Ferguson in my heart

November 25, 2014

It’s 3 am.  I’m not a 3 am kind of person.  But tonight — I guess I am.

Tonight (last night?) the grand jury declared its decision to not indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.  In  most of our minds, this entire situation is known by only one word — Ferguson.

And for me, that’s a big part of the problem.  For all the people involved, for all the lives changed, for all the complexities, layers and layers of complexities, we bring it down to one word. One. Word.

I rely on CNN to send my phone push notifications when something big happens.  So, really big news is reduced to 10-15 words.  When I see a paragraph long Facebook post, I have to decide if I want to “take the time” to read it.  We sum up Instagram posts and Tweets with one word hashtags.

And the issue of race in our country and in my heart has been condensed to one word: Ferguson.

I’m with part of my family right now.  The other part is driving, right now, to join us.  They will be traveling around St. Louis in a couple hours.  Our normal route goes around the north side.  But for this trip, they’re going around the south side to avoid the Ferguson area.

That’s a good decision since rioting is still happening in that area.  I think that’s their best driving decision for that area.

But on a personal level, I can’t keep avoiding “Ferguson.”

I am white, and I live in a predominantly white community in southern Indiana.  We picked the community because of the career opportunity for Gary, not for the demographics.

My brother lives near Auburn, Georgia.  He has mentioned sadly a few times over the years that racism is alive and strong in his part of the country.  When he would say it, I didn’t know how to respond, because I couldn’t envision it.

Ferguson has drawn me a picture.

Please understand this post is NOT about the decision handed down by the grand jury.  I have not examined the evidence.  And I probably won’t.  I’m writing about the bigger picture involved — relationships.

Ferguson is, unfortunately, a poster child for a breakdown in relationships brought about by a breakdown in communication.  It’s become apparent to me, through Ferguson, that for many, many reasons, we’ve stopped listening to each other.  Or maybe we never heard each other.  Maybe some of us…maybe I…just pretended that racism was well behind us and we could move on to other things.

But here I am.  At 3 a.m. With the race issue staring me in the face.

In the myriad coverage leading up to the announcement, I heard a guy say one thing he knows about cops — they’re people, and we don’t need to demonize them nor deify them.

That’s a great statement.  And we can apply to every group of people, can’t we?

I don’t know the St. Louis County prosecutor.  But I’m confident he’s neither a demon nor a god.  The same is true for Darren Wilson.  And the same is true for Michael Brown. And the same is true about me.

I am confident that not everyone in Ferguson is looting tonight, or turning over police cars or burning buildings.  I’m confident that some are in their beds, wide awake at 3 a.m. wondering how we got here. And wondering if we can ever move beyond this place.

I am equally confident that not every police officer is looking for an opportunity to spray tear gas into a crowd of people.

But we’ve reduced it to that. Scratch that. CNN and social media have reduced it to that.  No, scratch that, too.  I’ve allowed news outlets and social media to reduce a very large issue to one word: Ferguson.

One statement my students often heard from me at youth group was,
“Don’t check your brain at the door. Don’t take my word for it. Ask questions. Look for answers.”

I have to sadly admit I have checked my brain at the door. But no more.

When I see the rioting, I want peace.  And that’s why my heart hurts tonight.  That’s why some people in Ferguson are crying when they should be sleeping.

Jesus came to bring peace.  The thing is, he at times works on a really big scale. But his normal M.O. is working person by person.

I’ve forgotten that.

As far as I can tell, the only people who received Jesus’ anger were the religious-types, the ones with all the answers, but no vision.  They knew the law by heart, but could no longer see individual people.

He showed great compassion to people I don’t hang around with much — prostitutes, cheats, non-religious, demon-possessed.  He saw each person as — an individual person with stories and pasts, but also with futures that only he could see.

Over the past years, God has been working on my heart to see people as that — individual people.

I’m really trying to let God help me to see people as he sees them.  Not by adjectives that describe a piece of who they are.  Not by their skin color, church affiliation or non-affiliation, sexuality, social status, or (fill in the blank). But to see them as he sees them.

How does he see us? He saw a world lost.  So he sent his one and only son, Jesus.  Why? Because God loved every single individual who would ever call earth home.

I have a long way to go.  But God is answering my prayer to begin seeing people as he sees them — worth redeeming.

I guess that’s why I’m awake at 3 a.m.

Advent begins in just few days. As I pray for Ferguson, and all it represents, my heart keeps whispering, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”



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