Lenten Reflection 4: Anne Gerber
Dr. Catherine Meeks, in chapter 5 of The Night is Long but Light Comes in the Morning, journeys the reader through the constructs of trespassing, invisibility, trust, visibility, and not growing too weary on the road to racial justice and healing. I kept inviting myself to stop and breathe as I read each meditation in this chapter so I could be present with the array of emotions and sensations that bubbled up to the surface as my life experiences flashed alongside her words. It was reminding me of how I fell to my knees from the weight of the yoke but how it was here I chose to pick it up again in a new form.
I can remember one of the turning points in my life, election year 2016, when the weight of “it” all took me to my knees. I remember the journal entry: “because I no longer can carry you, I release you to the world”. I did not know what was unraveling at the time, but It required of me, as Dr. Meeks poignantly named Chapter 5, Going Below The Surface And Creating New Space For Healing.
So what was this yoke I carried and what was I releasing?
The weight of white supremacy in my life as a Black biracial (mixed) child living in predominantly white spaces who learned that I needed to protect my white relatives and friends from hard truths at the expense of my own needs.
It’s important that I preface that I was loved, deeply, by my family, and here enters the nuance of my biracial experience not being a dualist, either-or but a both-and paradox. Yes, I was loved and I was not fully seen. Yes, I grew up with privileges that light skin afforded and yet experienced life threatening racism as a teen growing up on the East Side of St. Paul. This left me in my formative years very confused about love, unsure of my purpose here in a world that hurt Black and brown people, hypervigilant for my safety and fearful to speak about my life experiences. It set me in a pattern of overdrive to prove my worth, be fiercely independent and never let “them” see me weak. Them being anybody. To survive meant positioning my every move based on how I was being seen versus from my own center. It felt like a betrayal to tell the family and friends that raised me and loved me the best they knew how that it didn’t support the whole of me and frankly that it hurt me. But when I fell to my knees, dropped by the weight of the yoke of oppression, in 2016, I stayed down. I realized what was hidden under the surface was also internalized racism and a deep betrayal of self from not speaking my truth.
Reckoning with the ways white supremacy warped my own mind, by design I might add, has been both extremely painful and liberating. Painful because I had to look at where I trespassed against self, lived invisibly, and lacked trust in my lived experience. This meant if I was doing this internally to myself, I surely was not living out in the world to help raise the voice of my fellow Black and brown people in ways to create impactful change.
Unpacking what weighs me down and getting honest with myself about the racial injustices in our society is a journey that, with each vulnerable step, frees me. It allows more energy to be allocated out in the world to tend to both my healing needs and to help others heal the shared trauma racism has caused in our collective bodies and minds.
It is here I ask myself for the first time deep questions: What do I, as a Black biracial woman, need? Can I trust myself to make visible the parts of my Divine self that I did not know were invisible? Can I free myself from oppressive thoughts that keep me separate? Can I replace the yoke of internalized racism with the yoke of Jesus? The answer is yes, with God’s help. So with each brave step I pick up the yoke of Jesus, time and time again, not alone but in community, to begin speaking my truth to the racism I see and my body feels.
There’s a Hollywood image we have in America that equates any talk of the heart with a fantasy of romantic love or blissful feelings, leaving off the interconnectedness of the big love that unites us all that Jesus speaks of. No one tells us that love means telling the truth even when it’s hard and that this love will set us free. What hard truths are you needing to look at when it comes to racial justice and healing in your own life? Are you able to breathe with the emotions and sensations that arise when they bubble up? Can you name them and where in your body they reside? Can you trust yourself to make visible your invisible and to name your own trespasses?
I pray for us all to persist as we take up the yoke of Jesus. May our path be blessed as our burdens are heavy but in Him there is rest.
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29