Invitation to the Table

A year or so ago our church invited Nikki Lerner, a culture coach, diversity teacher, and amazing musician, to talk to our staff and worship team.  She spent the day talking to our staff members about multiculturalism in the church and that evening, some of our worship team gathered together to hear her speak about multiculturalism in worship.

I was a part of the team that gathered that evening.  We started off in a small conference room, sitting around a table and eating desserts.  There weren’t enough chairs around the table so when I saw Nikki and some other leaders enter the room, I got up and stood so she could take my seat.

Later after a beautiful, holy moment of worship, Nikki laughed ironically about how she had been talking to the staff all day about how churches often stick to the majority race and don’t cater to other cultures. Then she showed up this evening and there literally wasn’t a seat at the table for her.

Table 082316Without thinking I said, “I got up so you could have my chair.” To which she replied, “I didn’t see you.”

I regretted immediately saying anything.  I talk a lot, but I usually don’t want to bring any attention to myself.  I ruminate over things I say for days.  My heart still pounds when I think about the last post I wrote on racism. Can I use the word black in that context? Was I not considerate enough of other people’s feelings?  Who am I to say these things or make these assumptions or to stand up for things I don’t understand?

No one.  I’m no one.  But I’m not going to wait until I understand everything and live perfectly before I start standing with my black friends and family.

I learned a valuable lesson that night.

Imagine you were in a room full of people.  There is one empty seat at the table and 10 people standing around waiting for a seat, but you were the only one in the room of your race, or gender, or religion.  It is likely that you wouldn’t take that last seat unless someone offered it to you, right?  I wouldn’t.  I probably would still decline after an invitation. But that’s me.

Leaving an empty chair at a table full of white people is not enough.  It’s time that we, as white people extend an invitation to our friends of color.  Invite people in the minority to the table.

Being kind is not enough.  The one thing that will change the world between races is relationship.  (<– Click this.)

 

 

When I saw him from afar, I thought he was a monster.

When he got closer, I thought he was just an animal.

When he got closer, I recognized that he was a human.

When we were face to face, I realized that he was my brother.

-African Proverb

 

Vulnerability

Vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is bad.  Real bad.  Maybe it doesn’t sound that bad, maybe it’s even a quality people aspire to.

Then you read the definition:

capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon

 

“Sure it makes sense that someone would see that as bad, but that’s not the meaning for me.  I want to be vulnerable with others, not in war,” you say.

Vulnerable definition #2:

open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.

 

Etc?!  There’s a need to put an etc. there?  I don’t want to be open to moral attack!  I don’t want to be open to criticism!  That sounds bad!  I just want to be me.  To be honest and authentic.

But that is vulnerability.  When you put yourself out there, you, yourself, are open to criticism and attack.

Not just your writing, but you.

That’s why I don’t tweet what’s really on my mind.  Like how the first thing I’m going to do when I get rich is buy a heated toilet seat.  I think about that every morning.  That’d be a great tweet wouldn’t it?  But I can’t let people think of me as human… using a toilet!  That’s vulnerable!

Or the fact that I think in 140 characters or less about how:

Emily Littleton @emilylittleton
I always feel my phone buzzing in my back pocket, when my phone is not in my back pocket… Is that a problem?  Should I see a doctor about that?
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I didn’t even post pictures of my face after the accident (which I did take…) because I woke up and took the picture every morning to check on my swelling and I hadn’t done my hair yet in most of the pictures:

Emily Littleton @emilylittleton
Less whiskers, more oozy scrapes.
View photo

I led you to think it was the size of my cheek that made me look like Vincent, the Beast from the 90s TV series.  Nope.  It was the hair…

Here’s what the Bible has to say about vulnerability:

A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.  Proverbs 29:11

See.  I knew I was right.  Don’t let them know you’re human.  Keep your tweets about your cold, vibrating, butt cheeks to yourself.

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

Aha!  I knew I couldn’t trust anyone.  I LOVE the Bible.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

Wait; am I supposed to tell others about my weaknesses?  I’ve told hundreds of people that Paul is my hero.  I HATE Paul.  Why did he have to brag about his weaknesses?

Because he’s human.  And so is everyone else.  And that’s what we relate to.  That’s what makes us feel comfortable.  That’s what makes us laugh and cry and feel like we’re not alone in this world.

That’s my favorite kind of writing to read.  The writers that are honest, and vulnerable and put themselves out there for all to see.  And love.  Or hate.  Or laugh at.  Or laugh with.

In order to represent God well, I have to be vulnerable.  Think about the stereotypical church ladies.

They snub their noses and tsk tsk everyone else without ever owning up to their own mistakes.  They have perfectly coiffed hair and ironed clothes and can play the drums better than anyone else you know.  I don’t want to seem like a church lady.  I’m NOT a church lady.  My hair is never perfectly coiffed (see above).  I do more damage when I iron than if I’d left it alone.  I have clean laundry sitting in a basket for weeks.  I only clean my second floor when people are going to see it (and no one ever sees my top floor, so I never clean it).  I’m an imperfect mom and a less perfect human.

Church ladies don’t make you want to know Jesus.  You know who gets the biggest slot at the revivals?  Not the church ladies, but the outcasts who have turned their lives around and now follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The people who screwed up big time and are vulnerable enough to tell you about it.  Those are the stories that move us.  Those are the stories that let us know it’s okay to love God and still be human.

This verse has really stuck out to me:

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

 

With pride comes the know it all blog posts.  The I’ll-pray-for-you-and-your-kids posts because I’ve got it all put together.

With humility comes honesty and admitting you don’t have all the answers.  And admitting that you screw up every day and you’re going to start saving money now to put your kids through therapy later (they can get their own loans for college).  With humility and vulnerability come wisdom.  Wisdom for others to learn from, wisdom for me to learn from.

So maybe I should absolutely keep my butt posts to myself.  But maybe I shouldn’t trash all the stories I write that make me feel vulnerable.  Maybe God can use those, too.