of a Black Christian Activist" here.