It’s been years now, but the memory-moment when I first saw her still runs deep. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, with pink sponge curlers in her hair, she looks up as I enter our college dorm room. Me, a middle-class white girl from the suburbs; she, a lower-class black girl born and raised in West Philadelphia. Our eyes meet for a split second and then both our heads drop silent.
I grew up in white privilege; she grew up among the working poor. We had a lot to discover about each other, and that we did. A critical juncture; a defining year that gave me a new perspective beyond my own safe little world.
Amazing how God arranges life experiences to add in the missing pieces. A divine appointment; a God set-up that added something needed, something of value, into the core of my identity.
My world got a whole lot bigger that year. And I will be forever grateful to my West Philly roomie whom I grew to love, honor and respect.
Fast forward to last weekend…
We enter the retreat center where I am one of three invited speakers. Seated beside the other speakers—all beautiful, strong and gifted African American women, I am feeling my “white-ness”. I’ve heard these women speak before, with incredible power and passion. They can raise the roof with their fiery-Pentecostal preaching. An expectation to conform and perform begins to emerge from within me.
Conform and perform—I’ve done it before. Not proud of it, but true. Caved to my own internal pressure and took on another’s identity to be approved and accepted. Yet in the process, I lost something invaluable—the gift of myself.
And then it hits me—my college roomie, this is the lesson we learned together. I can honor and celebrate these African American women without pretending to be one of them. By staying true to myself, I give room for others to stay true to themselves.
I quietly walk to the podium and begin sharing God’s love from my heart—in the way I do best, in the way I am designed. People are moved by the gentle power of love—tears flow and healing comes. I am a cool drink of water in the fiery heat of the day. Different, yet the same.
I am not color blind. God gave us color and the ability to distinguish between colors. It’s a gift that I plan to celebrate more. When we celebrate our differences by not pretending they do not exist, we celebrate the multi-faceted nature of God in whose image we all were created.
Different, yet the same. Hard to explain. A divine mystery from the heart of God that I one day hope to understand better.
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills.*
Rugged hill challenges of life—they call me. Mostly because I yearn for a change of scenery—a view from higher heights. A spiritual lens upgrade.
No longer a slave to what I witness in the outward. Breaking free from reality’s cruel grasp. My thoughts take flight—into the high places of the sky. Where tidal surges of hope rush upward and eternal.
Arise, my darling!
Come quickly, my beloved.
Come and be the graceful gazelle with me.
Come be like a dancing deer with me.
We will dance in the high place of the sky,
yes, on the mountains of fragrant spice.
Forever we shall be united as one!*
God’s thoughts are high. His ways are high. Residing far above my rugged-hill ways. His thoughts are hidden among mountains of fragrant grace. He beckons me to come & draws me with climbing cords of love. (Really, it’s quite scandalous, this grace.)
And in the rarefied air of heavenly heights, my thoughts become fastened on all that is lovely; all that is honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind.
Writer-Poet Carl Sandburg’s words entice me: “Here or there you may witness a startling harmony…where you say, “This will be haunting me a long time with a loveliness I hope to understand better.”
When the day breaks and the shadows flee, I encounter a startling harmony within. My beloved is altogether lovely. A loveliness that has haunted me a very long time. A loveliness that I hope to understand better. A loveliness that renews and transforms.
*Author’s Note: Writing for me becomes a dialogue with the Spirit of God. My heart’s response to scriptures whispering through my spirit. This dialogue flows from Song of Songs 2:17 (NIV) and 8:14 (TPT) and Philippians 4:8. May the dialogue continue within you. Love and Peace.