The response surrounding the murder of George Floyd over the last several weeks has been one of the most surprising things I have seen in my lifetime. Unfortunately, the murder of George Floyd, although shocking, is not surprising, given recent and not so recent incidents.So, the question is, “How did we get here and what do we do now?”
In 2013 the term, “lean in,” made popular by Sheryl Sandberg,challenged women to focus on what we CAN do to achieve success in the workplace, versus focusing on limitations. This thinking is what led to her success in Corporate America, becomingthe COO of Facebook in 2008 as well as becoming a bestselling author. In keeping with the theme of leaning in, it points me to one of my favorite biblical characters,The Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28). This woman had a desperate need and showed humility, tenacity, patience, and wisdom to get what she needed.
In a time where everyone just wants to “get back to normal,” we can tend to simply wait until the storm passes so we can go back tonormal life. When I was a young girlvisiting my grandmother’s home in Virginia, I remember a time when there was a thunderstorm. Everyone had to turn off the lights,TV, music, and everything else and sit quietly, “while the Lord did his work.”Once the storm passed, we could go back to normal activity. In this climate of racial unrest, sitting silently and waiting for the storm to pass will not be effective. In our communities and, unfortunately, in many of our churches,we have tried the silent treatment, and it is proving to be ineffective.Ephesians 4:15 says Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.There are times when I want to be silent and there are times when I want to emotionally lash out, but I am personally committed to speaking the truth in love because this leads to maturation of the body of Christ.
How Did We Get Here?
Although there has been a collective demand to see justice administered in the case of George Floyd, it is equally important that we ask ourselves,“How do you get to this point in a civilized society?”To thepoint where a man has pinned his knee on the neck of another human being, as onlookers demand a response to end the brutality. Instead of responding to onlooker’s pleas to stop, along with the victim’s cries for help, the suffocation persists for almost 9 minutes until emergency services arrive.There is a callousness that must build over time for this behavior to become acceptable. 1 Timothy 4 speaks of how our consciences are seared when false teachings are not addressed, and illicit behaviors become normalized. But nevertheless, finally, in America, white people as well as people of color have been awakened. It reminds me of Peter having to hear the roostercrow three times before he became aware. His issue of denial and lying about his relationship with Jesus was always before him, but it took the external event of the rooster crowing for the third time and the reminder of a prior conversation with Jesus, to realize how far he had fallen.
It is encouraging to see our fellowship rally around each other with an urgency concerning race relations and an eagerness to exercise empathy for one another in our churches. Being a part of the ICOC SCUAD (Social-Cultural Unity and Diversity)for the last 4 years, I have had the benefit of visiting churches with my husband Ben and being asked on occasion to speak on issues of race and helping individuals cope with these struggles. However, in the last month, there has been a significant uptick in leaders and members alike wanting help in effectively communicating concerns about racial disparities withinour congregations. I realize, perhaps, our fellowship is having its own crowing-rooster moment, responding to an event outside of our fellowship that is bringing attention to our own weaknesses.
What Do We Do Now?
This question brings me back to the Canaanite Woman. There are many things we can extrapolate from this text, but I want to focus on this woman. When given a set of difficult circumstances, her choice was to lean Into the discomfort. First, she leans in with humility by asking for mercy. This woman is aware of where she stands with Jesus and is requesting the benefit of any doubts he may have about her lineage. The bible says she was ignored by Jesus,put off by the rest of the disciples, and then told by Jesus that his priority was the Israelites. However, instead of getting mad, sad, discouraged, or defensive, she leans in a little more by asking for help. Lastly, Jesus provides a surprising and challenging response by describing her, metaphorically, as a dog. Again, instead of walking away, she leans in even more by declaring that Jesus is the master; she will trust whatever he has to give.
Lean Into It (Urban Dictionary Definition)
The act of embracing something, or a situation, by using it to empower yourself. To “lean into” something is to own it, to cast off disparagement. You move forward and deal with it with unhindered confidence, casting off concerns and cares.
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
If we trust the bible, we know we will not be put to shame and we can have hope for a hurting world because each of uspersevered through a personal character change. I pray as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are as desperate to see each other saved from the evil spirit of racial indignities as The Canaanite Woman was to see her daughter saved from demon-possession. So, what do we do now? We lean into the uncomfortable conversations, we lean into the miscommunication, we lean into making mistakes, we lean into being taught, we lean into being corrected, we lean into being trained, we lean into being rebuked, we lean into being vulnerable, we lean into being wrong, we lean into the truth. We just lean in!
Women’s Ministry Leader
Family Ministry Director
Bridge Pointe Church
Tammi’s passion is to promote the spiritual and emotional well-being of all women through an integrative and balanced approach by focusing on mind, body, and spirit to help women live an authentic and productive lifestyle. Tammi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from James Madison University and received professional training in life coaching for individuals and teams from The Pastoral Institute in Columbus, GA. Most of Tammi’s professional career has involved leadership in the non-profit sector in development and funding of programs. Tammi currently leads the Women’s Ministry and oversees the Family Ministry at Bridge Pointe Church in Marietta, GA.