Friday, August 15, 2014

Reframing

On the morning Caden made his entrance into the world, I learned the words “congenital heart defect” for the first time. In all likelihood, I would have no idea what “multiple sclerosis” means, except that my mom has it.

The issues that most profoundly impact us typically overlap our lives in significant ways. It’s hard to know how we really feel about homosexuality until our brother comes out. We might not be sure what we think exactly about childhood cancer treatments, except in some vague way, until we find ourselves shaving our son’s head because his pillow piles high with hair every night.

In his book, Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne says that the “great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” Because knowing people changes things somehow.

In our three years of living here, we’ve had three different young black males living with us for varying periods of time. Currently, the eighteen-year-old high school graduate making our house his home puts together his lunch and heads to bed by 8pm every night. He plays lego enthusiastically with my children, explaining carefully to them that partna means friend. He takes out our trash and cleans his bathroom far more diligently than we clean ours. He leaves the house before we wake up, riding public transportation for nearly two hours to get to work. Every day when he gets home, he changes quickly before heading to practice basketball at the park.

Two nights ago ago, he walked in sweaty during dinner. He ate the wings Adam made, even though he doesn’t really liked baked wings as much as fried ones. We tucked our kids into bed (multiple times actually, because they cannot quite get the hang of “bed-time” apparently), and scrubbed the table and counters clean. We all crowd in the kitchen, clattering dishes and pouring wine. And he asked us if we had heard about Mike Brown and Ferguson. I nod, and hesitantly ask him how he feels about the whole thing. His head bowed low and eyes trained on his phone screen, he watches videos and news clips while he answers: “If they did something like this to little Z (his brother), oh boy I’d be public enemy number one.” We talk a little bit about revenge and justice, but mostly I am silent because I just don’t know how to answer his very real fears and anger. I pray grace and tell him we would be on his side, obviously. He tells us later he doesn’t believe that we would join the protests and risk getting tear-gassed, and I search myself a little to figure out if he’s right.
He heads to bed early like he does every night, and we sit on the couch editing pictures and watching White Collar, while I search my newsfeed to figure out what I should think about the whole thing. The silence deafens, and I wonder why no voices raise in protest and solidarity. Perhaps everyone else finds their tongues as twisted as I do.

Or maybe, I think, it’s because our lives remain impenetrable by it all. And so we write about Robin Williams and suicide instead, because we know him (or think we do from his movies at least). We have encountered depression and suicide. We write because we have sat where he did, nearing the end of our rope, unable to find our stumbling way out of the dark.

But few of us, particularly those of us with white skin, have walked where Mike Brown did. We watch the news and see war zones that feel distant, separate from the safety of our own lives and neighborhoods. We forget, perhaps, that Christ came for the most broken and that we find Him most assuredly in the very neighbors we walk the furthest circle around.

The story never unfolds as simple as it seems, and neither police officers nor young black males can be stacked neatly into a box. Because I know police officers, and they serve well. They love their cities and their beats; they bring home heavy hearts and rummage through their children’s drawers looking for the right size t-shirt for the boy he had to pull from his mother’s arms. But they have responded, perhaps, one-too-many-times to calls of armed black men. And it gets difficult to distinguish the unarmed in a whirl of fear and anger.

I also know young black males: the ones who are armed and, far-more-often, those who are not. They sit on my swing and run to the corner store to bring me back a diet coke. Their skin varying shades of chocolate brown, they cry out to be heard and seen. They hear the newscasters mention that Mike Brown did not deserve to die; after-all, he was headed to college on Monday. But what, they wonder, if he wasn’t? Would he have deserved to die then?
They call us from prison and ask us to come to their hearing. They walk in the door and tell us about getting pepper-sprayed on the bus their first week of high-school, while we all eat leftover pieces of Caden’s Lego Cake.

And we lose sight of the Kingdom in the midst of tanks and rubber bullets. The Kingdom that calls us to hammer swords into plowshares. To feel sweat run down our necks while we hammer. While we work hard and actively towards peace, where we use our own hands to bind the wounds and our own donkeys to carry the wounded.

One of our pastors and friends sits on our couch, he and Adam quietly play Clash of Clans while we watch the news. And I ask him what to say to Ashton. We’re white, I point out. And I’m not sure my voice counts here. But he mostly shakes his head, and we talk about how the media frames thing; how the police frame things; how the world frames things. It’s an issue of framing he tells us while we look at #iftheygunnedmedown on our twitter feed.

We pull up to the Wendy’s drive-through and both boys hop out to use the bathroom, I tell them I’ll pick them up on the other side. I order our spicy chicken sandwiches and kids meals while Caden and Jayci chorus from the back seat not to forget to order French fries and a toy. When I pull up to the window, the boys walk out the door. They approach the car and I see the Wendy’s employees give each other wary looks. When one pulls out her phone and asks if I'm ok, I laugh awkwardly and tell her: oh they’re with me. Oh ok she laughs, I thought they was about to rob you or something. The boys shake their heads and I try to lighten the mood, despite the unsettled feeling that has lodged itself in the pit of my stomach.

Clearly, we need re-framing.

It's hard though. Too many injustices and hurts and sickness and needs pile up, and we cannot possibly care about or speak out for them all, right? Seeing beyond the world’s frames to the Kingdom view requires work, and usually gets messy. And so we sit, unsure our voices matter or if we really even believe it enough to speak up. We don't know them, and our own lives remain impacted little by a system that seems unavoidable and maybe necessary.

But our silence does not equal our safety. Because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And our own hearts and lives miss encountering the Kingdom of God when we hide behind the idea that we do not belong to one another. So I pray today that those who love Jesus will lead the charge for freedom and grace. That we will willingly enter into hard places and complicated issues, for the sake of the Gospel and for the love of a Jesus who affirms the worth and dignity of every single person, regardless of the color of their skin or where they are headed.

33 comments:

  1. Thank you. I'm still wrestling with my words as a police officer's wife and interracial adoptive mom.

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    1. Oh girl, I hear you. Keep wrestling -- I am convinced it might be the only way to arrive at the truth of what we believe.

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  2. I love running my race knowing you are close by running yours.
    You are always my go-to, me-too person.
    Grateful for the way you share your life's story.
    xo

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  3. One of my daughter's closest friends adopted a little boy we all love. She and her husband are white, their son is black. It hurts my heart to know that based only on the color of his skin, he may be (and probably will be at some point) treated differently than their white son. Your Wendy's story hit me hard... is the world ever going to change?

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    1. I'm not sure it is going to change, but I am very hopeful it will. Because this isn't the end of the story, and I'm going to keep working and fighting and praying for change. Every day :-)

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    1. Have I mentioned how much I love you guys? Praying hard! I'm emailing you soon, promise!

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  5. You are walking in your mission so well, friend.
    You're such an encouragement to me and I'm so thankful those boys have you in their corner.

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    1. Your post about this? Perfect. I adore you and am counting down til October! yay!

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  6. My husband and I and our three little boys all have white skin and I am wrestling so deeply with the questions and conflicts and considerations you have so beautifully, honestly shared here. I don't know my place either. I feel like I don't have a voice. That in my predominately white neighborhood that I shouldn't have a voice. But I don't dare want to miss out on the Kingdom of God because my narrow experience has made me unknowingly believe that we don't belong to one another. God is moving and I'm stirred deep for this. Thank you for sharing. So blessed I found my way here.

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    1. Becky, thank you for sharing your heart. And I am praying for you that you will continue to find the ways God is stirring and moving in you.

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  7. Thank you. When you write like this, I read, ponder, think and listen. I talk through these issues with my husband. I think more deeply and personally when you write. So thank you for taking time out of your crazy busy life to share with us your thoughts and life experiences.

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    1. Well thank you Megan. Seriously, your words so encouraged my heart - and sometimes I think I would go even MORE crazy if I didn't figure out how to take a little time to write through I feel about things, if that makes any sense at all! :-)

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  8. Thank you so much for your words, Becca. I love reading your blogs and they often leave me in tears, and constantly challenge my husband and I, and re-ignite things inside us. I would love to catch up with you over coffee or wine sometime. We love in the Lawrenceville area, not sure what part of town you're in, but I'd love to meet up with you and pick your brain on some things. And to reminisce about 5th West! Just let me know! And thanks so much for writing, your words carry such power.

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    1. Aw Andi! :-) I'd love to see you! I'm going to email you now!

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  9. Just what I needed tonight, friend. Love you!

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  10. Thank you so much for this insight. I am so thankful that you shared this and are trying to name these issues.

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  11. It is refreshing to see an opinion from someone who is trying to find answers to the problems that plague us all, for we are in this together. Speaking to myself as well- when we see each other as God sees us, we have won half the battle.

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  12. Love your post. Anyway u could email me at lmclorrie@yahoo.com. I could use your advice.

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    1. Hi Lorrie -
      I emailed you, but feel free to shoot me an email at becca1612 at hotmail.com too if you didn't get mine!

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  13. Thank you for wrestling. I appreciate the "kingdom framing" you offer in this vulnerable piece. Happy to get messy with you and the other believers who are truly about winning souls for Christ!

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  14. The discussions that have happened in my home because of this over dinner, breakfast and games of Apples to Apples have been HUGE and plenty... we all are wrestling, my boys especially over how they feel... me with how would I stand with them....

    So thankful for YOU and your beautiful words.

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  15. The jury is still out on whether the shooting of Mike Brown was justified. New evidence is coming out every day. I wish people would keep their minds open until all the facts are in instead of assuming racism, as they did with Trayvon Martin, who as it happened was up to no good and was killed in self defense.

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  16. This. Yes! This. Thank you. Sharing as widely as I can.

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  17. Thanks so much for your honesty and vulnerability. This type of openness could be healing for all.

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  18. Just read this again, Becca, and appreciated it all over again. :)

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  19. I'm here because of Marla. She mentioned your post on her blog. And, I'm so glad I took the time to hop on over and read your words. Thanks for taking the time to wrestle with this topic where others could wrestle along side you.

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    1. Love me some Marla :-) thanks for stopping by and for your encouragement.

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  20. The honesty shared in this post is appreciated on so many levels...as a Christian first and foremost, as a mother and as a female who is not of African descent. I am African American and a Christian who appreciates the candidness displayed in this article. It is important for honest conversations to happen to bring about a 'reframing' as you termed it.

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  21. I don't know you ( I'm a half sister to Kim Hard ( Vanessa's sister)) but I want to thank you. For speaking up as a white Christian. I'm seeing pastors that aren't acknowledging anything at all. That sickens my spirit. I know it isn't simple but something has to change. We need to change. I don't know you but I sure do love your heart! Thank you for this hard but beautiful message about re-framing. May God protect those amazing boys that come into your home and all the ones that don't. Thank you for putting into words how a lot of people are feeling.

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