When our three “spirited” children were in high school, I began a prayer practice with a friend of mine. We would pray for friends for our children. Not just any friends, but friends who would lead them closer to God. Since our “evangelization” attempts seemed “somewhat unwelcome” at that time, the prayer for good friends became almost a mantra for us. So, when both our daughters were way out of high school, single, living and working in Chicago, my prayer of many years was answered in a delightfully unexpected way. My youngest daughter, Molly, met Rondi during a post graduate year at Public Allies, a community leadership training program. Rondi is brilliant, a voracious reader, politically progressive, and wickedly funny. And a bit quirky, although a girly girl, she is an expert on boxing stats for decades back, a rabid Chicago Bears fan and ask her anything about Harry Potter and she has the answer. These divergent qualities were exactly what attracted my daughters to her. She is also a deeply Spirit filled Christian. Because her spirituality was such an integrated part of who she was and is my daughters not only tolerated it, but were drawn to her spirituality as part of Rondi’s charm.
One year, Rondi went with my husband and me, my two daughters and 2 of our closest friends to Mexico on vacation. Our oldest daughter arrived in Mexico, pale, scary thin, grieving, and newly divorced. It broke my heart to see her tiny body and broken heart, and I felt powerless to help her. One afternoon, I remember looking out amid the palm trees in front of our rented Casa to see Rondi, underneath one of the palm trees, Bible on her lap, sharing Bible verses with my hurting daughter. I had tears of gratitude for this young woman in my daughter’s lives. That soul friend sharing among them continues today, the three of them now with families of their own and all the challenges that raising a family brings.
In many ways, Rondi’s spirituality so touches my own; she could be my daughter of the heart. I stay in touch with her, mainly through her posts on FB. Sometimes through FB, I feel as if we are having a running conversation. By the way, Rondi is African American. During this past year she has posted a number of articles on white privilege. Through the articles that Rondi posts, and many others I have since read, something like scales have fallen from my eyes. I see clearly now how much unconscious racism that I am carrying. After the devastating racial violence this summer and Black Lives Matter”, Rondi posted the question, “I wonder, where are the voices of all my white friends?” I have been deeply disrupted and disturbed by that question. Where WAS my voice? I know my speaking always starts with listening. I began listening, exploring, reading, trying to understand what “Black Lives Matter” means. What I have heard deeply in my heart is not a political slogan or point of contention or competition with other races, but the deeply felt cry of a people who desire to be seen and heard and valued.
How can I make a difference? The beginning of my answer came on a Sunday morning after the terrible shootings in Dallas. As I walked into our tiny Church of the Epiphany in South Haven, Michigan I noticed that the altar was ajar. It had been propped up by a stack of books on one side as was the pulpit. The sanctuary light was lowered and the cross behind the altar was at a ninety degree angle. Later I found out that Father Michael with the help of a few members of our congregation before Eucharist had arranged this confusion. As Father Michael entered the back of the chapel to process in for Eucharist he said something like, “I imagine you all have noticed that things are not right in the Church this morning. I think this is how we all feel inside right now. It feels as if there is no way to right ourselves.” And then later in the service, what I remember from his sermon was that he told us we needed a plumb line to be “upside right” again. The actions he took next penetrated, and began living in my heart. For always actions, symbols really, go deeper with me than words ever can. At the end of his sermon, he straightened the cross on the back center sanctuary wall of the church and used that as a starting point to straighten the sanctuary light and altar and podium. He pointed to the cross and said “This is our plumb line.” We need to look to Jesus as our plumb line to know what actions we can take to heal the divisions in our hearts and our country. And then I knew the answer to Rondi’s question. My voice must be in my actions. As good as protests and political solutions are, my response must be in getting to know the people of color in my own community.
I believe that it is only by touching another’s heart, one on one, that racism will end. That is what Jesus did. I live in a small town of a little over 4000 year round citizens. I have no power to end the racial divide in this country or my small town. But I can get involved with community groups to end the racism in my own heart! I am slowly discovering ways to get to know a community of people that live just 5 five blocks from me. Jesus came for each one of us, and he met people as individuals. He never once mentioned the color of their skin or hair or eyes as prerequisites to relationship. My daughters’ relationship to Rondi has nothing to do with her skin color. It is the qualities of her heart and mind they love. I can humbly get to know the people of color in my own community. I can get to know their minds and hearts and they can get to know me. Maybe we can even heal each other. Opportunities have been presenting themselves and I am responding, grateful for the invitations. I can do my small part in my own heart and community to end racism because Jesus is my plumb line.
Then I found this quote by Cory Booker:
“ Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people. Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me how much you love all His children. Before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give.”