I grew up going to See you at the Pole rallies. Does anyone else remember these? It was a day when the kids who attended churches would meet at the flagpole before school and pray together for the other heathens that were probably sleeping off their hangovers.
At least that’s what I assumed.
The scripture that I remember defining this experience was 2 Chronicles 7:14- “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” I’d listen to the leader talk about how we need to take back our nation and rescue it from the influence of “the world”, how if we weren’t firm and didn’t stand up for Jesus, we were all just gonna go to hell in a hand basket. The leader didn’t actually say “hell in a hand basket”, but we all knew he was thinking it. I never really understood why a hand basket made the idea of hell more threatening. It’s a handbasket- the thing little Red Riding hood carried to bring a picnic lunch to her grandma. Was it lined with spikes? Filled with tracker jackers? And really, are we shrinking down to tiny people, because hand baskets generally don’t fit typical size people. If they wanted to scare us, they should’ve said we would go to hell in a smart car.
But that’s not the point.
The point is, I don’t know if it was intentional, but the emphasis was always on the “turning from their wicked ways” part. I learned that we needed to help the world turn from their wicked ways and then God would step in and turn this proverbial car around and all would be right and clean and probably Republican. Even after my pole praying days were over, I heard this scripture used to encourage me to vote, to attend prayer rallies, to picket clinics, to even pray for certain weather. And when the world just got worse, sometimes I thought maybe the wicked ways of the world were just too strong and my prayers against it were just too weak.
I want to cover my ears and close my eyes against #Ferguson and the hatred that is bubbling up from long-held beliefs. I’m weary. Not just weary of hearing about another unarmed black teenager killed, but weary of the debate with people I love about if white privilege is a real thing. No one will debate if this is wickedness- surely death and pain and hatred is evil, and we want to be delivered from it. But we have to begin with the actual beginning- the humbling part. We aren’t asked to humble others, we are asked to humble ourselves.
Humble ourselves…and shut up.
Humble ourselves…and listen.
Humble ourselves…and decide that no matter what, we who are white do not understand what it is like to be black in this country.
Humble ourselves…and consider if perhaps the wicked ways belong to us.
Jesus is telling us to humble ourselves, admit that we might be wrong. I’m asking my brothers and sisters to just consider if everything you think you know about race relations might be wrong. Just consider it.
Jesus is telling us to pray. Not just for “them”, but for our own hearts. I love that He knows that our prayers are sweeter and more intimate when we are humble.
Jesus is telling us to seek His face. His face- the One that lovingly crafted every nuance of Michael Brown’s face AND the police officer. The face that I believe cries with me as I try not to see my precious Malachi in that crowd. The face that is recording every tear of a mother who has lost her baby.
Jesus is telling us to turn from OUR wicked ways. Mine. My wickedness- the side of me that still views other people as less important than me, the side of me that is unkind and selfish and lazy and quarrelsome and rude. The side of me that defends the underdog while cursing the oppressor.
Father, forgive me. Forgive me for my complacency and fear of man. Forgive me for avoiding conflict, when I should be standing up for those who could use a defender. Forgive me for my arrogance in thinking that I “get it”. I do not get it. I am so grateful that You do. Help me to shut up and listen. Help me to see the thoughts that I have that are not loving towards Your kids. Help me be a peacemaker. Remind me that healing an infection often requires painful surgery and help me be willing to be cut open. I couldn’t possibly bleed more than You did.
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