The events in Charlottesville, VA last weekend have saddened, angered, and activated me. But as we met together in our faith community on Sunday morning, our pastor encouraged us: We were made for so much more than this! He went on to quote an author who said, “It’s as if we’re walking around in shoes a size too small.”
I’m a born and bred Southerner, y’all, and can “Bless Your Heart” in a hot minute. I was raised in the deep South where segregation was still a reality, even though integration was the law. In my hometown, into the 70s and 80s, there were two sides of the tracks, each side based on skin color. In a neighboring town was an active KKK chapter.
Fortunately, my family was not and is not racist, which is a minor miracle for that time and place. Maybe that’s why I’m so disheartened by last weekend’s events. I grew up singing, “Jesus loves the little children … Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.”
If this is true of Jesus — and it is — it most certainly can be true of his followers. Have you ever worn a pair of shoes that were too small for your feet? Maybe that cute pair you’d been eying all season was drastically marked down and they only had the size smaller than you normally wear.
We make all kinds of excuses: they’ll stretch out when I wear them, beauty is pain, it’s more important to look good than to feel good. Those shoes might work for a time or two, but eventually you’ll either stop wearing them because of the discomfort or you’ll become accustomed to the low-level unease and see it as normal.
Those are the choices we have today, American white Christians. We can keep living with the soreness caused by racism or we can stop it. We can gird up our loins and fight the good fight of faith with our sisters and brothers of color.
I’ve been asking myself how I can be an ally in this climate. I keep coming back to this answer: Listen. In order to listen, one must have people with whom to have a conversation. Enlarge your circle; engage with people who don’t look like you, people who may believe differently than you. Engage with the intention of learning and listening. Ask questions and wait for answers. Pretend you don’t know everything (spoiler alert: you don’t). Aim to gain wisdom and deep connection.
Come on, y’all — we can do better than this! We were made for more than this. Trade those too-small shoes (they’re not that cute anyway now, are they?) for ones that truly fit a Christ-follower. Walk around in love and acceptance and humility. Doesn’t that feel better?
Photo by Dan Wilkinson.
About Janene Cates Putman
Janene Cates Putman is a literary publicist and marketing coach, activist, writer, and speaker. She and her Hot Husband live in the mountains of east Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @jdixie0105.