Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Past Mistakes

There is a song by the Indigo Girls called “Galileo,” that has a line that has really been speaking to my heart lately. It says, “And now I’m serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime.” She’s actually talking about reincarnation, but I think the idea is just as significant whether you believe in that or not. We all carry the choices of those before us. Good or bad, we carry them all. It seems unfair to me sometimes. In my idea of justice, we all should carry only the weight of our own mistakes and choices. But we are all interconnected and dependent on one another; none of us carry only our own choices. My whiteness carries the guilt of the oppressor, current and past, and the slave owner and the imposer of segregation. My neighbor’s blackness carries the lingering residue of oppression, segregation, and enslavement. My privilege carries an arrogance of entitlement as my students and neighbors carry the desire just to survive and be socially accepted. I did not choose to grow up privileged or White any more than my students and neighbors chose to grow up poor or as people of color. Our privilege and poverty were chosen for us and we carry the weight of those choices “made by another in another lifetime.” That’s been a hard thing for me lately, reconciling the meaning of all of this and what my responsibility is in it. It would probably be easier just to say, “That wasn’t me. I didn’t do that so I shouldn’t have to feel guilty or pay for what was done before I was even born.” That would be the easy thing. But it wouldn’t be the right thing. And it wouldn’t be reality, merely an illusion. The fact is, I am serving time for mistakes I never made, but if I didn’t recognize that, I would be indeed making my own mistakes. I have made many already. God never intended us to live separate from each other by our differences. God loves diversity and he loves ALL people. Why we don’t seem to get that, I don’t know. Maybe we’re afraid. Afraid of the stranger, afraid of our responsibility, afraid of God and his call for all his children to reconciliation. Maybe we like our hatred, though we may not recognize it as such or refuse to name it. Maybe we like to feel powerful and in control of the lives of others because we don’t always feel in control of ours. Maybe it is easier to condemn that to accept because we would rather reject someone before they reject us. But I’m really glad God doesn’t think that way. I’m really glad that he accepts rather than condemns and that he would rather be rejected by us than reject us. That is my experience of the unconditional love and grace of God. He waits for us patiently, whispering in us, asking us to choose him, wanting us to sense his arms around us as he rocks us in our tears and laughs with us in our joys.
I strongly believe in God’s desire for reconciliation because at the very heart of us, it is our deepest desire too. I believe he wants us not only to be reconciled to him, but to one another, and to his creation that he has given us to care for and take pleasure in. Not the kind of pleasure that is abusive, but the kind that stops to smell the flowers and admire their simple beauty. We have been on the path of destruction for too long, destroying each other, ourselves, and our home. Instead of caring with grace, we have been taking advantage of people and of our planet. I’m truly repentant for the part I’ve played personally in that and for the mistakes I carry from others in another lifetime. I have seen so much injustice in the world in the last month. The oil spill in the Gulf, caused by our greed and our laziness or fear of taking a stand, is heartbreaking and infuriating. It feels like the greed in the form of crude oil, is destroying my home and my whole childhood as it moves around the coast of Florida. The injustice of Arizona’s stance on immigration that gives law enforcement permission for racial profiling and mistreatment of aliens in the name of “protecting our neighbors” is insane especially when God calls us to love the alien as one of our own. They are our neighbors. We need to seek reconciliation as God calls us to, not separation and segregation.