Post by Faith Reboot’s Tanisha Henderson
I attended an elementary school that was racially mixed with blacks and whites. Most of my teachers were white ladies. They treated me with the greatest of care and educated me as if I were their own. I had friends of both races. I do not recall ever feeling different or like I needed to pick a side or that anybody was superior to me. There was no obvious dividing line between the races.
Then when I moved on to middle school, something shifted. Now my classes were with mostly white students and maybe 3 or 4 blacks. We bore the label of “academically gifted.” I was among “them” and the “us” that made me black, now began to treat me as “other.” I was called “white girl” and ridiculed as “acting white.” In my last year of middle school, one of my classmates nonchalantly stated, “Jonathan said you look good, for a black girl.” So here I was, accused of acting like I was better than my black friends and left feeling like I was not good enough for my white friends. I was confused.
My black friends who were previously in class with me were just as smart. Why was I the one put in this class? In retrospect, I know that it was simply because I tested well. But in that moment, this test became the dividing line between who I was, who others saw me as, and who I would become.
The Beginning of the End
In high school, my classes were more diverse. But the breakdown had already happened. I wasn’t sure who I belonged with. I spent the majority of my time with my black friends. Yet, I still enjoyed the companionship of many of my white friends, though I was never invited to their homes. Then in my senior year, I was asked to tutor my best white friend. Imagine the shock it was to me when she confided in me that her parents still used the N-word. So, the divide was real and not just in my head. My brain had given me access to a separate world but it had not given me acceptance into that world.
Closer to the End
I attended a predominantly white college. I went on to hang around only black friends. Not so much because of their race, but because we had the most in common. My early years had taught me to how to exist in a white world and so I excelled by the look of things. I started a job at an elementary school with 98% black children. The divide continued.
I went on to attend a predominantly black church and when I was being courted by my now husband, he was attending a church with predominantly white members. Before our marriage, I requested of him that he find a church with more black members to join. He obliged. The divide had done what it was designed to do. It had caused disunity between me and my white brothers and sisters in Christ. And at the same time, it had caused a break in the union between me and my Designer. Here I was, the clay, saying to my Potter, “You made me like this, now put me among those who look like me, sing like me, talk like me and have mannerisms like me.”
The End of the Divide
My family moved. We needed a new church. Simple enough. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t a new church I needed, but a new church I needed to be. And without knowing exactly why, I told my husband that I was open to going to a church that had predominantly white members. Clearly, God was not calling me to a “white” church, but He was alerting me to my disobedience in being unwilling to go to whatever church He wanted for me. As the words exited my mouth, every part of my flesh screamed, you wont like it, you’ll be uncomfortable, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb, you will become “other” again. Yet at the same time, there was a peace that overtook my spirit and confirmed that indeed this is what God wanted me to do.
And I was very uncomfortable, I did stick out, and I certainly felt other. But those were just feelings. I was in the comfort of my Lord, I was sticking to what He had called me to do, and being other comes with the territory of constantly dying to my own wants and ease. Finally here I was the clay saying to the Potter, “You made me like this and them like that, then sent Jesus to make us all one. Who am I to be a part of keeping us separated?”
The Never-Ending Changes
At my current church home, God has pressed on my heart many more changes that He wants me to be molded into. He has confirmed over and over that obedience is its own reward. I am growing in Christ, not because I am at a church that is predominantly white. I am growing in Christ because by His grace alone, He is teaching me to hear His specific instructions for me and to obey them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The End is Coming
On judgement day, will these words be a description of your life:
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Where has God broken through to you about something you never even knew needed changing? Is there an uncomfortable pinch that He is using to shape you right now? Are you moldable clay in His hands, easily led or are you more like concrete that needs to be chiseled, stubborn and unwilling?
Tell me how I can be praying for you.