by Amber Cullen
I have been quiet.
I haven't sought to speak in the storm, because I am not rain, nor wind, nor shaking earth or crashing waves. I find my giftings in other places, much like the gentle breeze in 1 Kings that causes Elijah to emerge from the cave because he knows it is God.
And so it is with this image that my spirit resonates, thinking of myself as a breeze that caresses each and every person and calls them to know their Belovedness--and to cast off all that holds back from this Knowing. This is the tender compassion the Lord has given to me--one that seeks to protect the space for the journey of healing in each and every one of us, for we have all experienced trauma and fragmentation in our spirits.
* * *
Once I was in the psych ward and in the room next to me was a woman who could not speak but who would occasionally erupt in fits of terrified screaming. While the rest of us played cards, ate meals, and built community together, she was in a room in a chair. We only knew her presence by the high-pitched screams of panic that would come from the small room.
All I wanted to do was to let her know that she wasn't alone.
My own screams were just within.
* * *
Sometimes I think about this nation as a big house and we're all in different rooms looking outside of a window at the yard ahead of us.
Some people see tulips, and some see daffodils, and some see a shed, and still others see a fountain of running water. Depending on what room you're in, the view is different, and each room obstructs some view of the yard.
What if in the attic is the one who has all the keys to the house. They don't have all the keys to the house because they should, but because they are hoarding all the keys from the other housemates. Not only that, but they've been hoarding all the keys for so long that they believe that the keys were actually all theirs to begin with.
The attic-dwellers rush to their window and see a shed far in the distance. Because they hold all the keys, they know that what they see out their window is true.
"There is a shed in the yard!" they cry.
The second floor housemates rush to their windows (in their respective rooms of course), and one says, "Yes, I see a shed from my window, but I see tulips as well!" The other observes that they, too, see a shed in their window, and not tulips, but daffodils.
The attic-dwellers interrupt the observations of the second floor housemates by once again declaring more emphatically, "There is a shed in the yard!"
This pattern continues for a few more rounds until the second floor housemates open up their windows and lean out. They see that the reason the attic-dwellers cannot see the flowers is because the attic juts out from the house, blocking the view of the flowers below. They also see that although one room cannot see the tulips from their window, and the other cannot see the daffodils, that both flowers are a part of the same bed.
All the while the attic-dwellers continue to declare, "There is a shed in the yard!" What they do not understand, of course, is that they are only seeing part of the picture, and that their housemates on the second floor are seeing a different part of the same yard.
It is in descending from the attic they are ascending into relationships that allow them to gain a more holistic perspective, for it turns out that the keys to the bigger picture were never in their hands all along.
The attic is the embodiment of white privilege, and the communication of what we see out of the attic window are our poor attempts at intercultural communication.
White friends, especially my white Christian family, we can do better.
* * *
Today I found myself reflecting on John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, than [s]he who lays down [their] life for [their] friends."
What is it to lay down one's life? Looking at the Greek word (through Blue Letter Bible), a few phrases stuck out to me: "to place in a passive or horizontal posture," "prostrate," "kneel down," "lay." These words feel like a submission that is rooted in a heart-posture of honor and acknowledgement.
How beautiful. Like the washing of feet and declaring of dignity.
Like the brushing of hair behind one's ear and a gentle coo from a babe's mouth.
Like a communion feast with bread broken for all and a sweet wine that declares that this blood has been shed and so you are all in right relationship with the Creator.
* * *
Lay down your life.
Lay down your life for your friends.
How beautiful a picture. How beautiful a posture.
In a race classification system in the United States, contextually it's not too far of a stretch to say that for white people this passage resonates with our privilege. It's not too far of a stretch that to say for us this passage is the laying down of our privilege in love of our friends. In fact, I would argue that it is, without a doubt, a large part of the spiritual work that we must do as white Christians as we relate to our siblings of color, and the world at large.
Greater love has no white person than this, than they who lay down their white privilege for their friends.
Greater love has no white person than this, than they who step from the attic and seek to understand the view of the yard through the eyes of their friends.
Greater love is active listening, greater love is seeking to understand, greater love is hearing the truth that everyone else in the house knows that you're hoarding the keys but you. And greater love is responding to this not in defense, but a posture of acknowledgement and recognition that your space in the attic has obstructed you from seeing a bigger picture.
Greater love is a giving, but greater love is also a receiving. Greater love is a challenging, but also a being challenges. Greater love is messy and full of paradoxes and contradictions.
Greater love is complicated.
But who thought that living one's life in a posture of humble, kneeling submission would be?
* * *
"Greater love has no one than this, than [s]he who lays down [their] life for [their] friends."
And who are our friends?
* * *
White Christians: Who are our friends?
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Posted with permission. Original found here.