By Alexis Christensen
Do you feel that? The teetering over the edge, the earth-itself-is-shaking feeling? During the past few weeks, you may have felt many emotions—some crushed under the weight of tragedy, others overcome by confusion, anger and maybe hate; still others may have felt unmoved. The cries of our brothers and sisters in Ferguson, Cleveland, New York, and across the globe have reached my ears and I could not stay silent. I had to say something or I guess write something.
But let’s rewind. I did not start off ready to engage, oh no, I started out silent. Unable to express my feelings of sheer devastation and my own confusion, trying to figure out the facts, but knowing the facts did not have anything to do with the root issues and reasons Ferguson happened. Most of all, I didn’t want to talk. But, I was pulled from my silence by my lifegroup, a small group through my church, which meets weekly. The Tuesday after the grand jury’s decision about Mike Brown came and, I’ll be honest, I did not want to be at lifegroup. I did not want to share my sorrow, I didn’t want to explain it. But I went anyway and one of my co-leaders suggested that we have a time of prayer for Ferguson. “Oh Lord,” I thought. “What can I say? What can I even pray?” I struggled all day with what I wanted to share. The time arrived and I walked heavy-hearted into my friend’s house. My introspective thoughts began to swirl and I began to feel them taking me captive. I wanted to just sit there, silently, and leave as soon as possible. But my turn was coming. The heat rising in my flesh. Heart beating, mouth dry. At first, the words came out shaky, insecure but unrelenting. Then the tears, hot and slow. I prayed one of the most sincere prayers I’d prayed in a long time. I can’t remember the words, but afterwards I opened the floor for others to share. And do you know what happened? Something beautiful.
To my left and to my right men and women of all races, political leanings, and theology began crying out for our world. Tears came. Words failed. And it was beautiful.
One of my friends who works in the school system prayed for our schools to recognize the face of racism. Another friend prayed for the Church to awaken and step into their role as reconcilers and to strengthen its heart for the work. One of the most stirring words was from a friend who described Ferguson and all of the glass shards from broken windows being picked up and repaired into a mosaic heart. Powerful. I looked at each person around the room and felt a surge of renewed strength for the struggle. I left feeling alive and hopeful.
But the surge of strength did not stop there. Last Sunday, community activist Jenuine Poetess organized a time of reflection and poetry reading. Through spoken word, both old and young, black and white, shared their places of pain, confusion, and hope. They brought wisdom and refreshment to our city. Again, strength found me and I began to feel stirred again in hope.
Several people have asked me if I think Waco could be a Ferguson. The short answer is yes. Until we can talk about race, discrimination, systemic inequities and racial inequality without discounting the black experience, and until our institutions reflect our community, we are in line to see such reactions.
And yet, I am reminded of lyrics to one of my favorite worship songs called Wonder. Hauntingly sung, the lyrics are as follows:
May we never lose our wonder.
May we never lose our wonder.
Wide-eyed and mystified,
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King.
There is something about child-like faith that opens doors, hearts and even strategy for change. In this holiday season, do not lose your wonder. Don’t be overcome by brokenness and injustice. Remember to be mystified by this great big world. Believe in the goodness of humanity. And in that space, make room for your own heart to be changed and transformed. Listen to people who have different opinions than you. Speak out. March, yell, cry, give a hug, or write a song. Those things make us human. Give yourself space to relinquish the role of judge and jury. Disconnect from media and connect to your own feelings and emotions about race and justice.
I don’t write things because I think I can change your mind. I write these things because I believe wholeness for our world is possible. It is okay to question yourself and to question God (He can handle it). It’s okay to be wrong too, to humble ourselves and see something in a different way. Being right is overrated anyway. Just hold tightly to that wonder and we will all see better days.
* This blog is dedicated to my lifegroup, a small group of friends who have transformed the way I look at life and God. Thank you for challenging and encouraging me to be me.
Source: Cook, Amanda. Wonder (Live) [Spontaneous]. Bethel Music. Bethel Music, 2014.
This week’s Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Alexis Christensen, a Community Organizer at Waco Community Development Corporation (Waco CDC). Would you be interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog? If so, contact Ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org.
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