Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Segregation


I saw them at the convenience store, putting hot water from the coffee machine into a styrofoam cup. The man was shirtless, with tatoos all over his arms and torso. His hair was matted and dirty, along with the rest of him. His female companion wore camoflauge cutoffs and a tank top, revealing ample cleavage. Their sunbaked skin was smeared with dirt and sweat, brought on by the sudden onset of summer. I had taken Sister and one of her friends to the restroom. We had just come out when we spotted them. "Ewwwww," said Sister's friend. Sister joined in. More than a little embarrassed, I steered the girls in the opposite direction, glancing to make sure the couple hadn't heard. They didn't appear to have noticed. "Why are you saying that?" I asked them. I was afraid they were going to say something about how dirty the people were. "That man wasn't wearing a shirt," replied Sister's friend. "He was nek-kid!" chimed sister. I felt somehow relieved by their answers. As we were leaving, I held the door open for the couple and a some of their friends, all in similar condition. My gesture was met with something kind of like surprise. The man's eyes met mine and he thanked me. But it wasn't just any "thank you". He looked at me...really looked into my face, with a gaze that spoke volumes, though I found it difficult to return. I looked down and mumbled "you're welcome" as they filed out, all thanking me with sincere appreciation and clutching their cups of hot water.

We loaded up and headed out of the parking lot, passing the group as they got into their car. It was old and dirty, filled with what looked like some clothes and other belongings. In the back window I saw a cardboard sign that read, "Will work for food".

Over the weekend I've seen bits and pieces of "Remember the Titans" and "The War", both set in a time where people were seperated by skin color. Though I find it easy to draw back in horror at segregation in that setting, it strikes a chord about segregation in my own life.

I segregate myself from people who are not like me.

Whether it be, faith, financial standing, physical appearance or marital status, I gravitate to those I find "relate-able". Yeah, it's somewhat natural. We all do, right?

I heard on the radio today that people who live on the North Side (impoverished side) of our city have a shorter life expectancy than those further south. The radio news personality said, "...and what does the city government plan to do about it?"

Huh?

Why is it the government's responsibility? If you want out of that life, then get out. Move. Sounds simple. But I know it's not.

It got me thinking about why community is important. Why we need to be involved in people's lives. Why if I'm going to say I love God and put my trust in Him I need to share that hope.

But I'm not talking about selling Jesus.

I've read a few blogs lately about "what to wear to church". (Please don't take offense it was your blog I read.) And I'm wondering why we worry so much about this. If some woman walked in wearing next to nothing, how much time would people spend trying to help her see the "error of her ways" and show her how to respect God in his house as opposed to befriending her, caring for her...letting her see Christ in us and let the Holy Spirit convict her of her clothing choice?

What? Let the Holy Spirit convict? As someone who has grown up in a traditional church, I know...this is a novel idea.

Somewhere along the line we have missed the point. We spend so much time looking at people's behavior instead of seeing what lies beneath. We don't see the internal agony. We don't see the struggle of the heart.

If community were working the way it should, the people on the North Side could find a way out. The panhandlers might be living a different life.

All this to say, I'm guilty. I find my comfort zone and park it. But there is something within me that yearns to widen that space to include the world around me. Not to bring them to church. Not to make them moral. To show them if God can love me, He can love anybody.

God, forgive my apathy. Forgive my complacency. Give me brokenness for my neighbor. Give me a heart for people.

21 comments:

Dino said...

Hey thanks for the blogger hospitality by letting non-members comment here. I feel accepted and privleged to now sit at your table.

Seriously, great post! So many times we see people like that and we want to do something heroic for them and many times it is God's way of showing us our own hypocisies and evil within.

LiteratureLover said...

Great post. Thanks for giving me some mind food to chew on!

Mama of 2 said...

I agree you certainly gave us alot of food for thought and honestly I have thought many of the same things.
It is hard to step out our comfort zone and take that leap of faith extending a hand to those in need.

I have told hubby repeatedly that we need to give more of ourselves and financially. I know we are strapped for money alot of the time but every time I see the St. Jude's Hospital commerical on The Hallmark Channel I think what if that was my child and I needed that place and it no longer was there because everyone thought like me that I can't afford to make a donation or spend that $19.00 a month.
No I haven't stepped up to the plate yet, ashamed to say, but sometimes I believe that you need to give when you don't think you have anything left and you will be reward in ways you could have never expected.

Thanks for the thought provoking post Supermom.

Grafted Branch said...

O.k...not so hilarious this morning -- but really sharpening thoughts. Thanks for sharing in such a compelling way.

I saw that you were on my blog last night, but I don't think you got as far as my "what to wear to church" post. I am writing from the opinion that the church is for believers, and that evangelism is our call, individually, to be GOING OUT to share the Gospel. So, with that in mind, I'm thinking of believers when I write:

http://restoringtheyears.blogspot.com/2006/03/miss-scarlet-mrs-peacock-and-mrs-white.html

Denise W. said...

Thanks for your thoughts this morning. I pray for a more open heart today....

Cheerio's on my butt? said...

I think you're my best friend....:)I loved this post as this has been a subject that has captivated my entire way of thinking! I find myself shaking my head more now at people that claim to be Christians than the ones who are not living the "life" they're "supposed to". Somewhere people have lost the whole idea of Christianity. I am guilty of it myself but Oh, how I am changing my views fast! This post was music to my ears as most people don't seem to know what I am talking about. I love your spirit! Thanks for loving those people and seeing it, I think, the way Christ would want us to! I knew you were cool when I saw your pic the first time! xoxoxoxo

Heth said...

Wonderful post. Sometimes I am appalled at my own inital recation to people. People like the ones you saw at the store. I need to pray that I see all people through the eyes of Christ. Thanks for making me think.

Sarah said...

I think you touched on WHY we spend so much time and energy looking at people's behavior/dress -- it keeps us from seeing the plank in our own eye! I, personally, feel overwhelmed about the "what-to-do-about-it-all" when maybe I should just pray to see one person that I can love and touch today.

SuperMom said...

Okay, I'm going to step out on a limb here and say the church is not for believers.

What was the original purpose of the church? To help others. To pool their resources and be all about using those resources to help those in need. Anyone in need. Not just church members. Not those who passed a worthiness test. Anyone.

I think we fool ourselves into thinking church is all about our needs, getting what we need or want out of it. I'm not saying it's bad to be encouraged and fed at church. I think it's bad when we see that as the church's only purpose.

My old church used to "visit" people. My old pastor talked about a time when he knocked on someone's door and invited them to church. This woman answered the door in tears. He said they talked and he asked her to come to a church service. He said he always wondered what happened to her. His point was that there are people out there hurting and we need to invite them to church.

What the heck?!

Why didn't he get involved in her life? Why didn't he ask if he could help her instead of inviting her to church? Why didn't he show some real care and concern for what was going on her life?

Why don't we meet people where they are instead of inviting them to church?

God's not about religion. The best way to show a person God, is to love them the way He loves us...completely and unequivocally without condition.

SuperMom said...

Sarah - but why do we spend so much time trying to cover that plank up instead of being honest with people and say, "Look, this is where I struggle. This is who I am...completely broken and unworthy. No different than the homeless man on the corner."

Sometimes I think Christians are too introspective. We spend so much time thinking about how we can improve ourselves and no time at all on the world going on around us.

Not preaching. Like I said, I am guilty.

Everyday Mommy said...

Supermom:
I could not agree with you more. Beautiful post!
Jules

James 2:1-5

"My brethren,do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"

Grafted Branch said...

O.k., before I say this, let me just implore you all, "please don't everyone jump on me at the same time now!" I'm just trying to sort through the mysteries like everyone else.

I think Acts portrays the New Testament Church -- the one that is exhorted to not forsake the gathering together and spurring one another on to good works -- as very much for believers. (Materially rich and poor, alike, can be believers -- that's not even on my radar for this comment.)

I'm working from the understanding that the gathering together that I call church is to worship God. You can't do that if you are drawing breath from Him, in unbelief.

I think it's merciful to provide for the needs of everyone; but at the top of the list is the provision we're commanded to make: preach the Gospel and make disciples.

I think we're supposed to "go out," rather than bring them in before they've believed the Gospel. Acts 4:32 says, "now the multitude of those who BELIEVED (my emphasis) were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own..." It goes on to say that the wealth was distributed amongst any of them that had need. I guess one might look at that one of two ways: either anyone, as in everyone; or anyone in the context of the previous verses -- anyone already being in reference to those who believed and were of one heart and soul.

Acts 2:41 says that "...those who gladly RECEIVED (again, my emphasis) his word were baptized; and that day about 3000 souls were added to them."

See, inviting the "tares" to come and sit and listen and work and feel a part of it all without a God-given faith is not doing anyone any favors. They will be surprised when they are separated from the "wheat" at the judgement. That will be a grievous moment.

Unfortunately, the church has been distracted from its true calling. We don't take seriously the need for the lost to hear and be saved. We are busy about the social trappings of the organization. We have become about building funds and ladies' luncheons and mission trips by teens to exotic locations.

I agree with the end of your comment where the pastor would have served better to get involved with her life. Perhaps we get lazy as we rely on others: ministries, retreats, clubs, etc.

I still think you are wonderfully real and your humor has a healing touch. I pray my opinion has not been an irritation and that your large, loyal readership will not pummel me. :)

jessica said...

Supermom, I think it is funny that you suggest we should be open about the planks in our own eyes... that is very much my theory... and I have found that the more open I am the more "church people" have issue. I prayed at Christmas break for tolerance and patience because my kids would be home 24/7 for 2 weeks and I didn't know if I could handle it... people just looked at me like I was crazy. I wish that being honest about your struggles was rewarded in church but it isn't... we have gone to 3 different churches as a couple and in not one of them would I have felt comfortable to stand up and say 'my marriage sucks' because you just don't do that. If church is meant to help... then why don't we help each other...

sorry for the length... I just feel strongly about this topic.

jessica said...

didn't mean 'rewarded' meant respected

Noah's G'ma said...

It's about time you opened your blog up - I've only asked about 100 times!!!! :)

I guess I believe more like grafted branch. The gathering in a building of believers is for believers. To help each other, to encourage each other, to define a peer group for strength, prayer, and worship, etc. Of course, no one would be rejected that came seeking.

On the other hand, the church, the body of Christ, should be all about caring for the needy, orphans, widows. I don't think it is necessarily the "community's" job as much as it is the church's job.

I was talking to dh today, in fact, about what the tithe was intended for. We both agreed it was not to build nice new buildings, keep the pastor at the top income level of his congregation, or even to buy Sunday School quarterlies and VBS materials. The American church has had it all wrong for a long time.

My dh is a Gideon. He also travels a LOT. He has passed the same muslim woman, in a complete burka, selling cellular stuff at a booth at the Dallas airport, many, many times. He has not felt compassion, it was more like indignation. Last week, when he looked at her eyes while walking through the airport, he felt compassion for her for the first time. He walked over to her and asked her if she was having a good day, she asked him where he was from and he told her. He then asked if he could give her a New Testament. She said, "Yes, and thank you" He was floored. He handed her the Bible, told her that there were helps in the front and the back could lead her to accept Christ, if she so chose. She started looking at it. He went to the Admiral's club.

Later,on his way to his gate, he had to pass her booth again. She was still reading it!

Makes you wonder how many times we make judgments by what people are wearing. It occured to me that maybe she was in bondage. She is surely in bondage to Islam.

Our eyes of compassion need to be opened.

Noah's G'ma said...

I forgot evangelism!

Kristie said...

Thanks for bringing this up. I was someone who posted about clothing recently, but it was more in the vein of what you were saying....at least I hope it came across that way!

The homeless issue is a big issue....and the poor. Thanks for being honest for what I think goes on in most of our hearts when this happens...

thebarefootpoet said...

It is in no way stated or implied in the New Testament that church is just for believers. Yes, in terms of worship, and other Spirit led things those who don't believe would not understand or feel anything. There is absolutely no evidence in any of the early church writings that they did not anticipate and accept that unbelievers would be part of those who attended. The only thing we know of from early writing is that unbelievers were not allowed to take communion.

Look, I'm not at all trying to pummel you. In fact, I greatly respect and agree with your emphasis on going out as a huge responsibility of the church. You mentioned tares as if they were the lost outside the church and inviting them in would confuse them as of there standing, but the tares are already, if you read the parable, actively involved "members", if you will. I did read your post about how to dress, and I get that you weren't really trying to establish dress requirements for church members, it was a lesson on modesty. Did you mention to your daughter that it would be great if Miss Scarlet was an unbeliever and showed up at a place where the gospel is preached regardless of her dress? Why separated the preaching of the gospel and making disciples as separate from meeting the needs of the poor and marginalized? Just food for thought, and I maintain respect for your opinion.

Tammy M. said...

When I was in my early twenties I lived with my aunt and uncle when I first moved to Abilene. They had invited a homeless man to live with them, previous to me moving to Abilene. His room was at one end of the hallway and mine was at the other. Then my aunt and uncle's was at the other end of the house. At 23 years old I had alot to learn about alot of stuff, but one thing I have learned from that time and continued to learn from my aunt and uncle and my grandparents who live here is that everyone has a story, and just because they look a bit different from me, maybe even act a little or a lot different, they are a child of God who deserves humility from us, not a turned up nose. Dan became part of our family and is in many of my wedding pictures, he has moved on but God used him in a mighty way in my life.

Mia said...

That really was a thought provoking post. Too bad no one chose to offer them some help while they were there. There but for the Grace of God ....

Cheerio's on my butt? said...

I had to come back here and read more comments after I saw your new post. I would like to sit back now and just hear you speak on this because you are putting into words what I have been furiously toiling around in my head for awhile now, trying to find the words I needed. I have been focusing (trying) on the second greatest commandment that Jesus gave and that was to love others as yourself, and if we can't get that major commandment down then I don't think much else of what we do in this life is going to matter. Right? I like simplicity. It helps me be a better me. I also really liked Jessica's comment on here to, and I agree very much! Thank you for this post!