Dear Class of 2020:
You made it! I guess all graduating classes do. But, WOW what you had to go through to get here!
As the end of your senior year has dragged to an end unexpected end, I can’t help but think that you’re positioned for greatness. I’ve thought a lot about what your last few months have been like. And thought a lot about what your 18 years have been like.
You are the first graduating class is all post 9/11. You’ve never lived in a time that our country wasn’t engaged in a war. Never. You’ve never just walked through an airport or stood at the gate to welcome someone home. Terrorist attacks on American soil have been a regular occurrence in your life.
You have vague memories of a thing called a VCR and some fleeting memories of things called DVD’s…and CD’s. Your life has been largely digital. Social media became a thing your parents were just beginning to navigate when you were toddlers. And in the years since, it’s become a driving force in your lives, both good and bad. We, as your parents, are the first parents to have to have try to guide you through this digital life while really not knowing if we’re getting it anywhere close to 100% right. Because there’s no one before us to ask.
Active shooter drills have become a regular practice because you’ve lived most of your school years very aware that school shootings happen. Everywhere. Another thing generations before you never had to navigate. Our classmates had guns in their trucks because they hunted, because they looked good mounted in that back window, because Texas. And we never ever worried they might be turned on the school.
You’ve seen racial tension & religious prejudice dominate the headlines. And have been the first generation to grow up in a society where “hate crimes” are now a category in law enforcement. And hate speech has made social media an ugly and difficult thing.
Each presidency you’ve lived through has divided our nation more. You’ve never known a time where politicians and politics are civil. Or where those leading our country have truly sought to work together for the greater good. And it’s because you’ve inherited what the generations before you have thought was “good”.
This global pandemic has robbed you of so much that traditionally marks the end of childhood. And this world has robbed you of so much that should have been childhood. We see the sadness, frustration, anger…all of the feelings…that losing Senior Prom, traditional graduation, Senior sports seasons, last day of school…all of it brings! We see you. We cry with you. We feel it all with you. Because, yes, there are people who have it worse. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get to feel all of the emotions that the ending to this year brings.
But we don’t just cry with you. We celebrate with you. Because you are positioned to be the next Greatest Generation. Your great-grandparents were the children of the Great Depression. The warriors in WWII and Korea. They built this nation and brought so much greatness. They are the only generation in modern history that has lived a life similar to yours. And they have become known as the Greatest Generation.
That’s what I see in all of you. A generation that isn’t content to let things go on as they are now. A generation that has had to navigate rough waters for most of your lives to reach this milestone of graduation. A generation who will go out and be world changers because you refuse to let the world change you. You won’t accept the things you can’t change. You’ll change the thing you can’t accept.
You’ll go into the medical field and turn it on its ear because you won’t accept that there is no cure. You’ll go into the tech field and upend it because you’ve seen the good & the bad and you’ll only settle for best. You’ll go into the military and turn into the leaders that guide our nation through its hardest times. You’ll step into law enforcement and pursue justice first. You’ll be first responders that we want to celebrate always, not just in crisis. You’ll be pioneers in social justice. You’ll climb political ladders and become the leaders that the nation needs. You’ll be parents who take what you’ve learned in your upbringing and one up your parents. Because you’ll have learned from our mistakes and capitalize on what we did right. And you’ll be ready to raise up your own world changers. You’ll step into any role you pursue outside of high school and not only do your job, you’ll do good things through your job. You’ll go into ministry roles and be the reason people come to know Jesus and begin to change the world because of it. You are a class of world changers. Each and every one of you. If you have voices telling you that you’re not, TURN THEM OFF. You are a world changer. And if you need to be reminded of that, I’ll tell you as often as you want to hear it. Seriously.
Class of 2020, you have my son and you have my heart. Cross that football field (I live in Texas, what do you expect?), move that tassel and go move mountains. Only big things ahead. Great things. For the next Greatest Generation.
In 2015 I wrote the original version of this. It was right after Charleston. But today, 5 years later, I feel even more compelled to not be silent. Silence is deadly. Silence makes me complicit. And I will not be complicit. Or silent.
I’m opinionated. (Shocker, I know.) And I usually don’t have a problem finding the words. Or saying the words I find. It’s a blessing and a curse. But I’m having trouble with words, thoughts, emotions today. But as I read from one of my favs on Facebook, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, I felt this deep conviction. Almost a sickness about silence. Her words said it best, “To be honest, I still don’t know what to say, but I can’t keep saying nothing while my neighbor is terrorized by hate and violence. I was born white, but not silent.”
And that’s just it. I still don’t know exactly what to say. Or how to say it. But jumbling the words up a bit is better than silence. Praying my heart is seen if my words aren’t perfect. Speaking imperfect words is better than the sin of silence. Because silence, inaction…that’s sin.
By now we’ve all heard about the Charleston, SC church shooting. By now we all know that 9 of the 12 Bible Study attendees are now with Jesus. By now we all know a white man walked into a church BECAUSE the attendees were black and opened fire for the same reason. He is racist and decided to take black lives.
5 years later, and countless acts of racist hate speech & violence later, there are so many more names we need to speak. Ahmaud Arbury. George Floyd. Christian Cooper. Breonna Taylor. And these just scratch the surface of the last month of news in America. The common denominator? All were guilty of being black in America.
Last night, my heart ached. I cried. This struck me on so many levels. In Charleston, this wrecked me because it was in church. A place where people go to seek refuge, seek Jesus. A place that is perceived as safe. It was random…no connection to the people, no motive drawing him to a specific place or person. Ahamud? My son is a runner. I run. And I never have to question if my race makes people watch me as I run through our neighborhood. George Floyd? I’ve never had to worry that I’ll be pulled from my car and be held to the ground with a knee to my neck begging to breathe. Christian Cooper? I can walk anywhere freely and not worry that by speaking to someone, I’ll have the police called. Breonna Taylor? I can sleep in my own home and not worry that I’ll be shot and killed because the police were at the wrong house. And my husband would never have to face charges for defending his home that the police were wrongfully in. And this scratches the surface.
These were all fueled by a hatred that my mind can’t process. A predetermined idea that a certain skin color is a threat. I don’t understand hating a person, group of people or race of people to the point of taking lives. To the point of finding them guilty of being alive because my skin is different. I just don’t understand it. My mind can’t wrap around it. I guess that’s good.
Today, much like 5 years ago, I’ve had great pride as voices in the Christian community have stood individually, but united collectively, not trying to gloss this over. Or make it anything less than the heinous crime that it was. And I’ve sat heartbroken as others in the Christian community speak out about “not making this about race”.
Friends, if ever I wanted you to hear me say something this is it. Racism is real and I will no longer be silent as I watch my neighbors (whether in my home town or on the other side of the world) face terrorism for their skin color. I was born white, but I wasn’t born silent.
I have a voice. Maybe my voice doesn’t reach the masses, but it reaches some. And if one person sees racism in a new light, then my voice has made a difference. I will not sit by as my white brothers and sisters try to say that we shouldn’t assume this is about race. I will not sit by as others who say they love Jesus refuse to see the racial divide present in this country and act in a completely contrary way to Christ by sweeping things under the rug. Jesus didn’t sweep things under the rug. He wrote in the sand for everyone to see. This is my writing in the sand. I was born white, but I WAS NOT BORN SILENT.
Racism is real. This is a hate crime. There is a divide between black and white. There is a divide in the church…especially the American church.
There is a fear of addressing racism because we might say something wrong, so nothing is said at all. There is the fear of offending someone, so silence is chosen. But in the silence, the divide grows wider. And in the silence we become more & more complicit in the crime.
I was blessed to be raised in a household that believed we were all created in the image of God. Each and every one of us. I was blessed to be raised in a racially diverse community and attend racially diverse schools. It honestly made me rather naive about racism until I was in my late teens or early twenties. But I’m not naive anymore. I’m heartbroken.
In these words today, in this little blog post, I want to use my voice to say that I see you, Charleston. I see you, everyone who looks differently than me. I see all of you who are victimized daily because of the color of your skin. I won’t tell you I understand, because I don’t. I won’t tell you that I know how you feel, because I can’t. But I see you. I stand with you and I stand behind you. I’ll stand in front of you if it means I can shield you. And I will not remain silent. I will not just share a post on Facebook that has words that move me. I will use my voice.
Because I was born white, I cannot remain silent.
Easter weekend. It’s a time to celebrate. A time when we look to the empty tomb as the greatest source of hope. Because Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave. And left the tomb empty.
It occurs to me that this Easter, for the first time in modern history, churches are also empty. At first, the thought of not spending Easter Sunday AT church really made me sad. It’s Easter. We have to be at church. Don’t we?
As I’ve really thought about it this weekend, and reflected over our last few weeks of church at home, I’ve started to think that maybe we’ve gotten it wrong. Hear me out. I’ve missed being at church. I miss the way our pastor presents the Gospel each week. I miss our worship team. And if I’m being totally honest, I miss the people most. I wondered what “church” would look like when we were no longer gathering. But these last few weeks, just my little family in our living room, have been some of the best church we’ve had in a long time. We’ve been fully IN church. And not at all at the building.
The things I’ve seen the church do, when forced from within its walls, have made my heart smile. Yes, many churches leave their walls regularly to reach, to help, to show up. But what happens when the reliability of the building is gone? When the habit of meeting isn’t a luxury we have anymore?
In this time when everything is so different, so unfamiliar, so unlike anything any of us have ever known, I think losing the luxury of meeting may be a gift. Not a gift any of us thought we wanted. Or even that we want to keep forever. But a gift none the less. The early church had no walls. The early church was the people, not a place. The early church didn’t need a building or order of service or band. The early church didn’t need comfortable chairs or a coffee bar or free breakfast. They just needed Jesus. Sometimes, even though the intention is best, the programs have in some ways replaced Jesus. We think if we don’t have the best musicians, the most current songs, the spotlights, the smoke machines, the stuff…that the people won’t come. But that’s never what the church was meant to be. The church was never meant to be a show. The church was meant to be people drawing people to Jesus.
That empty tomb is supposed to be where we leave all of the things that hold us back from being who Jesus created us to be. Sometimes I think that the church building has become a tomb of sorts. A place that holds us back with programs and meetings and bells and whistles and busyness. Rather than the place that releases us to go into our daily lives and BE the church.
Let me be clear…the very first Sunday that we can meet together again, I’ll be there. And I probably won’t even be running late! Because there’s so much beauty in people coming together. In worshipping together. In praying together. But I can’t help but think on this Easter weekend when our buildings are as empty as the tomb, that Jesus is calling us closer to Him while we’re all further apart. Because He never intended for us to be a building only. He never intended for the once a week in the building to be the strongest part of our relationship with Him. We, me and you, are the church. That was true before a virus turned our world upside down and will be true long after this virus leaves us.
I am the church. You are the church. Your living room? It’s a sanctuary. The celebration of the empty tomb is not lessened by your location. From our couch sanctuary to yours, Happy Resurrection.