Starting Over

It’s supposed to cool off after we live through today. Of COURSE it is since drive-in rooftop worship was LAST Sunday! You know what?!? I loved it AND it kicked this old body into recognition that I have some work to do to get back in shape. My heat tolerance and physical endurance has taken a hit over the past too many months with a little plantar fasciitis for which I had two shots in my foot, um, ow. But it finally calmed everything down, and I’m back at it, the whole running thing. Starting over is never as fun as continuing and expanding. This may not surprise too many of you, but my starting over normally looks like me believing I can just pick back up where I left off, you know, where I left off back when I was in my 20’s – same distance, same intensity, same speed. But this time, on the downhill side toward 60, and not in miles per hour, I’ve matured a little. I know, right? Not necessarily by choice perhaps, but an acknowledgment of the whole tortoise and hare deal – slow and steady might win the race back to longer-term and longer-lasting healthy changes.

The 15 year old (slight exaggeration) foot Dr., an Iowa Hawkeye, also a runner, promised that even though the PF heel pain had lasted for over a year, it wouldn’t last forever – and that the shots were not a magic wand that would make it all go away instantly. WHAAAAAT ?!? I had to continue with exercises, wear the weird boot at night, ice it, and NOT run until the pain was completely gone. I tested that a few times, I guess his degree did come from somewhere besides Sears. And about 3 weeks ago I finally realized the pain was gone. There were times I didn’t believe I would ever get up first thing in the morning and put weight on my left foot and not feel like I was going to fall to my knees, or that I would ever walk with a regular gait that didn’t mess up my hips. But it’s happened. And now I start over. Yes, if you’d like, you may certainly bring me a little cheese to go with my whine! snort The frustration of starting back from square one with distance and time and speed and carrying a little extra baggage weight that I had worked so hard to leave behind over long years of running regularly is frustrating and disheartening, but it’s the reality of where I am.

Forgive the connection, because it’s not even close. How many times, and many times, and many times, and many times, and many times, have we started over as a people in dealing with race relations? The analogy falls so far short it’s not worth comparison, not even close, not even within the same conversation in the same universe. And yet come with me anglo brothers and sisters of privilege. Have you ever had to start over? Your career? Your marriage? Your life after the death of someone you loved and never had to do without? Your dreams or hopes after something unfairly and unexpectedly happened and there was not resolution and you had to decide to keep going? I’m talking to us to try and invite us to a smidgeon of understanding – a place to maybe start – to open us to conversation with where our brothers and sisters of color have been asked to live ALL of history in this country. Because for all those times you’ve had to start over for whatever reason, your skin color did not even enter the conversation as a consideration of any sort. It did not enter the equation of how difficult starting over was going to be and how you would have to factor that into EVERY single thing you had to do or decision you had to make.

It should have resolved with the end of the Civil War, right? But it didn’t. It should have resolved after the images of lynchings with no accountability. But it didn’t. It should have ended with, sometimes hooded sometimes not, Ku Klux Klan rides unrepentantly through towns and cities wreaking death and destruction. But it didn’t. It should have resolved after Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas in 1954. But it didn’t. It should have resolved after Rosa Parks sat down on a bus and a bus boycott. But it didn’t. It should have resolved after a bomb thrown into a church basement killed innocent children of color in CHURCH. But it didn’t. It should have resolved after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But it didn’t. It should have resolved after the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, but it didn’t. It should have resolved after the deaths of Dontre Hamilton, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice who was 12 years old. But it didn’t. It should have resolved after the 9 deaths of members of Mother Ebenezer Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina killed by a self-proclaimed white supremacist who had been warmly welcomed into the bible study. But it didn’t. It should have resolved after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castillo and Debroah Danner and Korryn Gaines, but it didn’t.

Did it feel like starting back over Every. Single. Time. for persons of color? And btw, the list of those killed is not exhaustive. Does it feel like going back to square one?

And now it’s Ahmaud Arbery, Brionna Taylor, and George Floyd. Will this be the moment in history? Will this time bring real systemic change to a system set up to treat certain human beings differently than others because of a different amount of melanin in the skin? Those who lost their lives weren’t perfect and we proceed to point out drug use, or parking tickets, or wearing a hoody at night, or having the audacity to study the bible in the church where they hold membership, or going for a run on a Sunday afternoon. But we have made progress we may defensively shout. Yes, and, if your family member is killed because of the color of their skin, has making progress been enough? Is even claiming we have made progress a blatant sign of our privilege? If people are still being chased down and killed in broad daylight when they are on a Sunday afternoon run and the killers are not held accountable UNTIL the video came to light enough progress?

So we’re back to the whole running deal. I will admit that as a woman, a rather aging and slow one at that, I pick and choose where and when I run outside. What I don’t worry about is wearing a hoody, or people crossing to the other side when they see me coming, or someone threatening to call the cops on me as a dangerous old white woman because I ask them to leash their dog. That’s not the hard part of starting back at square one for me. It’s the understanding that I’m responsible for deciding how fast and how much progress I can make given my age and health status. I don’t have to rely on a system that can tell me when and how much progress I’m allowed to make because someone else is in charge and making choices for me because of the skin color with which I was born.

This is not only or maybe even primarily an issue with police officers. It is an issue in all facets of life because it is an issue in our nation that we have NOT EVER RESOLVED and the brutality and deaths we see are symptomatic of what WE, INCLUDING ME, have not chosen to change, because we do not believe ENOUGH, that we bear responsibility! I didn’t kill those people we say. I didn’t kneel on that guy’s neck. I didn’t enter that licensed paramedic woman’s apartment with a “no-knock no-warning” warrant and shoot 20 times because her boyfriend believed they were being broken into and fired a shot that hit an officer in the leg with his licensed conceal and carry firearm he kept in the bedside table to protect them from criminals. Do YOU have one? You know, a firearm somewhere in your home that you have a license to conceal and carry to protect you and your loved ones from break-ins? Are you prepared NOT to use it til you see if the people breaking down your door are “no-knock no-warning” warrant carrying officer of the law? Just wondering I guess.

Is it true that until all of us are free, none of us are free? Until all of us are safe, none of us are safe? Until all of us are valued for “the content of our character rather than the color of our skin?” none of us are truly valued?

“Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ Cain said, ‘I don’t know, am I my bother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.’” (Gen. 4:8-10, NRSV) God had warned Cain that “if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” God tells us that we can choose to control our sin, we can have power over it, we can CHOOSE to not let our worst desires control our behavior. Cain ignored God’s wisdom and killed his brother. There’s a whole lot to that story and some complexity we may never understand, but God was clear with Cain that he could hold sway over his sin in terms of his sibling relationship, and Cain ignored God’s invitation and instruction. How long will we? Bottom line is that God was clear that yes, Cain was his brother’s keeper. LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN, GOD IS CLEAR WITH CAIN THAT YES, HE WAS AND IS HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER, AND SO ARE WE!

So yes, friends, black lives matter, and we are our brothers and sisters keepers/partners/allies/advocates/upstanders and change agents for the good for all of us!

It’s time to start from where we are, even though it likely feels like where we’ve always been to our brothers and sisters of color, and decide that together we will listen and learn and read and watch and be uncomfortable and defensive and endure in our commitment to change those places in our nation where there is not equal opportunity not only to survive, but to thrive in God’s promise of life in abundance.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”

(Hebrews 12:1, NRSV)

And if you have not seen the movie based on the life of Harriet Tubman or read about her work, please do. The video for today is the signature song from the movie. Maybe we all can…stand up.