I feel like I will burst, shatter, crack, and crumble if I take it all in, if I really knew how many mothers are mourning their sons because they birthed them brown. Could my white privileged heart take the truth?
But then that’s just it. My white privileged heart is the one who gets a choice. Do I not think the hearts of moms and dads and brothers and sisters burst, shattered, cracked, and crumbled when someone they loved was killed unjustly? Not arrested unjustly or fined unjustly or sent to jail unjustly – which are all reasons enough for the heart to break – but killed. Murdered. Wouldn’t they love to turn their heart away? To guard their heart from the pain of the truth? But Michael Brown’s family didn’t get a choice. Eric Garner’s family didn’t get a choice. A whole community is bursting, shattering, cracking, and crumbling at the injustice and the heartbreak of it all and as tempting as it is for my white privileged heart to turn away, to protect itself from that kind of great, big, inconceivable pain, I can’t. I just can’t.
Because through the tears and the pain and the brokenness, even through the injustice, there is a community standing bravely and peacefully saying, “Look at me, white privileged heart. Look at me. See me.”
There once was a woman named Hagar. Hagar was a handmaid to a woman named Sarai. Sarai wanted a baby. God had promised Sarai a baby. But that baby wasn’t coming and Sarai was losing faith. “Here,” she said to her husband, “here just make a baby with Hagar. She can have my baby. That’s how I’ll get my baby.” But as our plans-without-God so often go, this one back-fired. Hagar had a baby, but Sarai resented her for being able to do what she couldn’t. She couldn’t stand to see Hagar pregnant. So she mistreated Hagar. She was mean to her and she essentially forced her to leave. Hagar fled. What choice did she have? She took her dignity and she fled to the wilderness. She was lost, alone, and scared. She had only been doing what she was told.
God found Hagar in the wilderness. He pursued her. He saw her and He talked to her. He made her promises, promises that were fulfilled! He listened to her. He told her to do the hard thing – to go back to Sarai and submit to her, to take the lower place, to be humble, to make herself available to be mistreated. And she went. And she praised God. She called Him, a God of seeing or the God who sees. She was heard. She was seen.
I cannot imagine literally squeezing the life out of a man. Can you? I cannot imagine maintaining my grip on a man who says he can’t breathe. We have to listen to each other. We have to trust that just because our experiences are different doesn’t mean one or the other is more real. Just because I can breathe just fine, doesn’t mean you’re not telling the truth when you tell me you can’t. Just because I can breathe just fine doesn’t mean you’re not telling me the truth when you tell me you’re suffocating.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.
Let’s start standing together now. Let’s not wait till heaven is complete to come before the throne together, shoulder to shoulder, weary hearts in hand. Let’s choose love even when it threatens to burst, shatter, crack, and crumble us. Let’s choose to submit, to take the lower place even when it means we might get hurt. Let’s take a man at his word when he says he can’t breathe.