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Posts Tagged ‘Unity in the Spirit’

I have no idea where this saying came from but I found it swimming around in my head today after we went to a public pool.  My younger set of children started begging to go swimming as soon as the wearing of shorts commenced.  We live in Texas so they have been carrying on for weeks and weeks about how much better life could be IF ONLY they could go swimming in a real pool as opposed to the lawn sprinkler.  I held off for as long as I could because I don’t enjoy public swimming for various reasons not appropriate to discuss here.  In spite of my many objections, I do know they need to learn to swim for their own safety and enjoyment.  After looking at swimming lesson fees, it appeared I would have to be the teacher.

Last week we had met at a splash park with our home school Meetup group.  I love those places because they have loads of fun while I stay fully clothed and dry.  Our group took over a picnic table for all our gear and we sat around having a great visit while the kids played.  As I looked around the park, I observed something very normal, but sad to me.  Our table consisted of all Anglo women, another all Latino, and yet another all Asian.  We had cloistered ourselves into our own little ethnic groups while the children were playing all together in the park.  I realize this is a normal, comfort-zone situation, and often caused by language barriers too.  But what if we never sit at someone else’s table or invite someone to ours?  What we can’t see between those tables are the things that truly divide us;  fear, pride, misunderstanding, long-held but still-festering grievances.  If we never talk or form relationships with others outside our own social groups, how will we ever learn to understand one another, forgive, or love like Jesus asked us to do?  I longed for there to be a way to connect the tables but instead I sat there feeling helpless to change it.

But back to the swimming pool.  What is really cool about swimming (no pun intended) is that we are all in there together without tables for people to segregate themselves to.  And what is there to be shy about when you are already in a bathing suit?  Nothing really.  Two children asked my kids if they could borrow their floatation toys, so we began to share, which sparked a friendship between them.  Kids bond instantly and easily.  Soon they were asking me if I could teach them to swim too!  I almost expected a parent to come rescue their children from the crazy white lady who is shorter than a 4th grader, but no one intervened.  As we left I saw them running over to their mother who was not swimming.  I went to her and said how much the children enjoyed playing and that if they were able, we would try to make it the same time every week (way out of my comfort zone).  She seemed very friendly and open to the idea, and I thanked God for providing a way to break down walls and open doors with others.  I hope to see them again next week, and that she doesn’t instead resolve to avoid the pool on Wednesday for the rest of the summer! 🙂  I have such a deep burden for racial reconciliation and sometimes as an Anglo person, I don’t feel like there is anything I can do that won’t be taken as insincere, naive, or offensive.  And often I know it will be, because I have much still to learn.  It is so important to not assume anything.  I speak in general terms here, but each person must be seen as they are – a unique individual who may or may not fit anyone’s generalizations.

I was not prepared for the level of racism I found when I moved to Texas many years ago.  Then sadly, I became accustomed to it over time.  I had never met blacks who had so much bitterness toward white people where I grew up, or white people with so much blind bigotry.  I found it frightening and intimidating, so I decided I would do what most of the white people in Texas do – keep my distance and stay in my safe white world.  I ended up living in a small, rural town for 18 years (for economic reasons) that I heard had a notorious history for keeping out unwanted people of color.  Judging by the demographics, they seem to still have success in that area, except for more recent immigration.  We were blessed to live next to a newly immigrated family and their daughter became like our own as our children were growing up together.  But did I welcome her parents with the same hospitality?  No, I let my own fear of awkwardness keep the space between us.  And I have done this more often than I care to remember.

Today in fact was Juneteenth, a holiday I have truly only heard referred to in mocking ways – in my safe white world.  A few months ago while studying some history with my children, I learned that this holiday marks the date that the Texas slaves were finally told they were free, two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had become the law of the land.  I think I had to read it over a few times to make sure I had not misunderstood.  How many generations removed are we from these times of their suffering and our oppression?  How much of it do we both still carry with us?  Thankfully, we can all swim in the same swimming pool, at least.

I saw the water today as a powerful symbol of baptism which creates the stage for our unity in Christ, and the Holy Spirit who makes us one (Living Water) in our resurrected Life.  When we come into the water, we connect!  There is no more need for walls or unforgiveness.  No more need to feel superior, or inferior.  Outside of Him, we are all sitting in our little enclaves of security, scrutinizing one another with disdain and suspicion, or trying to pretend the others don’t really exist at all.  As followers of Jesus, we can lead the way, inviting others to join us in the unifying water of the Spirit.  We may put on the humility of Christ, see ourselves and our history honestly, and choose life and love.

The other factor today of course was the innocence of childhood.  Jesus had so much to say about this too.  Unless we become as little children…  I think I saw a glimmer of the Kingdom today in a swimming pool.

I am not suggesting a rose-colored-glasses course of action of just wanting to see the good and ignore the evil.  Sadly, we see the evil on other sides and refuse to own what lives on our own side.  This invitation is for the Way of the Cross, to lay down our pride, repent, ask forgiveness, and forgive, beginning in the House of God.  Jesus prayed that we would be in unity in our love for Him and each other, “so that the world may believe” that the Father sent Him. (John 17:21)   We often view unbelief in the world with an accusatory attitude when our divisions among ourselves, especially racially, speak more volumes than our evangelism.  When the world sees a people who truly love each other, from the heart, across all barriers of race, age, gender, and denominations (not saying to erase the distinctions – but to embrace the diversity) maybe our gospel would seem more true.  But as it stands, most of our children are growing up to reject that Jesus was real, for many reasons I suspect.  How can we expect the world to believe?

There are other areas of reconciliation I want to write about soon.  I have been putting off these posts for months, because I have been overwhelmed to know where to start, and I’m not past wanting people to like what I say from time to time.  This won’t be easy, but I invite you to come in and enjoy the water.

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