Do you see me?

by Sandy Pope on December 6, 2014

in OVERCOMING LIFE'S CHALLENGES

 

When I was in High School, a white boy made a racially charged statement directly to me in front of my whole class and my teacher. His hurtful statements came from out of nowhere.  Many of my classmates came to my defense and told him that he was wrong and that he should apologize.  Some watched and waited to see what I would do.  Before I could do or say anything, my teacher stepped in and ask me to leave the class.  Yes, I was asked to leave the class and no unfavorable action was issued to the boy who offended me.  It was never made clear to me why I was asked to leave.  I wonder if it was easier for my teacher to remove the victim of racial prejudice than to deal with the person dispensing it.  I tried to rationalize what had happened.  After all, it was a predominately white school with a predominately white teaching staff, but I still couldn’t understand the events that took place and why.  At that moment in my life, I learned a painful lesson about racism.  I learned that the subject of racism and the courage to stand up to it made people very uncomfortable.  It also confirmed to me at a very young age, that racial privilege existed in the world and that injustice toward people of color was inconsequential.  I attempted to ask my teacher why he did what he did.  He made it clear that his decision was not up for discussion or debate.  I wanted to ask him, “do you see me?  Do you really SEE ME?”

I haven’t thought about this past event in many years, but it recently came to remembrance as I was reflecting on my feelings about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice.  I think of their mothers and their families having that same feeling of helplessness.  In no way do I equate my experience to theirs because they suffered the tragic loss of a loved one.  Watching all of the news coverage concerning the outcomes (and pending outcomes) of the judicial proceedings concerning these men has been personally disconcerting, disturbing and alarming.  I have so many raw (rhetorical) questions from ALL sides like:

  • Why didn’t George Zimmerman get back into his car when he was instructed to do so by the 911 operator, and why did he continue to pursue Trayvon Martin and why did he have a gun?
  • Why was Michael Brown in that convenience store being abusive to the store owner? I’m not saying that he deserved to die as a result of these actions, but I don’t get why he did that.  Did his actions set off a trajectory of events?  Was it ever truly corroborated that it was in fact Michael Brown in the convenience store video footage?
  • Did Darren Wilson really have to shoot Michael Brown 6 times?
  • Why did Michael Brown lay dead in the street for approximately 4 hours?
  • Why did the citizens of Ferguson, MO destroy their own neighborhoods by looting and setting fires to businesses? Was this really a raw emotional reaction to the grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson?  These actions should not deflect from those who protested peacefully.
  • Why did no one believe Eric Garner, when he stated, “I can’t breathe”11 times before he ultimately died as a result of being restrained in a chokehold?
  • Why are there people in the United States who believe we live in a post racial era (where racism scarcely exists) and why do so many refuse to engage in dialog about racial issues?
  • Why is the African American community saying “Hands up, Don’t Shoot”, but will say “Don’t Snitch”, when there’s black on black crime?
  • Why were George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo absolved and not prosecuted? Especially in Daniel Panteleo’s case as there was video footage which showed a good portion of the incident where Eric Garner died and an autopsy report that ruled his death as a homicide.
  • Why do discussions about racism only happen as a result of a terrible tragedy where racism is suspected?
  • As a Christian, how can I make a difference?

As I ponder many of these questions, I get so incredibly furious.  I know that not all cops are bad, not all black people are criminals and not all white people are racist, but I hate racism and the disagreements and injustices that come as a result of it.  But ironically, reconciliation can blossom from racism.  Look at the peaceful protests happening around the country comprised of people from many different cultural backgrounds coming together to say “all people matter”.   What I have noticed is that people get so upset about the racial injustice new stories profiled in the media, but do so very little about the racial injustices happening right under their very noses.  I know that people have witnessed people being discriminated against at their places of employment and even at their places or worship and have never been as angry as they are about what is being showcased in the media.  Do we only get angry about racism when there’s no immediate impact to us?  I asked God, how can I stop being so angry about all of these events.  He led me to John 13:34-35, where Jesus says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The body of Christ has a great responsibility to lead by example and by showing the world what true love is and exemplifying love during times like this.  We can also set an example by stretching ourselves and moving beyond racial boundaries.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”  Jesus himself moved beyond racial boundaries when he paid the ultimate penalty by sacrificing his life for the sins of all mankind.  Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he instructed us to move beyond racial boundaries and go throughout the world and share the Gospel and make disciples.   If you share the same feelings of anger that I do, please be encouraged and pray for God to help you to truly look at people through the eyes of Jesus Christ and “see them” as being worthy of love, even if their name is George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo.  If God loves them, we can learn to love them through the eyes of Christ.

In conclusion, the reality is that we live in a fallen world.  Injustice is happening all around the world, even as you’re reading this blog.  But by our actions, we should fight not to succumb to injustice by demonstrating the love of Christ. I challenge you in the midst of these terrible events to really ask yourself this question.  Do you really genuinely see people as human beings, even when they are unlovable and despite the stereotypes that you maybe grew up hearing about them?  Do you see people even when they have nothing to give you or if there’s nothing that you can exploit from them?  If it’s hard for you to do, pray and ask God to give you the wisdom to inquire and have a peaceful dialog with someone you know and trust who is a different race than you.  I love this quote from “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee which says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”  Respect and understanding truly do matter.  ALL lives matter to God, and if all life matters to God, all life should matter to you and me.   Thank you  for listening.  Now, I can breathe…

As a person with position and authority in many areas of my life, I am so thankful for the many opportunities that God has provided to me.  One thing that I have learned throughout my life is that if God has called you for a specific purpose, he will give you everything that you need to accomplish it.  Philippians 2:13(NLT) says, “ For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”  In every opportunity I have been provided by God, he has given me the passion, vision and comprehension to complete the task at hand.  Yet, in all efforts to complete the goals he has set forth, I know that it is not by my might or power, but by God’s spirit that lives within me (Zechariah 4:6).

I have to confess that there are times when I face mighty giants, sometimes at every turn.  Sometimes, these giants emerge at the moment when God has confirmed a calling that he has ordained for me.  Their supposed purposed is to impede the opportunities and the higher calling placed on my life.  I admit, sometimes it feels like these “giants” are winning and that I’m in a losing battle.  It’s in those moments that the Holy Spirit reminds me of God’s instructions in Joshua 1:7-9.  Here are 5 other things that God taught me about these giants:

  1. Giants only look gargantuan in size when looking at them with “selective focus”.  There is a feature on my camera called selective focus.  It allows me to focus on a single prominent object or on the larger expansive picture.  When I’m focusing on that single prominent object, the bigger picture becomes a blurred background.  When I focus on the bigger picture, the single prominent object becomes vague and fuzzy.  Think of God as the big picture and the giant as the single object.  We have to change our focus to be fixed on the big picture, which is God and his plans for us.
  2. Giants aren’t necessarily other people.  Sometimes, they are ungodly desires fueled by our flesh or motivations that are not inspired by God.  Many times, fear and insecurity are giants that paralyze us from moving forward.
  3. Giants keep us humble.  Sometimes, we can become conceited and prideful.  Especially, when the fruit of our labor has made our name renowned in various spheres of influence.  The Apostle Paul recognized this in his own life.  In 2 Cor 12:7-10NLT he says, “even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
  4. Giants are given more credit than they deserve.  Why do we place our faith in the destruction that these “giants” can cause instead of the mighty power of God? Job 42:2 says, Then Job replied to the Lord:  “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.”  If God is for me, and no one can pluck me out if his hands and no one can stop him, why do I think anyone can stop me specifically when God has called me to fulfill his purpose for my life?  God is ALL powerful.  1 John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  I am in the hands of the all powerful true and living God who is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17).  Therefore, I can walk with confidence knowing that I am protected and secure.  No giant is more powerful than the true and living God.

I’ve learned a lot about giants.  God constantly reminds me that he is the giver of opportunity.  God gives and takes away (Job 1:21).  God moves mighty mountains out of our way (Zechariah 4:7).  God opens doors that no man can shut (Revelation 3:8).  If God has given you an opportunity, know that through his guidance, through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the power of constant prayer, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).  God is stronger than any giant, real or perceived.  He alone is the giver of opportunity.

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