The gift of “staying put”

“It’s not enough to be in relationship. White and black people have a long history of relationship. For healing to begin, we must learn to listen with our hearts.” — Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from the Slaveholder Religion

My calendar has me on a run of several days that puts me in the black church context. We have celebrated with friends having anniversaries as pastors in two churches. We will be a part of a movement in Mobile that is having a larger gathering to keep talking about racism and cultural issues. This stretch in my calendar has been needed. It is helping me wash over my spirit.

Since I am still new to the community, I simply get to attend. No speaking role. No special attention because I’m the white pastor or anything. I’ve been able to be Dan and I’m just there to celebrate with my friends. I’ve had a lot of joy in being a part of their celebrations. The worship music has washed over me. The powerful preaching style of their particular churches has ignited my soul again.

It has been during this stretch that I’ve realized the gift I’ve been given by the Lord. It’s the gift of “staying put.” When it comes to learning and growing, the best thing we can do is not have all the answers. In this time of my life, I have no answers. I just need to keep on learning. Staying put is necessary because it saves me from my rigidity of needing to have answers and if I don’t have answers, I simply bolt because I can’t take the discomfort.

When we think we have all the answers, or we can’t take the incongruity of our situation and bolt, our hearts become shriveled. I want a healthy heart and generous spirit and because God has gifted me with the ability to “stay put”, my tank is full from this current schedule. I’ve been lifted by the celebration of the black church. I am so much deeper in my love because of the generosity of these great friends who have invited me into their celebrations.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove had a phrase he repeated in his book a few times: I am a man torn in two. That has been my experience as I have been on this journey in the South. (And even before that in Minnesota.) I am learning… and I am unlearning. I am grateful… and battling incongruity. But the journey is at this juncture joyous. I am thankful for the gift of staying put.

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