Do the Work
As educators we all know our students have to “do the work” if they want to learn. Some try to learn by osmosis but quickly find out that doesn’t work! We also know learning is a life-long process. I can remember years ago when I finished my Master’s degree; I felt quite proud and smart! The following weekend I attended an educational conference and was overwhelmed with new information. Needless to say, I fell off my high-horse. You know what the Bible says—pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).
This realization has repeated itself throughout my lifetime. About the time I think I have things figured out, something happens to remind me that I still have much to learn. Such is the case with today’s tumultuous environment. While I don’t have all of the answers, I felt I had to write something about my personal commitment to do the work—to learn and do what I can to help eradicate something as unbiblical and ungodly as racism.
Last week’s blog (https://www.victoriouseducator.com/post/finding-rest) challenged us to get moving (i.e., to imitate Christ). I emphasized our call to discipleship and reminded us what Jesus did.
· Jesus fulfilled His purpose (John 17:1-5).
· Jesus obeyed His Father (Philippians 2:8).
· Jesus spoke out against the injustices He saw (Matthew 21:12-13).
If we would all strive to imitate Christ, this world would be a much better place. Racism would not exist. I doubt many would argue with this, so the question begs asking, “Why is this country still struggling with racial inequalities and prejudice?” The answer is complex, and as a white woman raised primarily in a white community, I am certainly not qualified to answer it. However, my heart yearns for a solution to the unrest. This much I know—true peace will not occur if we all don’t do the work.
Over the past few weeks, I have heard many spiritual leaders speak to this issue. Each brings different perspectives to the table, but all agree on one thing—the division in our country is a heart issue. Evil has always existed in this world, and it will continue to exist. If we are going to become a nation free of prejudice, we have work to do.
It may be easier to turn a blind eye, weather the storm, and pretend it is someone else’s problem. As Christians, this is not our calling. As imitators of Christ, sitting back and doing nothing isn’t an option. While the work we have to do may vary depending on our situation, there are three overriding areas I feel apply to all of us: our hearts, our beliefs, and our actions.
So, here we go. In hopes this will help others, I am choosing to describe my thinking right now regarding my work in these areas. Please extend me a little grace here. I am going to try really hard to be transparent; as a result, I may not accurately articulate my thoughts. It is hard for me to do something like this in writing! Where do I start? With my heart.
What is my heart condition, really? Our first step in doing the work (and this is hard) is to get honest with ourselves. The only way I know how to get a sense of my heart condition is to take a look at Jesus. His heart was reflected in everything He did. One particular event that stands out for me was the Last Supper.
The Bible tells us Jesus knew the crucifixion was near. As a final act of love and service, Jesus, the Son of God (don’t miss that), got up from the table to wash the disciples’ dirty feet, even the feet of the one who would betray him (John 13:5-17). Jesus humbled himself and chose to serve in a capacity many would have found demeaning. He was getting ready to face indescribable suffering at the hands of His enemies, and what was He doing? Serving. Servanthood is a reflection of the heart. I can’t find the words to thoroughly describe His heart, but His own words tell us that His heart desires our good, expects nothing in return, expresses compassion, and forgives fully (Luke 6). I want a heart like that, don’t you?
When comparing our hearts to that of Jesus, we undoubtedly fall short. However, instead of beating ourselves up and retreating to a place of self-pity, we need to hold onto God’s grace. He knew we couldn’t do it on our own. I love this verse in Romans. When we are submitted to the Holy Spirit, it is God’s love, not ours, that gives us the capacity to imitate Christ.
Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5
Our part of doing the work is purposefully seeking to know and understand God’s heart, yielding to the Holy Spirit, and then doing our best to align our heart with his. It is an ongoing journey that ends in eternity. Until then, we press on (Philippians 4:13).
The next step of doing the work is to ask ourselves, “What are my beliefs regarding racism?” There is no doubt I have much to learn. Like many Christians, I believe we are all created in the image of God, and there is no place for racism in our society. However, my life experiences have been very limited. I grew up in a small town in Southwest Kansas. For the most part, races were segregated. I seldom even saw people of color let alone had any friends of color. I went to a primarily white college and spent most of my career in white communities with very little diversity. I thought I knew and understood the issues surrounding racism; now I realize that is not the case.
The recent senseless deaths of black Americans have been a wake-up call. Whether I want to or not, I must first acknowledge racism and inequalities exist. It is time to stop going about our daily lives oblivious to the hurt all around us. We can’t address a problem we won’t acknowledge. It starts with asking ourselves some questions. Here are a few I am tackling.
· Am I making false assumptions?
· Am I being silent when I should say something?
· Am I actively listening, learning, and seeking to understand?
· Am I choosing to view the situation from an eternal perspective?
· Am I willing to take action and be obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
While the shutdown with COVID-19 has been devastating in many ways, it has given me a quiet place to reflect on these tough questions. All of us, no matter our skin color, hold beliefs and assumptions about others. Whether conscious or unconscious, these underlying beliefs eventually guide our actions and our words. Taking time to peel back the layers is work, but this process is instrumental in order to turn the tide against racism. This is more than a personal restart opportunity. It is a chance for us change the future for our students, our children, and our grandchildren.
How each of us will do the work in this area may vary, but for me, I am going to start by having conversations with people who love the Lord, desire unity, but are different than I am (i.e., people who have had life experiences that vary greatly from mine). I am also going to read recommended resources like White Fragility and Be the Bridge. I am currently in that place of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I can’t really unpack my underlying beliefs and assumptions without first educating myself.
Finally, it isn’t enough to reflect on my heart and become more knowledgeable. I have to tackle the question, “What action should I take?” As I stated from the beginning, we are called to discipleship. Jesus was a man of action; He actively fulfilled God’s calling on His life. We must do the same. While I am still in the process of navigating these waters, God has already placed some action steps on my heart. To be honest, the task is a bit overwhelming, but we serve a BIG God who can do BIG things.
Doing the work won’t be easy. We all have to purposefully evaluate our own hearts, beliefs, and assumptions. We must choose to broaden our perspectives and learn from those who are different from us. Finally, we have to be obedient to the specific task(s) God places on our hearts. Remember—every Christian is called to point others to Jesus. The only way to truly overcome prejudice and hate is through a changed heart.
As educators we have an opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of today’s youth. I leave you with a pictures of my granddaughter and her bestie. We can change the future. Let’s do the work!