My son starts middle school this year. Being future oriented, I have been anticipating his first day of school since the last school year ended. Mostly I feel anxious and fearful of what lies ahead. I tell myself it’s a necessary part of growing up. It occurs to me – he’s not just entering a new grade, but a new stage in his physical, social, emotional and spiritual development. The tools and support he’ll need will be different.
My husband works with college students. As he kicks off the year with his campus staff who work with students at different universities, he tells them, they need “a new spirituality.” The old spirituality won’t work as they enter this new stage where white supremacists carry torches onto the college campus, and universities produce college graduates who believe women are inferior to men and feel compelled to publish a manifesto sharing why. His staff will need different spiritual tools and support.
The New Reality
In my post, “When Reality Bites,” I reflect on the shift to a new reality of “racism more overt, less subtle, more frequent, impacting more people.” This new reality is not just about individual racism, but about systemic racism – which is exponentially more powerful and damaging due to its scale and depth.
The people who lead others in this new reality will need to practice a new spirituality because the old spirituality won’t work anymore. It’s like using a probiotic to cure stomach cancer. This new spirituality needs to be stronger to fight against the advancing forces of evil present.
I don’t know exactly what this new spirituality looks like and what all the components are. I’d like to share three components I have been learning to practice in my own life.
Stay engaged. Engagement can involve listening, talking, debating and praying with others. For me, it has also involved speaking and writing. The creative process has given me space to first process and seek God more deeply, and then share with others.
Not talking about #Charlottesville doesn’t make white supremacy go away. Rather, it protects institutions and systems that want to deny, dismiss, or diminish reality. I believe it puts a heavy toll on workers of color who have to go to work and act like it’s ‘business as usual,’ while our pain has no place to go.
Remember what healthy looks like. Reading Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, made me realize how scarcely I’ve experienced health in the places where I’ve worked. It’s such a rare experience I have difficulty remembering what healthy looks like.
As people who lead others in this new reality, we need to remember scripture’s vision of healthy and just human relationships and systems. We cannot let the present lies, dysfunction and unhealthiness erase all memory. Remembering what healthy looks like will keep us from aiming too low and accepting the status quo.
Develop a rhythm of rest and restoration. Two months after I resigned from my employer of 10 years, I thought I had plenty of time to reflect and recover. But it wasn’t just my brain or my soul that needed to recover. To my surprise, my physical body was worn out from years of absorbing pain. It needed deep rest. It needed to recover.
Developing a rhythm of rest and restoration is more than just taking one day off a week for Sabbath. Sometimes, we need to rest for a long time before we feel restored.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (New Revised Standard Version).
Instead of reading this as a personal invitation like we’ve been taught by Western Christianity, I wonder how different the invitation sounds as a corporate invitation to those who labor in faith and racial justice.
“Come to me, all you who work for racial justice that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
If we come to him, Jesus promises to give us rest for our souls. May Jesus guide us in developing a new spirituality for such a time as this.