Mark Murphy of Everett, WA, USA
So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life. -Proverbs 4:23 (The Passion Translation)
The Lakota (Sioux) Nation says, “The longest journey you will take in your lifetime is [the 18 inches] from your head to your heart.” I was unexpectedly forced to take a part of that journey in 1996 in Birmingham, Alabama, during a Human and Civil Rights Conference. Despite being a strong supporter of rights for all people, I confess that I had reached a point of fatigue, tired of all the hyphenated American identities, complaints about racism and discrimination, and tired of being too often bludgeoned by the incessant hammering on the need for more cultural diversity. Why? I asked myself. We’re Americans, not hyphenated Americans. No progress is going to truly be made until the past is put behind us and forgiveness extended. Let’s just let go and move on. And all these thoughts coming from a proud, bleeding-heart liberal.
On the last morning of the conference, a Sunday, I went to the (in)famous 16th Street Baptist Church where on the morning of September 23, 1963, in an act of domestic terrorism committed by white supremacists, “four little girls” (ages 11 and 14) were killed, along with 22 wounded. I sat in the sanctuary for worship, one of only three white people in the congregation. Truthfully, I felt very out of place. I knew that I stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb and that everyone else was looking at me, wondering what the white dude was doing in their church. Suddenly it hit me, this experience I was having was merely the tiniest glimpse of what so many African American (Black) people go through on a nearly daily basis as they live in a majority white populace, rightly believing that many of these Caucasians, many of them Christians, still look at them with subtle suspicion and superiority. They know that in far too many cases, African Americans are blamed for the continuation of racial problems that would go away if Blacks would just “get over” their anger and history with oppression.
I realized in that moment that while I spoke of and argued for the worth and equality of all persons, my heart was far away from where my head was and the words I was speaking. The thoughts I described above came from a failure to honestly empathize with the reality my black brothers and sisters face every day and from my attempt to force them to fit into my white privileged views of how they should respond to their lived experiences.
That Sunday morning in the 16th Baptist Church, the Spirit, in a moment of compassion and grace, opened my eyes and taught me that I had to be more honest with myself, and that I have some distance to go on that 18-inch journey. I wonder how many Daily Bread readers are on that journey with me.
In God we all belong.
Sustaining Our Connections
Many find themselves isolated around the world to protect each other and the most vulnerable during this global pandemic. Spend time prayerfully imagining those people that you might normally come into contact with on a regular basis, known and unknown. Remember all the connections that sustain our lives each day. Even in this time of intentional separation, how are you experiencing deep, intrinsic belonging in God?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.