|I failed to post this when I got back from my conference a few weeks ago . . . but I was in Atlanta, Georgia (my first time–mostly I was at a retreat center, but I got to spend a little bit of time in the city itself . . . ) and I was getting on a train and there in the corner near the stairs to the train platform was a small convenience store. AND THEY SOLD MEGA MILLIONS TICKETS!!!
I literally had the thought that I was glad that it was hidden in the corner so that nobody would see me . . . and I realized immediately afterwards how ridiculous that was . . . because a) nobody in that city knows me and b) more importantly, GOD sees me and HE is the one I am disobeying . . .
sigh. time for another psalm . . .
(psalm 139:7-12, NIV)
Where can I go from your Spirit?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
even there your hand will guide me,
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
of Asherah poles and Golden Arches
tonight at church, we talked about Psalm 121:1-2:
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
My help comes from the LORD,
The speaker explained that, though we usually interpret the first line to mean, “wow, what beautiful mountains God made!”, in reality, there was more to it than that. At the time this psalm was written, the “hills” in question would have been carved up with idols to other gods, Asherah poles and the like. Thus, the “where does my help come from?”, then, is actually an affirmation that the God of Jacob is the ONLY God who deserves our trust.
We then met in small groups to talk about how the psalm resonated with us . . . I was near tears, thinking of the weight of my debt, some of it more recent, more of it from my snowballing student loans, but all of it my own fault (and yet something that I often plead with God to take away from me). But I think I was also struck by how greatly it must grieve God when I look to idols for the help that comes only from Him . . .
I have often “told” God exactly how (and when) I thought He should “deliver” me from my self-inflicted prison. My thought is always, “but if I could just get ‘back to zero'(no debt at all), I would be okay, and then I would for sure live differently.” This kind of thinking has left me struggling with buying lottery tickets long after God made it clear to me that doing so was outright disobedience . . . but tonight, what I shared, what I had suddenly realized, was that if I am not to chase after idols made of gold through playing the lottery, then I am equally culpable if I choose other methods of chasing after gold . . . MY help comes from the Lord .
. . and yet, there is the McDonald’s Monopoly game. In the past week, after not eating McDonald’s fries for about a year (ever since I saw the movie Super-Size Me), I have had large fries at least four times, all because you can’t win the weekly $50,000 prize unless you buy the large fries . . . mind you, I don’t even particularly enjoy french fries. but my mind works something like this: “Okay, Lord, if I win the five million, that’s two million for taxes, and I’ll tithe/give away two and a half million, and only keep $500,000.” Pay off my house, pay off my student loan debts, have a small ‘nest egg’ for savings, and then I would go and sin no more–at least that’s the theory, anyway. The reality is that I am asking God to be my genie, and that I am failing to trust His timing and His plans for me, failing to trust that He is still a good and mighty God even if I spend the rest of my life knee-deep in debt.
It is so very true that our hearts are “idol factories” . . . and when we try to look up to see God, the hills are almost always in the way. Faith is looking past those hills, those promises of wealth and earthly satisfaction, to the God whose ways are so far above our ways that He is beyond our seeing, and trusting this God we cannot see instead of the false, brightly glittering gods that assault our senses every step of the way.
I lift up my eyes to the hills, and I am blinded by the familiar yellow-and-red sign, the “golden arches”, until I fail to see my final destination, the streets where the gold we on this earth kill for is merely asphalt. Tonight, though, my heart aches with God’s heart, realizing how much it must grieve Him that I am so easily swayed by the “junk food” of this world, when the abundance of joy that He promised is mine for the asking . . .
It has to have been seven or eight months since this happened, but it has haunted me ever since. So much so, in fact, that I have resisted writing about it here out of my embarrassment and shame. But, delinquent blogger that I am, I have to write something, and so here goes . . .
I was in the food court at the mall, and because I was still recovering from my ankle surgery last year, I was maneuvering with the help of Speed Racer. Sara had Elijah and was getting herself settled with him, and I was trying to get Chinese food and make my way back to the table. Yes, on one leg and while trying to maneuver a tray of food.
An African-American woman at the next counter over saw me struggling and had compassion on me. She told her son (who was about 9 or 10) to come over and offer to help me, which he did.
I was not paying attention to my surroundings, as usual, and so did not notice this sweet young man coming up to me until he was right next to me. When I realized he was trying to speak to me, I jumped . . . as I was trying to get his words to translate from my ears to my brain (something I tend to have trouble with under any circumstances), I looked at him with a panicked, forced smile and shook my head while sputtering something like, “no, thank you, I’ve got it, but I appreciate the offer”. I think I then said something about how I was shaking my head “yes” while saying “no” with my mouth–something like, “I know that I’m shaking my head the opposite of what I am saying”–but I don’t know. maybe I’m not remembering that part correctly.
I know I am remembering the forced, automatic and fake smile, though. My facial muscles still ache with self-condemnation every time I think about it.
I have so many excuses for why I jumped out of my skin when he approached me. Primary among those is the fact that having both ADHD and PTSD means that I both zone out easily and startle easily. One of my coworkers, after having seem me react that way one time too many, has taken to using very deliberate footsteps when she approaches me. I hate when I am jumpy like that, because it is never in any way the fault of the person who has (unintentionally) startled me, but people quite often take it personally.
But I have no excuse. This sweet, polite young man had absolutely no reason to interpret the look of terror in my eyes, combined with the fake, plastered smile and meaningless words, as anything other than what I fear it really was.For this young man, and for his mother, my personal history was not even a factor. I am certain that they could only assume I was reacting in that over-exaggerated way because of a fear or a distrust of black men. How could it be interpreted any other way?
I still wish to this day that I had gone back to them and said something. I sometimes fantasize that I’ll somehow run into them again and will be able to make my apology, even though I barely remember what they looked like anymore. And I don’t want to give a complicated justification for my actions–“It’s unconscious–it’s a learned response”, blah blah blah, shut up, Lorraine . . . I just want to tell him how very, very sorry I am.
All I know is that in that moment, I wounded the heart of that little boy, and somehow sent the message that, no matter how many kind things he might do in his life, that there are always going to be white women reacting in unfounded fear at the very sight of him. And as I sat down for dinner with my own precious brown-skinned godson Elijah sitting next to me, my heart broke at the thought that he too will grow up in a world where people will instinctively and automatically jump in fear when they see him coming . . . even if he is the sweetest little boy in the world, and even if he comes with the most altruistic of motives . . . because at the end of the day, the inheritance we’ve all carried down through the years is one of mistrust, of irrational fear, and of unconscious, yet immediate judgments based on appearance.
I do not want Elijah to have to face the reality that I subjected this boy to . . . this young man who only wanted to be helpful, but who got only disdain and disrespect in return.
I can’t go back to that day and change my actions . . . all I can do is to continue to fight this monster of racism that rears its ugly head so often. I owe it to that young man to do so. I owe it to Elijah. And I owe it to myself, because this below-the-surface racism is a poison that needs to be eliminated from my body, mind and soul.
I’m so sorry, young man, wherever you may be. I’m sorry that you have to face a world filled with people like me. But I have to thank you as well, because your kind gesture taught me so much more than you will ever know.
When I started blogging on WordPress, they offered “categories”, but not tags for posts. When tags came along, I started using them, but also used the categories in some cases. This led to lots of messy overlap.
Anyway, tonight my OCD self is tempted to go through all of the posts by category, tag away, and then delete the categories.
or perhaps I can look into getting a life. yeah, that might work.