The death of George Floyd was horrible. We were all shocked and grieved. I live in Minnesota, and it breaks my heart to watch, wondering why?
A Story of Minneapolis
I’d like to tell you a little bit about downtown Minneapolis. It’s a very ethnically diverse place. There are immigrants from almost every place in the world. Some are just starting out here, perhaps still learning English. Some are extremely intelligent, like my Uncle Danny, a highly trained dentist from Bolivia. Or the gentle and kind oncologist from Lebanon (who treated my brother for his very rare form of kidney cancer) who works at the Children’s Hospital. (It breaks my heart to see pictures of this very same hospital, boarded up, on a street that looks like a war zone.) In Minneapolis, there are also the ordinary people, just like in every community, who own shops, work at malls, or clean. There are so many honest and kind people from every walk of life.
Yet Minneapolis can also be a dangerous place. I wouldn’t feel safe if I was downtown at night, although maybe that’s because I’m a country girl who isn’t used to the noises of the city. Or maybe I’m not just paranoid. There are gangs and bad people living in Minneapolis, too.
There’s a lot of healthy ethnic diversity in Minneapolis as a whole. But then I remember that there are also churches that are primarily filled with light-skinned people, and churches primarily filled with people of color. I’ve seen communities divided by ethnicity.
That’s the city at the heart of Minnesota, and right now, we are grieving the death of a man killed by suffocation.
Changing The World Starts Where?
I don’t believe I can change the world.
I’m a passionate young person, and I don’t think that’s enough to change the world.
People always told me I would, but I strongly doubt that.
Because I’m just one person.
And people don’t change the world.
Rebuilding After Riots and Racism
In my heart of hearts, I want to see communities-communities where people live in harmony. I want girls to grow up never hearing things that damage their self-image and boys to grow up who aren’t afraid that they’ll be stopped by an officer just because they “look like they don’t belong.”
Is this possible?
I don’t know.
Sin will always pervade America, or any country. No amount of policy changes (although those can and should be implemented) will change hearts. Evil people will succeed. Only the gospel can change hearts.
The question is not, “Can we create a perfect society?” but rather, “As Christians, let’s build a better community: one where even if the world is unkind, we are accepting and loving and prod one another on to good works.”
Girls, each of you live in a community. Take a good look at it, an honest look. What good do you see? What flaws do you see?
And then, once you’ve realized that only a community can change the world, realize the only way to change a community is to first start by changing yourself. Ask God to transform your heart to be more like Jesus.
What can we do now, starting in our hearts, to fight racism? I want to offer three attitudes we as Christian young women should ask God to cultivate in our hearts, and a call to action for every girl. First, a listening, compassionate heart. Second, a way of seeing people. Third, a challenge to encourage. And finally, a call to invite those who feel outside into Christ’s arms.
God wants to use each one of us to help our communities heal. He only asks us to be willing to love like Jesus. (1 Corinthians 13)
Quiet Doesn’t Mean Healed: The Importance of Crying With Others’ Hurt
For years, my family was sick with Lyme’s disease. It was especially difficult because we struggled to find specialists who understood. Some doctors simply dismissed our concerning symptoms.
Then, we found someone who understood us. She listened and tested and diagnosed. It was such a relief to be heard and helped!
But then there was another aspect: the social aspect. Because of neurological symptoms, it was difficult to interact with people, but we tried. The hardest part was when someone asked, “How are you?” We sometimes attempted honesty, and we almost always got responses that felt like our pain was being shut down. And then people would move on. Eventually, we learned that there are only a few people who will truly listen. So we were quiet. And then people began to believe we weren’t really all that sick. They thought that because we were quiet, we must be healed.
But quiet doesn’t mean healed.
Thinking of the tears of the black community, I want to propose something. Even if George Floyd’s death wasn’t racially motivated, his death is salt on the wound of a festering hurt. If right now, we hear voices of the black community speaking out, it’s time to listen, even if we disagree or hear conflicting stories. Because quiet before doesn’t mean healed.
What is the goal here? Is it to justify ourselves by saying, “Well, I’ve never been racist!”? Or is it to build churches where people of every color can gather and say, “I know that there may be discrimination in the world, but here I know I am accepted and loved”? (1 John 4:7)
And yes, I’ve seen conflicting data and heard conflicting voices (even those of people of color) on the politics of police killings. I could choose to believe the most comfortable thing.
Or I could realize that one cannot argue away either facts or feelings. If someone is hurt, a Christian doesn’t get to say, “You’re not in pain.” Healing comes by telling our stories and being heard. Healing comes when we can say, “This hurt me,” to someone who’s really listening and caring.
We need to be that someone.
Yes, people are going to use this and to drive their own narratives and agendas. In our pursuit of love, we cannot neglect truth. Truth and love belong side by side.
As an aside, I’ve heard from Black Americans that opportunistic people often use tragedies this to encourage policies that keep black communities poor, fatherless, and government-dependent. It’s critical that we do not participate in a narrative that could hurt our brothers and sisters just because we are giving in to peer pressure. As Christians, we must pursue truth. (If you would like to hear more about this, below we have included a list of resources I found helpful as I researched for this article.)
Yet, love doesn’t shut others down. Love listens. Love learns. Love finds the truth, and love acts. And as we listen, we don’t get to try to “rationalize” them out of their pain. It is their pain. Remember, there is racism in this country, and it does hurt our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Don’t shut someone down because they’ve been quiet in the past. Be willing to listen to someone’s feelings. You don’t have to agree with their politics to say, “I’m sorry. I’m crying with you.”
Therefore, the first attitude we should ask God to give us is a compassionate, listening heart.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
See Color Second
In Minnesota we have two big cities, appropriately nicknamed “The Twin Cities.” A couple of years ago, I was in Saint Paul with my mom, having tea and window shopping. After coming out of a shop, I saw a young black man following after me. I opened the door for him. He was shocked. As he thanked me, it sounded like he’d never had a door opened for him by a young girl with light olive skin. It was truly no big deal for me to open a door, but I, in my turn, had to mull over this encounter.
Was it so strange for him to have me open the door? Did people see his skin color and decide to avoid him instead?
“I don’t see color, I just see people.”
Have you heard this before?
That honestly seems to me to be a way of dismissing people’s pain. It also seems to wash away the resilience of the Black Americans, who overcame slavery and discrimination, and who each, in their own life, must find a way to deal with the racism they encounter.
See each person as a whole person. Don’t see their ethnicity and then decide you know everything about them. See them as a person first. When you meet someone of color, stop yourself from categorizing them based on how they look. Try to get to know them as a person. Be aware that someone may have had painful experiences of racism-maybe even recently. Be kind. See color, celebrate ethnic diversity, but see it second.
Pray that God would cultivate your eyes to see others like Jesus sees them.
A Kentucky Encounter
One time, my family was staying in Kentucky overnight. We had time to visit the Kentucky Derby racetrack, and even though nothing was happening that day, we decided to walk around and try to catch a glimpse of one of the racehorses.
A smiling, big man was grazing “Bang-Bang” on a lead rope. In a sprawling Kentucky accent, he said, “Why, hello, there. This is Bang-Bang. We call him Bang-Bang, because that’s how he runs. If he doesn’t make it this year, he never will.”
We said hello, told him what we were doing, and he let us come closer. I asked if I could stroke the beautiful chestnut, and he said yes, but was a little surprised by my fearless approach. Apparently Bang-Bang was a bit of a rowdy horse.
We got to talking with the caretaker, and when he learned we were from Minnesota, he was ecstatic. “You’re from Minnesota? Are you Vikings fans? I’ve been a Vikings fan my whole life!” he told my dad. Then he began sharing more about his life caring for the horses in the stables. He explained vehemently how vital it is to graze a horse and horrible to keep them stabled. Then the owner of the horse drove by.
“He’s the only black owner of racehorses here,” the caretaker told us, excited. We expected an important racehorse owner to smile and drive on. Yet he got out of his car and began talking with us. He was a wonderful Christian man, and he must have spent a half-hour talking and praying with us.
Encourage Ambition (But Don’t Patronize)
Our lives were totally changed by meeting these two Black men, and if we ever head back to Kentucky, we’ve promised to bring some Vikings merch back with us.
I was so impressed by the racehorse owner, who loved horses so much that he stayed, despite the very real possibility of encountering racist people. He had something he loved doing, and a ministry: unfortunately, he told us that this group of people were often averse to the Gospel. Yet he felt called to be a light there.
He was ambitious and talented and called. By God’s grace, he was able to overcome the barriers in his way to share the gospel with these people. To me, he was a true hero.
When I hear of little black girls being told that they won’t be able to succeed because of racism, my blood boils. I have had several little black girls in my Virtuous Girls ministry, and yes, they will fight racism. My heart aches for them and seethes against the evil. But I know that through love and support, they can reach out and hold onto their God-given dreams. By God’s grace, they are strong enough to attain the loftiest heights, too. And they can count on me to be there and fight for them and help them break down any barrier in their path.
We should encourage ambition, the kind of ambition that is fully surrendered to God’s will, in every young minority child. But we shouldn’t patronize, either. We shouldn’t make them feel they only succeeded because of our help, and that their own hard work wouldn’t have been good enough. Never rob someone of the dignity of accomplishment, one of God’s good gifts. Remember, there comes a point when every bird has to fly free. Be a support, not an extra parent.
Pray that God would give you a heart to encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ, and help them pursue His dreams for their life.
Build A Community
Minnesota is flawed. The world is flawed. We all know that right now. It breaks my heart to see our communities and the ethnic divides across them.
Are we not all one race, one people, descended from Adam and Eve?
Do we not wish to invite all people into Christ’s arms?
Then we must act like it.
We must listen with compassion, even if we hear conflicting accounts.
We must pursue truth, the whole truth.
We must see each person as a person, and not as a member of a group.
We must encourage everyone.
We must weep with those who weep.
Above all, we must spread the Gospel: that Jesus loved broken, sinful people enough to die to redeem every one of us.
We Must Know Our Neighbors To Love Them
Dear girls, how will we do this, if we do not know people? How will we do this, if we are not reaching out to people who have totally different backgrounds, who look completely different from us? (James 2:8)
Rose you are the one who invites friends into your social circles. Be kind to all. Do you see someone standing on the edge of the crowd, uncertain if she’s welcome because of the color of her skin? Welcome her. Invite her in.
We are the ones who build our communities. May it never be said of us that we agreed in words but were silent in deeds. May we be respectful to all.
May we recognize that Christ loves all. May we acknowledge that all are sinful, all have fallen short, all are desperately in need of saving grace. Yet, may we, in doing so, never fail to recognize that we ourselves must stand up to do good, be kind, love justice, and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8) May we go out, to the brokenhearted and to the ones in the poorest of neighborhoods, and minister to them in Christ’s love, word, and deed.
Yes, our hearts may long to erase the pain of racism from someone’s traumatized heart, but since we cannot remove the burden, let us love one another and help them to bear it.
There are many practical ways we can fight for reconciliation. And we at The Wilting Rose Project don’t want to be part of a hashtag solution, one that joins in the noise when it’s trending and then leaves our sisters and brothers in Christ alone when it’s not. The world will take advantage of others’ pain. May we not do the same!
Roses, we are only strong if we are rooted in each other and in our King. If you see another Rose with wilted petals, sorrowing because someone saw her and despised the way our Gardener King cultivated her, go to her and water her with these Words of God:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
I would encourage you to first listen to people you know. Cry with them. Be there for them in the pain of racism. Speak the Lord’s truth.
Then, as you seek to understand, learn, and grow, listen to additional diverse opinions. As Christian young women, we need to seek Truth.
Here are just some of the resources I found helpful as I wrote this piece:
- Dr. Voddie Baucham’s sermon on Cultural Marxism was very insightful for me, and helped me begin to learn about a Biblical perspective on culture, race relations, and loving one another well. Even though it is quite long, please listen to it!
- Allie Beth Stuckey’s grace-filled podcast “Does the Truth Matter?” was also helpful to me.
- A friend of ours, Anika Walkes, shared her stance on racism and riots as a mixed-race person on Bekah Black’s blog. (Bekah is one of our leaders.)
- Jamie Grace presents another viewpoint, and I have been aching with her as she posts.
- This thread on Morgan Harper Nichol’s Instagram is absolutely beautiful!
- Jackie Hill Perry is another voice I have listened to.
- Candace Owens presents a totally different perspective, and this discussion with Hawk Newsome was fascinating to hear. (Discernment Warning: some language and frank but generally friendly discussion from opposite political perspectives. For older girls. I have not completely finished listening to this resource. I provide only to encourage you that these sorts of healthy discussions are happening.)
- Dr. Ben Carson is a man I have respected since I first heard his amazing story of overcoming racism and one of the worst school districts to become a world-renowned brain surgeon. If you haven’t already, read his biography, Gifted Hands, or watch the movie with the same name. (Inspiration Warning: incredibly beautiful, may cause tears of joy. Discernment Warning: if you watch the movie, there are some intense medical scenes. I have not personally read the entire book.)
- My own pastor gave a loving sermon on how Jesus handled racism and cultural norms and what we should learn from His example. I would encourage you to listen to it as well.
If you have any other resources, please share them with us in the comments! Or do you have any thoughts on how to pursue healing and reconciliation in our communities as young Christian women? How can we share the gospel in this time? How can we love our brothers and sisters well?
Bethany’s name means “bright city on a hill.” This is her mission in life, to illuminate the beautiful things and shine God’s light where there was darkness. Bethany leads The Wilting Rose Project, a ministry of encouragement for young women who feel their struggles make them worthless. She writes tales inspired by her love of the forest, where she spends many of her mornings, soaking in the uniquely Minnesotan beauty. Her blog includes more personal documentation of her journey the last few years with Lyme disease and Toxic Mold illness and the journey of healing she is now on.