When you grow up in a small rural town in Pennsylvania you don’t exactly become well versed in diversity. Seeing it, talking about it, fighting for it. Diversity in my town was about which color buggy was being pulled the horse. Black meant the riders were Amish, gray meant they were Mennonite.
While Alia and Deidra and Lisa-Jo and Jennifer write about diversity and race with such elegance and grace, I don’t even know how to begin the conversation. If I’m honest, I don’t want to ‘go there.’ I don’t want there to be a problem. I don’t want it to be an issue that everything I attend is filled with women who look just like me. I want to think that it can be ok because our stories are still all unique.
It’s not ok.
When I was in college I joined the gospel choir. I was one of three white girls. And I couldn’t sing. I honestly can’t begin to tell you what made me join (or why they let me stay) but I know this. In the middle of the university I loved, which – while located right outside Philadelphia was elite enough to be full of upper middle class white students and wasn’t out of my comfort zone at all – I was thrown out of my comfort zone and into churches that were unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. It was beautiful and intimidating and glorious and just the smallest glimpse of what the kingdom could look like. I was challenged, encouraged, pushed, embraced, and learned what a joyful noise really meant.
And then I moved back to the same town I grew up in and convinced myself that those few small experiences in college were good. I’d been challenged enough. I’d had my eyes opened enough. I wanted to believe it was enough to be online and working with women around the world and creating a space here where all are welcome. But that isn’t enough. What it did was introduce me to women like Deidra and Alia whom I trust with my heart and know I can ask the uncomfortable questions. The ones that I don’t even know how to start. Questions like:
- What can I do?
- Am I supposed to give up my opportunity for someone else?
- How do we go from “token” to “inclusive?” Is it just about numbers?
I didn’t want to ask any of those questions and I honestly don’t have any of the answers. I don’t know how to be part of this conversation except to say this. I prayed about my part in it and really just wanted God to say “It’s ok. I know you’ve been fighting and working hard and struggling to be recognized and given opportunities, too. You can just go ahead and say “yes” to all of them and cheer for these amazing women.”
He didn’t say that.
He told me to love my sisters more than myself. To trust Him with my “yes” and my “no” and to be intentional that when I say “no” I use whatever small bit of power I have to change something. To promote a friend who would otherwise be overlooked – either because of experience or age or race or location. God is calling me to a season of loving others and it’s wrecking me in all the ways. God doesn’t care about my comfort zone. I can’t look Deidra and Alia and these other amazing women in the face and say “I will cheer for you” – I don’t know what my “enough” is but it’s not that. It’s got to be more. It’s got to be arm holding, invested, comfort zone leaving, kingdom of heaven on earth seeking.
So, I guess we’re “going there.”