A part of the Border Fellows program is to have a mentor who meets with me occasionally to see how I’m doing. Mentoring can look different depending on the needs of the mentor and mentee. You can choose to go through a book together, a Bible study, etc. I was paired with a woman named Patsy, who also attends the Church of St. Clements and is a mother to two grown children. Patsy and I decided to meet twice a month and just talk about life. I like to process information verbally, so I was grateful that we mutually decided that meeting up for morning coffee to talk would be best.
Patsy is wonderful. She is a petite Hispanic woman who is gracious, kind, and fiercely loves the Lord. She is loyal to her family and friends. She is very eager to listen and hear how I’m doing. She genuinely cares for me, even though she has only known me for less than 1.5 months. Patsy grew up in El Paso and witnessed the many changes across the borderland. Through her personal experiences, she guides and helps me process a lot of what I am learning.
About a month ago we met at a Starbucks off of Redd and I-10 in the early morning. I had just returned from Nogales, AZ and was excited to share everything I learned. It was still fresh and raw, and I was ready to take action, contend for shalom, and do all of the “justice-y” things.
- Some of the stuff I learned in Arizona may be considered radical to the Church. It is on topics that many people do not like to hear, like how racism and slavery are deeply rooted in the Anglican church’s history. It’s hard to justify and reconcile with that, especially as Christians. (Look up Albert Thompson from Northern VA. He’s a professor at NOVA community college and has online podcasts on U.S. history and slavery. It is fascinating.) We learned that we should lament and repent of this history for the rest of our lives. (Some people do not like to hear this and claim that they are not a racist, so why should they repent? It may seem like a valid point until you recognize that prejudices are subtly intertwined into our daily lives. We all have them, even myself. These prejudices were taught to us formally and informally – they are from our environments, social media, families, and school systems. No one is an exception to this. So regardless if you don’t think you’re a racist, we all have, or have had, racist thoughts at some point in our lives, and we need to repent of that. I need to, too.)
Anyways. I was sharing this with Patsy, not quite sure how she would react to all of this. But I went for it, and I’m thankful I did.
After I was done word vomiting, she shared with me her conservative background and upbringing. When she started to learn about social and biblical justice in her late 30’s, she acknowledged that it was important, but it felt like an attack on her personal character. Patsy admitted that she felt like people were blaming her for every wrong in America’s history just because she grew up conservatively and had more resources than other vulnerable populations. She became defensive, claiming, “I’m Hispanic! How can you call me a racist?” But as time went on, she became more educated on the issues and realized that people weren’t calling her a “racist” to be mean. Instead, they were calling out that racism exists as a systemic and institutionalized problem, and it has hidden itself really well within the walls of our homes, schools, and churches. It needs to be called out so that it can be stopped. As Albert Thompson said in his talk a month ago, “Slavery was never abolished. Racism never ended. It just evolved.”
So then, Patsy said her “pendulum swung the exact opposite way.” She confronted racism and social justice issues head-on. If she heard someone complain or say a rude comment, she would immediately speak up and defend the person that was being targeted by malicious words. Patsy felt a personal responsibility for the protection of those most vulnerable and that it was her duty and calling to save them all.
But then, God gave her a vision one day.
In her vision, she is standing in front of a mass of people. Her arms are spread open, reaching from side-to-side as far as they can go. Protectingly she tells the people to “stand behind me.” Then the Lord gently asks her,
“My child, what are you doing?”
And she responds, “Lord, I am protecting my people.”
“Do you not know that they are my people? I will protect them. I have already spread my arms wide to die on the cross for them. I will save them. Even more, how can you protect them when you’re not even looking at them? You are facing the wrong way. How can you know what they need when your back is turned to the people?”
Geez. Isn’t that super convicting? How often do I go out and help those who are marginalized, fight their battles and “pursue justice and contend for shalom,” but I don’t even care to look at those who I am helping? I am so so guilty of this!
God honestly doesn’t need my help. Quite frankly, He doesn’t need anyone’s help to do His work. But He chooses to use us and allows us to serve Him. We don’t need to be the saviors of the people, but we do need to notice, listen, and establish relationships with people. It doesn’t do much good to solve someone’s problems without hearing a person share their story. You may be solving a “problem” that doesn’t need to be solved.
I’m grateful that the Lord is patient with us. I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit is a constant guide through this very messy life.
Let’s pray that we notice people, hear them, and create relationships that will hopefully turn into lasting friendships. God is a relational God. Let Him do the hard work so that we can focus on loving people well, by the grace of God.