“Ponder this: If you were dying, who would you prefer to be accompanying you on the journey — an ally or a fellow pilgrim?” — Catherine Meeks
In the long journey of our culture… and the longer journey of white Americans taking their time trying not to learn too much history… some of us have come to the place of being “allies.” We are not unlike the Ents in Tolkien’s tales. After hundreds of years of deliberating, we have decided we are NOT trees.
Allies, however, are there for Black Americans when it’s convenient to us. When there is a particular part of the struggle we can somewhat understand, we are in.
Stand on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma? Okay.
Talk about reparations? Oh, look at the time!
To be a fellow pilgrim, according to Meeks, is different. It is a soul-level commitment. It is grounded in true empathy.
“A fellow pilgrim is one who holds you in their heart and shares your pain and joy to the very best of their ability, no matter what it requires.”
To be an ally is to be in a transactional relationship. I have found this to be true of many American Christians as well. We too often have a transactional relationship with Jesus. As long as he is delivering for me, I will “reward” him with my giving or my time or something that seems like a sacrifice.
To be a fellow pilgrim is to be transformational. Walking with others in their walk does something different. Something deep.
“White people who have come to realize that racism has injured no only black and brown people but themselves as well are becoming aware of their personal need for healing.”
In a white world of dualistic thinking, in a world of the polars being “progressive” or “conservative” and it’s either/or, this is why a lot of white Christians check out. The conversations end quickly with friends and family or other evangelical white believers when they can conveniently table me “progressive” or “liberal.” I am now in the “bad” category and not worth their time.
Fundamentalism is wonderful. It helps the extremes quickly identify their tribes and kick everyone else out.
The transformational work of being a fellow pilgrim puts us in a different place. It has certainly put me in a different place… and I am not close to “being there” as I want to be. I have realized places where my heart and mind have needed healing. This has been a profound walk for me.
“If you can accept that every person on the planet is injured by racism, you can see that it causes separation from other humans in a way that makes it quite difficult to see the face of God in one another, and that results in psychic and spiritual injury. No one is immune.”
This is the difficult journey. I am sure this is the journey of my lifetime. It tests my ego. It tests my humility. It tests my deep struggle with bitterness and anger.
And this is where I find my walk with Jesus to be the sweetest, the deepest, and the most needed. I can get along with being white in America and need very little of Jesus. But when I walk in a place where I want to see others and be with others and understand their journey, I am out in deep water and I can’t swim. In these places in my life I have found two things to be ultimately true:
I love Jesus more. I love people more.
And I will take that every time now.