[Disclaimer: this piece is not written to one person(s). It is based on real experiences in my story and may differ from yours. But I would challenge you to consider how the world around you has been impacted by your … Continue reading
The theme of the retreat was “Surrender” and it was based on my book, “I Am Hagar: Forgotten No More”. The retreat was held offsite at a Christian retreat center – great for camping during the summer or renting an upscale cottage anytime of the year.
On this particular retreat we were set up in one of their beautiful cottages that made us feel right at home and provided most of us with the rest and relaxation we needed. Each cottage had its own special name. Happiness, Faith, Joy, Jubilee, just to name a few. However, there was one name that was disturbing and somewhat alarming to some of us. The name? “Amistad” – with the word “Friendship” below it.
First of all, for those who may not know, “Amistad” was the name of a ship that transported slaves and was featured in the well known movie by the same name. On it the slaves endured horrible atrocities which have lingered in the memories and hearts of many African Americans as a painful reminder of what was done to their ancestors.
Below the nameplate at the “Amistad” cottage was the word “Friendship”. It was also the only sign that had an explanation word after it. Actually, it felt like an oxymoron.
Secondly, all the other cottage names were positive and self-explanatory while this one didn’t seem to fit. Although it did need explaining, the word “friendship” didn’t help. Needless to say, none of us were impressed with what appeared to be a very insensitive and demeaning message on that cottage.
In defense of the decision-makers at the camp, we didn’t know them or understand the reason behind the decision. Perhaps it was in effort to be inclusive. Perhaps there was something of significance to the name that we didn’t know. We wondered if they included the word, “friendship” after it so as “not to offend”. However, it did offend. A powerful name like “Amistad” is too full of historical pain and anguish for a lot of people. Some of us wondered how the nameplate was accepted in the first place. We chalked it up for effort through ignorance, which is probably one of the most common ways people offend.
All-in-all, it left many of us feeling unsettled, disappointed, embarrassed and yes, even angry for what our African American sisters were feeling. During the retreat, a few of the women who were staying in that cottage revealed their feelings of frustration and anger about the sign. It brought deep sadness and hurt that someone would do such a thing, especially at a Christian camp.
That was enough for the leaders of the retreat. They decided to call the contact person of the camp and lodge a complaint. It was received and within an hour the sign was removed.
Following the retreat, a formal letter was sent to the leadership of the camp and the issue will be addressed at their next board meeting. The church group is suggesting that the new name be “Surrender”. I personally think that’s a great idea!!
This whole scenario played out in the hours between my second and third talk that I gave on that day. Why is that significant? First because there were various cultures and races represented at the retreat and secondly, my third talk was entitled, “He Sees Us”. During that session, I challenged the women to consider what their “us” looked like on a personal level and for them to think about how they include other cultures and races in their personal relationships. I also challenged them to look at their “us” from a women’s ministry angle and then as a church community.
How might God use them/us to stand together with the people He has put among them/us?
That day and through the experience with the sign, we were not only given the opportunity to stand with our sisters of colour in what they were experiencing but we also witnessed first hand how the Holy Spirit was very present and showed us in a clear way that He saw us!!
We should hurt when our brothers and sisters hurt. In this case, it happened to be around the issue of race and slavery. That is true unity in Christ.
Friends, it is our Unity in Christ that binds us to each other. Unfortunately, we often allow the messages of the world, the flesh and the devil fracture that unity.
Let us not take our oneness for granted or to excuse away our ignorance.
Let us keep learning and growing forward with our brothers and sisters of all races and cultures.
Let us not only keep the lines of communication open between each other but especially between us and God. If we do so, we will be able to hear what the Holy Spirit wants us to do to be part of the solution instead of the problem as far as the sin of racism is concerned.
Let us give and receive forgiveness (for misunderstandings) freely as Christ forgave us WHILE we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). His forgiveness is available for all of us. He went to the Cross on our behalf and sent his Spirit in order that we would be drawn to Him with confession on our tongues and a receptive heart for His forgiveness.
Have you been forgiven much? Then I remind myself and encourage you to share that forgiveness freely.
What “sign(s)” has God put in your life to challenge your walk with Him?
What circumstance(s) has God put in your life to grow a deeper intimacy with Him?
Who has God brought into your “us”?
How is God leading you to stand / walk beside another person to become part of the solution and not part of the problem?
For more information on this retreat, the “Understanding Culture” workshop or other topics, and how you can have them at your church or community group, check out
https://wordpress.com/page/kinitaschripsema.com/586 (Understanding Culture)
https://wordpress.com/page/kinitaschripsema.com/413 (Speaking Topics)
Or please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.
Remember the movie “Liar, Liar” (1997) starring Jim Carey? He plays a dad/lawyer who often breaks promises to his son and clients in the work place. You are probably already envisioning him extending His arm and forming his hand in the shape of a claw in order to tease and entice his son. The claw is mostly to make his son laugh and not cause pain as he so often does through the many lies He tells. (even though this blog has nothing to do with the movie, thought I’d share the clip anyway. Http://youtu.be/Bkyyp6eBqUQ)
There is another claw I want to share about, the claw of “unforgiveness”.
I can’t remember who shared this analogy with me, but it has been one that has stuck with me over the years and through many challenging relationships and situations.
“Unforgiveness in our heart is like a claw with a chain. The claw pierces our heart, wraps itself around it and the chain extends all the way to another person whom we are unwilling to forgive. The piercing sometimes leads to a suffocating and debilitating feeling. As we choose to forgive the other person before the Lord, then He is the one that fills our heart with love and compassion for the other person and expands it. As our heart expands, the claw loses its grip and pops off. As a result, when true forgiveness happens, you become separated from the chain that binds you to that person”.
I often find myself in a place where my heart hurts. I can feel the points of the claw piercing my tender heart. Why should my heart be tender? Because I am a person that believes in Jesus and have received His forgiveness that He poured out for my sin (Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20).
Today, I’m there again, facing the ugly sin of racism. You’d think that as a woman well into my forties, this issue wouldn’t bother me as much anymore. Considering I have lived my whole life as a minority. Often being reminded as such, it shouldn’t bother me anymore. Even that opinion is racist, in and of itself.
Take a walk in my shoes for a minute won’t you……
I was born in India, grew up in Canada and now live in the U.S.A with my Dutch-American husband and four bi-racial children.
In my growing up years, I have had eggs thrown at me while the three young boys yelled racial slurs. My ears have been pierced with mocking laughter that has gone deep into my soul. I have been sized up walking into a retail store and asked for two pieces of identification as “store policy”. I have been ignored in restaurants when out on a date with my husband. I mean, come on, if you want to know “what I would like for dinner” than ask me, not my husband. Don’t even ask me to talk about lack of eye contact or the questions about why my last name doesn’t match my first name or skin colour. Best one yet, “is that your real skin colour?” UGH!!!
Before you think I am using this blog to rant, I am not. Racism is real and unfortunately very alive because it is being fueled by the enemy to tear down people groups. It is a sin. If you are a follower of Christ than you also have a role to help dismantle it. Either you will be part of the problem, or become part of the solution.
As an adult, my experiences with racism continued. However, I would need to face them with the maturity that comes with age.
Years ago, while I was babysitting a friend’s five year old, the little girl asked me the question, “why do you have dirty skin?”. Realizing her innocence and imagination as a five year old, I gave her a free pass and told her my skin wasn’t dirty, just darker than hers because God made me this way. “So you are never going to be white?”. “No, I’m not”, I replied. She replies with, “oh, that’s too bad”. I was speechless. I wasn’t going to get into it with a five year old. It left me wondering where and how she landed on that conclusion.
Then there’s the marriage issue. I am in an interracial marriage. For those who have made comments like, “that must be hard”, I say, “yup, two sinful beings and one with a better tan” (what can I say, my husband is competitive). In our early married years, my husband and I served in ministry to teenagers together. He was the Youth Pastor and I was active as a small group leader. As we often did, we would take time to discuss heavy topics so as to help stretch
the minds of these young people. Well, one day I decided to bring up the subject of interracial dating. I wasn’t ready for what came next. One student said, “not cool”, while another one said, “our parents would disown us, for sure, if we brought someone home who wasn’t Dutch or white”. After I found my pulse again and calmed my gut from wanting to throw up, I asked them if they knew Ken and I were in fact in an interracial marriage, just in case that wasn’t clear. To that they said, “we don’t see you as a different colour. We see you as white like us”.
There began my journey of discovering how the sin of racism was taking its toll on me. Internally, I was screaming, yelling, and throwing fits about the presence of racism in the church. I vented in my journal, to my husband, to my close friends (some of whom I lost because they couldn’t handle the painful reality of what I was experiencing). Finally, at the Cross. I brought it all to Jesus. I confessed my anger, my growing resentment, my pain. I cried out in my pain, my hurt, and for the rejection of something that will never change….my skin colour.
So, back to the original title and it’s inspiration. The Claw of unforgiveness.
After confessing all I was feeling – so I wouldn’t be tempted to sin in my anger (Ephesians 4:26), the Holy Spirit drew my attention to the growing unforgiveness in my heart. The claw had pierced my heart. It was painful!!! With His help, I was able to forgive all the above mentioned situations and people involved. I didn’t want the claw to destroy my life or my witness for Jesus.
With God’s help, the unforgiveness was turned into surrender. You see, at the Cross is where it began. The Cross is where “IT is finished” (John 19:30)
Racism won’t go away until Jesus returns. It isn’t finished with it’s destruction . In fact, so far this year alone, two very public situations related to my race have caused the racists in this country to trash talk their way to the masses. One of those situations occured just today. I saw the claw on the horizon, wiggling it’s way towards my heart so as to trap me with the growing anger in my heart. Today, I chose forgiveness, will you?
How about you?
How close is the claw of unforgiveness in your life right now?
As far as racism is concerned, are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
Racism affects everybody. I would love to hear from you about how this blog has impacted your life……..
Joining you in the journey,