Earlier this year, I felt as if God was telling (challenging? inviting?) me to expand my territory. Do you remember when that little book, The Prayer of Jabez was all the rage and everyone was praying, and asking God to expand their territory, and meaning all sorts of different things when they prayed that prayer?
Well, this year, I feel God sharing that message with me, but with a little bit of a twist on it. It seems as if God is throwing that verse back at me, saying, “You expand your territory. Step out of the same old circles. Sit at a different table. Listen to someone else’s story for a change. Get a different perspective. Introduce yourself to a new group.” I feel God saying something to me that sounds like, “Cast your net on the other side of the boat.” So, I’ve been doing that.
And, when I say I’ve been doing that, what I really mean is that God has been opening up some different doors for me—casting my net for me. I’ve been invited to speak at conferences and to sit at tables (both virtual and in real life) with people who are passionate about making sure the richness of God’s creation is represented, and may I just tell you it’s been like taking a long drink of water from a cool, refreshing, living spring?
I don’t know if this season will last forever. I don’t know if God is dusting off my sandals. What I do know is that I was thirsty, and I didn’t even know just how badly I needed this drink of water.
Last year, I made the decision to pull back from places that tend to disappoint and frustrate me. You all know by now, diversity is my passion—especially in the Body of Christ. For some reason, God won’t let me be done with it. I know people want to be done with it. I know people want to move on and find something else to talk about, and I’m right there with those people. I want to move on and be done with it. But, I keep looking around at our country, and the churches and the conferences and the blogging trips and it’s clear to me we aren’t done with it.
It’s no simple thing. And being the squeaky wheel gets old. That’s the honest truth. But it’s also necessary. So, I’ll keep squeaking. But, I’m feeling freedom to stop pressing where the message isn’t taking root. Because I get my hopes up when it looks as if the tide may be shifting. Then I realize people have come face to face with the implications of making sure all God’s people are represented, and they’ve counted the cost and decided it’s just not worth it.
Believe me. I know it’s easier to keep things the way they’ve always been. I totally understand. It’s just that I’m not convinced God intends things to remain “the way we’ve always done it.” And, for the moment, at least, I feel a little bit of freedom to step off the roller coaster of thinking things might be changing, and then realizing…not yet.
Here’s the thing about expanding my territory and getting a different perspective, though: stepping away has made it that much clearer to me, just how much we need to tear down the walls that divide us. Stepping away has deepened my resolve. Sitting at tables and sharing platforms and speaking at events where being a black woman (or having people of color in the lineup or on the planning team or in the audience) isn’t an anomaly, has affirmed in me the richness we miss out on when we insist upon, or make excuses for, the lack of diversity in our lives and work and ministries, as people who follow Jesus.
It makes my head spin. And I have deep thoughts about it. Thoughts I’m afraid to share, and for which I don’t yet have words.
So, I’m focusing on simpler things these days. Like the way the light shines on everyday, ordinary objects. And the way the grass feels under my feet. I’m paying attention to what it feels like when my bare feet discover an acorn in the driveway. I’m soaking up the trickle of watermelon juice from my hand to my elbow, and the way the juice makes my kitchen floors all sticky if I don’t wipe it up. I’m watching the sun set—not taking my eyes off of it as it slowly dips below the horizon. I’m watching the way it seems to melt away and I’m paying attention to the fact that it’s not really setting as much as the earth is moving me away from it.
And I am thanking God for giving me permission to let it go. For now.