Posts tagged vocation
Made for Whiteness

I used to think I was made for white people. I know that sounds a little crazy, but its true. When I discovered this thing called "racial reconciliation" I was attending a predominately white college where many people of color found themselves constantly teaching white folks about racial justice. Following my undergraduate experience, I got a brief reprieve in Detroit, MI at Marygrove College (the only school I've attended where I was in the majority- it was glorious). That experience has been followed by a succession of employment, projects, workshops and speaking engagements that revolve around helping white people "get it". 

With age comes clarity (sometimes), and for a couple years my thinking around my vocation has evolved. It is true that I've spent the majority of my life in PWI's (private, white, institutions). It is true that much of my teaching (and learning) has somehow managed to revolve around whiteness- white privilege, white ignorance, white shame, and what white folks "need" to get on the bus. Its amazing how white supremacy even invades racial reconciliation. Whiteness has a tendency to always put itself first, and I believed. I believed that white folks were at the center, the great hope, the linchpin, the key to racial justice and reconciliation. I knew that if this was the case, I was capable of bending and contorting myself to be the voice white folks could hear. And for the most part it worked reinforcing my belief that my vocation would always revolve around whiteness. 

And then. I am not entirely sure when the shift started to take place. I suspect it was a subtle turning, a series of conversations, confessions spoken in whispers. Maybe it was in Detroit. Somewhere along the way, I grew up. I dived deep into the complexity of vocation, spun it around, looked at it closely, then backed up so I could see it from afar. I looked in the nooks and crannies, hoping to find my contribution to racial justice and the Church but instead discovered myself. Stripping myself of a simplistic vocation and surface level observations of my journey allowed me to finally see my life and work without whiteness at the center. You know what I found instead? Women of Color.    

Shocking right? Not so much, I know. But this was a real awakening for me. And if you've spent any amount of time in an institution that was only too happy to allow it to define you, you know what kind of revelation I'm talking about here. When I looked beyond a simple checklist- attended PWI's (check), talked about race (check), had an impact (check)- I made a lot of new discoveries but almost all revolved around surviving white institutions as a woman of color.

Peeling back the layers revealed so much.  Secret conversations. Tears the institution never witnessed. Injustices leadership never acknowledged. The work of women of color- often behind the scenes, without titles or official positions. Doing the work. Daily doing the work with their lives.    

Now, I'd have to write a book to explain all the ways women of color have actually been at the center of my racial justice journey. It would take pages upon pages to discuss our hopes and dreams for justice. It would take chapters upon chapters to explain how we are ignored and invisible until its photo time. The terms "self care" have taken on an entirely new meaning- far from bubble baths and good music (both of which are important)- I have learned that self care is political and women of color have to learn how to play. It would take so much to drag the depth of our experiences within PWI's into the light. And thats exactly what I'm going to do.

Drag it into the light.

I am determined to write a book that explores the experiences of women of color who are navigating white, evangelical spaces- hoping that darkness will give way to light. 

Will you come along with me on this journey? Will you pray for me and talk with me? Will you share your stories, your questions, your observations? Will you beat back the darkness and enlarge the light, so I don't have to drag it quite so far? 

Let the journey begin. 

Sipping Margaritas with God

A couple weeks ago I participated in leading a Vocational Retreat for a group of young adults who are living in Chicago. This group of young people have chosen to spend a year of their lives in service- working with children, partnering with churches, living in community, enjoying the city, and exploring their calling. The latter is where I had the pleasure of joining their conversation. And we asked a ton of questions! 

  • How do I know if I'm pursuing God's calling or my own ego?
  • Will I ever know if I'm really ready to pursue my calling?
  • How do I prepare myself for setting boundaries since I already feel so closely connected to the issue I feel called to pursue? 
  • Why won't God take away all my fears about pursuing my vocation?
  • How will I support myself if I pursue my vocation? (We decided that we at least want to afford cheese and crackers for dinner.)
  • What am I supposed to do when God puts up a stop sign, when I thought I was pursuing His plan rather brilliantly?

As they revealed how they journeyed from their childhood dream to their current dream vocation, there was a common occurrence. We called it "the stop sign". At some point each of them was on the path of pursuing a specific dream, when all of a sudden there was a dead end, a closed door, someone said no... a stop sign. We learned that for each of them, it was this stop sign that caused them to pursue another dream, ultimately leading them to their vocation. Unfortunately for us all, the stop sign feels a lot like devastation. When we reach a real stop sign, we simply decide which direction to go- left, right, forward. There is very little emotional connection to this common pause in life. But a stop sign while pursuing a dream feels more akin to driving off the cliff (or maybe thats just me).  

Hence how we arrived at the need to spend a little more time sipping margaritas with God. Pursuing a vocation that somehow involves using the threads of justice, church, pain and conflict to weave something that resembles goodness, community and life is intense. It's intense to ponder, let alone pursue. So we need to take a couple time outs. When the stop sign comes, don't freak out. Don't drive off the cliff. Embrace the pause, and sip a margarita with God. 

Despite all of our questions and the anxiety that comes with them, we affirmed with one another that our peace can be found in God. It is ultimately Him that we pursue, not the vocation itself. Our image of the margarita has little to do with the alcohol content, and more to do with friendship, community, peacefulness, and maybe even a little fun! Anytime I am sipping margaritas with friends there is a lot of laughter involved. Imagine that- laughter with God, tossing your head back and not being afraid to say exactly what you think, exactly how you feel. Imagine pouring your heart out conspiratorially with the God you love.

We imagined ourselves leaving the devastation of the stop sign, laying down the intensity of the pursuit and resting in Him- perhaps even over a margarita! Thanks, Dwell Chicago, for reminding me to delight in God.