“For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” Ephesians 2:14
God has answered a prayer I have been pestering Him about for the past three years. At that time, my husband and I made the decision to uproot our family and hit reboot in a new state. We've been asked many times what prompted our move. Most people heard our standard answer: we wanted to be closer to family, it was a better business environment for my husband, and we were ready for a slower pace of life. All true, but not the whole story.
The truth is, God began messing with our hearts one summer as He began to reveal the degree to which the American dream had become intertwined with the gospel in our lives. Quotes like this one by David Platt led us to question the way we were living, “Radical Obedience to Christ is not easy…it's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things.”
We weren't taking very many risks. And we were too comfortable. Another concern: pretty much everyone around us looked like us, was from more or less the same socio-economic background, and saw life through the same lens that we did. With a desire to decrease our spending and increase our giving, slow down and be more present to people, to move out of the comfort zone and experience discomfort in order to radically obey, we set out.
We've been working on each of these areas, some more successfully than others. But grace abounds, and I have seen God taking our meager attempts to step out of our comfort zones and give us far more in return than we could have expected. One of those gifts was meeting a new friend, the one I had prayed for all these years.
God has brought a beautiful woman into my life who is willing to let me borrow her glasses; to see life from her point of view. It's different than mine in so many ways—she is African American and I am white—yet we are very much alike at the heart level. We met at a dinner and cut to the chase, immediately going deep and talking about the racial divide in our country. I asked her if she would be willing to keep the dialogue going, and send me articles and concerns that are intersecting her life that I might be missing. She has been faithful to do that. Every day she has given me something to think about which has tendered my heart and challenged me.
At a time of such division in our country, she challenges me to not tell her how to feel. To not make assumptions about what it is like to walk in her shoes. Instead, she invites me to lean in and listen. To make room in my heart for her perspective, and to allow what she teaches me to open my eyes.
Lent is a time that we focus on fasting. I've heard it said that we fast in order to make more room in ourselves for God. Following that thought, how can we fast to make more room in our hearts to welcome someone whose perspective on life is different than ours?
What if we fasted from speaking and listened instead?
What if we fasted from the holy huddle and made sure we took time every day to talk to someone unlike us?
What if we fasted from comfort in order to build a bridge of unity across the divide?
Diversity consultant and Inclusion thought leader Howard Ross suggests using the following four questions to engage in dialogue with someone whose point of view is different than yours:
1) Why do you feel the way you do?
2) What is it about the other point of view that frightens you?
3) What are some questions you have about the other person that you want to ask?
4) Is there anything you need to say to be complete? (This is a chance to apologize for and let go of judgments and behaviors that you now see were inappropriate toward the other or the people they represent)
In 2 Corinthians 5:18, St. Paul tells us, “God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation.” This is our job. The message He has entrusted to us is helping to reestablish a close relationship between two parties that are experiencing a divide. I believe it is time to stop fasting from ignoring this mission, and instead, to take it up.
Could you trade lenses with someone this Lent? Could you fast from your own point of view, and instead feast on what life feels like in someone else's shoes?
This post originally appeared on the blog in March, 2017.