Monthly Archives: May 2018
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on those who are desperately trying to change their lives but who are having real difficulty. Fall fresh on those who are fighting against their worst enemy – themselves. Fall fresh on Your children who realize that they must change but do not know how to do it. A sprinkling of Your holy spirit is a blessing because it penetrates our stubbornness. It releases us from holding onto something or someone or some memory which is not good for us or to us. Your holy spirit helps loosen the crust from our eyes that keep us from seeing what we must see within ourselves in order to get as close to you as we must. When we internalize Your holy spirit, we can no longer live in denial; You force us to see what You have always seen. But seeing what is within us is only the first step toward changing, dropping those things which have hampered us and kept us back. When we are in a season of change, we are losing spiritual infections which require a regular dosing of Your holy spirit. The spiritual germs which have infected us are stubborn and are resistant to being challenged. God come and help us open ourselves to You. Help us not to fret if we do not see an immediate change but keep us steadfast in our determination to be all that You created us to be. Help us to seek the sprinkling of Your holy spirit all day long. Create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us so that Your holy spirit can do what only it can do. Help us to expose to You our emotional baggage which has poisoned our very beings, baggage which includes anger, bitterness, the desire for revenge, jealousy, envy…Lord, You know. And so we ask that You allow Your holy spirit to fall fresh today on those who are desperately trying to change and even more on those who do not yet realize that they must.
Spirit of the living God, come today to those who are afraid. Some of us are afraid of success; others, afraid of failure. Some are afraid to live, others, afraid to die. Some are afraid to hope, others, afraid to stop hoping. Fear kills us. Fear is the antithesis of faith and it is the antithesis fear is the opposite of hatred. Because of fear we sabotage our lives and our relationships. We attack others, we attack institutions and we attack those who are different races, religions, and ethnicities. We fear people who have different ideas. Fear makes us tense up, it makes us believe things that are not true and it makes us live in a constant state of defense. Fear of bullies makes us align ourselves with bullies who do not love us but who know how to control and manipulate us. Fear of rejection keeps us from reaching out; fear of being yelled at keeps us from sharing our innermost thoughts. Fear of being fired keeps us from reporting things on our jobs that are wrong; fear of not being included in “the group” keeps us, as members of that group, from challenging it when it oppresses others. Fear is not our friend, God, and yet so many of us live in it. Many of us give fear more time on a daily basis than we give You. Fear follows us, taunts us, tortures us, even laughs at us as we try to step away from it into a place of faith. We cannot live in faith if we are living in fear, and so, God, please come. Let Your spirit fall fresh on us today, and give our spirits enough openness to receive it so that we can believe to clear fear from our souls.
In spite of the power and necessity of the “MeToo” movement, I have found that I am wrestling with what Dr. Martin Luther King called “unconscious bitterness” toward white women. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King writes about he realizes that his children, as they learn how this world regards them because of the color of their skin, their personalities “distorted” by “ominous clouds of inferiority” are developing an “unconscious bitterness toward white people.”
As scores of women, predominantly white, are stepping forward to share how they have been sexually assaulted by men – again, predominantly white, I am at once glad but angry, because, in my own mind, white women have used their sex and sexuality against black people from the beginning of time. In October of 1892, “hundreds of black women” gathered in New York City to hear Ida B Wells, who argued that “while black men were being accused of ravishing white women, “the rape of Negro girls, which began in slavery days, still continues without reproof from church, state of press.” (Danielle L. McGuire: At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance – a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, p. xix)
For some, there has never been any unconscious bitterness toward the way things are, but for others who dare plunge into the deep recesses of their social and spiritual beings, there is a place where the questions we have had for so long, coupled with the frustration that there have never been good answers or an end to the situations which have caused those questions, there is a dry and bitter place.
The Rev. Dr. James Forbes calls this black a “pocket of bile,” which hopefully never bursts, but perhaps we should “go there” and pick at that place until the bile is released and we are cleansed of the bitterness which gets in the way of a full and most powerful relationship with God.
It isn’t just white women who are responsible for my own unconscious bitterness; it is white supremacy in its entirety. It is the way God has been compromised by a religious belief system which has been oppressive at its core, causing black and brown people, women of all colors, the poor and disabled, the LGBTQA community and more – to be marginalized, seemingly at the behest and with the approval of God.
The late Rev. Dr. James Cone wrote in The Cross and the Lynching Tree that “belief in a good and just God was no easy matter for any black person living in the so-called Christian South.” He wrote that “personal suffering challenges faith but social suffering which comes from human hate challenges it even more. White supremacy tears faith to pieces and turns the heart away from God.” (p. 153)
Different individuals may define bitterness in different ways, but there are some characteristics of bitterness which are probably constant: bitterness is destructive and leads toward rebellion and it rips at our heart and soul. Bitterness sticks to us and in us, a constant reminder of its presence, like syrup or honey on our fingers. Bitterness can get in the way of our living life “abundantly,” as Jesus says he came to show us how to do. While it seems obvious that it affects our spirits, it affects our bodies as well, causing us internal stress and pain which can lead to physical disease.
How do we deal with it? First and foremost, we have to see it and name it. To be honest, I didn’t know that I was carrying unconscious bitterness toward white women; only as I felt my spirit reacting as each white woman came forward did I realize that I have a problem. I carry unconscious bitterness toward white supremacy as well, and even toward the way this society has described and taught who God is – which in my mind, has been God as a racist male who sanctions racism and sexism and all of the other “isms” with which we wrestle. Perhaps it is this administration, arrogantly throwing its whiteness around, that is forcing me to recognize the unconscious bitterness which I have harbored, apparently, for some time.
But in admitting that we have some bitterness – no matter who we are, what race or ethnicity we are, we make way for a closer relationship with God. When we know what we are carrying within our souls – that pocket of bile – we know that we have to address it and get rid of it. Unconscious bitterness gets in our way and gets in the way of our having a true and strong relationship with God. Our God can handle the bitterness; our God can help us convert the bitterness into something which can be used for good. What this experience is teaching me is that we cannot deny what makes us bitter; we have to face it and get it out. Nobody is exempt from having it. The challenge is for more of us to have enough spiritual integrity to name it so that it loses its power over us. Naming it can help us face it and cast it into the sea…leaving us with the capacity to grow from it and probably help others do the same.
Amen and amen.