The older I get the more I realize that vulnerability becomes a necessary part of the arsenal for survival. This pandemic has revealed to many that they are only moments away from life being altered in unimaginable fashions. Therefore, summoning up the courage to go the store for groceries is a herculean task but life threatening to say the least. As one of my colleagues and a friend shared with me during a phone call 3 weeks ago, “Foulks, if I get this virus, I don’t think I will make it.” Those words have echoed in my mind, heart and spirit since that day. And friends, I feel the same way. Knowing my vulnerabilities has given me a freedom. Everyday is a ….
There is always the thought: when is something going to change.
I have been toiling the roads of theology, ministry and church for over 20 years: I have been through 5 church plants/church renewals, I have been a part of a pastoral staff at an all-white Lutheran church, endured a racist candidacy process with people whom claim to love the same God as me, I have sat in rooms with Bishops/prophets/apostles/elders, I have had conversations with some of the greatest theologians in the country, I have interviewed at more churches than I care to admit and applied to more than I remember, and I am entering my second semester of a PhD. in Theology and Ethics. And, I ask myself, “What am I missing?”
I am not sure but I keep plugging until something changes. I have been told that maybe that is God’s way of telling you that you should be doing something else. All these doors keep getting slammed in your face; when will you get the message, that God does not want you in the church. God keeps closing the doors so that you will move on to something else. My reply, “Maybe you are right but I’m going to walk this out a little while longer.”
I felt like writing today because I needed to express where I am in my soul. This, is where I am in my soul. It is that moment when you have made all the moves you can make, now you wait for God to make the next move. Having done all the stand…stand. (Ephesians 6:13)
The church and the academy are tricky places to understand even when they, supposedly, represent God.
It has been months since I have made an attempt to write anything. I have wrestled with myself: a lack of things to say or simply fear of critique. It appeared for the first time that I had developed an awareness of the critique. What I had labeled a lack of interesting events was really my unwillingness to be vulnerable. Writing places one’s perspective in a space of judgement where all stand as judge and jury. It is a place where the untamed life restructures itself into a sanctuary of peace –chaos becomes fortified spaces of comfort. I had become too consumed by the hustle of “trying to show I belonged.”
It was a Friday night and I had been driving for more than 15 hours. I had taken my daughter back home and was making my way back to Georgia. I still had 2 hours before I reached home safely but I needed to get some gas and take a stretch break. I walked into the store paid for my gas and went to the restroom. As I washed my hands, I could see how tired I looked, as my eyes were turning red. It was at that moment that a white gentlemen next to me says, “I hope you are almost home my friend.” I replied, “Two more hours.” He stated that he was shutting it down for the night because he was so tired. I told him that I was going to keep moving and as we parted he said, “Get home safe brother!” This may sound like two men having a friendly conversation but the man I was speaking with was wearing a t-shirt with a Confederate Flag.
It was not until I was in my truck, that I realized what was on his shirt. It struck me as odd that he would strike up a conversation wearing such a shirt. As a week has passed since this happen, it has really been on my mind. The importance of symbols and how we display them can be detrimental to relationships of all kinds. This man at most times in my life would have received a different welcome from me than he did that night. My awareness and alertness was not at its usual highness which accounted for my lack of noticing his shirt. But, it allowed me to have a good and pleasant conversation with someone who would have otherwise been ignored.
I still have a problem with people who wear or have Confederate Flags but I also learned not to jump to fast to dismiss a person without knowing them. I still don’t have much respect for those who choose to brand or wear a Confederate Flag but I nonetheless I had a conversation with a man that did. I will never see that man again in my life but for those brief 2 minutes that man gave me enough encouragement to get home after 15 hours on the road. He gave me a pound and told me to perk up and we parted our ways. The hate that fills the mystic and prowess of the Confederate Flag did not fill this man, at least from my perspective, but its presence displayed on his shirt impacted me more than him…
Think about it…