I was on a zoom call recently with some men that I know and love, fellow pastors whose hearts I trust. I have a relationship with these men, many having been forged over time in the ministry fire together. Others were burgeoning relationships that are growing deeper because I trust their hearts and I trust the hearts of those who vouch for them.
We were on the call because of me. We were called together by my comments about race on a brother’s post. The brother’s post had nothing to do with race, but I felt the sting nonetheless from the mention of an organization which has an historic connection to racism. And sadly, it doesn’t take much to send me there these days. So I commented. Badly. And our call, was the mountain I’d made of the molehill.
What I saw, for the first time in my life, was how deeply weary my white brothers are of the race burden. It was the first time I sensed the frustration and fatigue of a brother whose heart I trust; who I know is in the fight with me.
One of them likened it to reverse discrimination, though he knew it didn’t quite rise to that. But what it felt like to him was conveyed in the thought. I had always been repulsed by the accusation of reverse discrimination against the historically discriminated. It’s always felt abusive, but not that day. I caught how it made my brothers feel. And I was keenly aware, for that moment, that I had laid that burden on them.
Now I see, in measure, why they don’t like to talk about it. Why, for them, it’s seems best just not to say anything. Within my own tension, I felt the need to bear my brother’s burden; to back off and settle down. To lower the racial temperature that I had raised. I felt I should, for my brother’s sake, stop talking about race so much.
The call was more than a month ago now, but I still think about it. Somewhere deep within, I don’t believe our racial problems in the body of Christ or the nation will get better if we stop talking about it. The answer has never been to simply turn down the temperature. But I still remember the looks in my brother’s eyes on the call. I can still here it in the voices.
It’s nearing midnight and I have to be up early tomorrow. But this realization I had to get out of bed to write before I lost it. What was unsettling me was my misguided notion that I was bearing their burden by not talking about race so much. When in reality the burden was not theirs, it was mine. They were indeed weary, but not of carrying their own burden, but of bearing mine.
When the lid came off the nation last summer, and historic racial tensions boiled over, they entered the struggle with me. In Christlikeness they shared the load with me. They answered the call to bear their brother’s burden. And I love them for it. But this is our historic burden. It’s my father’s burden and my grandfather’s burden. It’s the burden I carry, quite literally, everyday of my life. And yet, relatively speaking, it hadn’t been all that long and they’re ready for this to go away. They’re eager for things to return to normal. At least the place where these tensions are not front and center; not so ever present.
I understand though. This is my burden. I know how heavy it is. But this is my normal. In some way I am reminded that I’m black in America every day. And the burden just doesn’t get any lighter when I stop talking about it. So to my brothers in the struggle with me, please don’t grow weary in well doing. We will all reap together if we do not faint.