The binary tendency innate in my children is being blown to bits this week. Children have a tendency to draw hard lines: the good guys and the bad guys, the right thing and the wrong thing. A nuanced approach that matches the complexity of life in a broken world with broken systems is hard even for adults, let alone developing bodies and brains.
And yet, in the past week, we have been inviting our boys more deeply into the complexity of racism. Some of our dearest friends and mentors have made their homes and their lives in the city of Minneapolis. We have prayed and texted, texted and prayed, with and for them. We have also been processing the riots happening there with our boys, trying to help them understand what we can barely wrap our minds around: the complex history of racism in our nation, the image of God in humanity, the hope of the gospel and the way Christians have to wrestle with how to speak for justice while trusting ultimate justice to the perfect judge.
And then the ripple effects came closer to home. About a mile away to be exact.
Within 24 hours, our little city of La Mesa has seen so much. Peaceful protestors, holding signs and chanting for justice during the daylight hours. Rioting and looting while police officers attempted to protect city center well into the night. Burned buildings in the neighborhood we have grown to love and to which we have felt called by God.
When Sidewalks Scream
The sidewalks saw so much.
They cried, shook, and sighed.
If only they could’ve screamed,
All the complexities outside.
The wave of peaceful protests,
Bringing racism to light,
The marching feet of allies,
Trying to put injustice to flight.
The gathering crowds at dusk,
Police protecting the ground.
Rioting and alloyed anger,
Fires blazing all around.
Ashes and tear gas gathered,
Remnants of the riotous hours.
But at dawn, the helpers came
With all their needed powers.
They gathered, wept, and swept.
Repairing the ruined walkways,
But racism is far more complex,
It’s repair takes more than days.
Oh, that these sidewalks would see
The leveling of a prejudiced past;
That God’s children would resemble
The One to whom they hold fast.
For if sidewalks could scream,
They would cry out for His aid.
They seem to know better than we,
The price He has already paid.
Profanity sprayed on buildings is not the biggest issue. After all, our town came out in droves and had it all covered up by 9 am. We sleep still in our eyes, we joined them with our garbage bags and broom. My boys swept shattered glass and learned about tear gas by accidentally sweeping it up. But African American children have been experiencing both of those things for centuries.
We don’t have a neat, tidy response to this as a family. And that is hard and uncomfortable, both for us as parents and for them as children. We know that Christ knew the depth of the human condition, the height of our hatred, and the width of the countless chasms our sins have created when He carefully carried the cross.
What we are wrestling to figure out is what it looks like to take up our own crosses and follow Him, living as He lived, blessing as He blessed, redressing as He redressed. Pray for us. Pray for our city. Pray for your city. Pray for wisdom to live in these broken, bleeding, but beautiful cities until the day when we are with Christ in the city whose builder and architect is God, where justice flows from the very person of Jesus.