Saturday, August 19, 2017

It's All About Perspective

Francine Anderson's Father and Francine and  her siblings around the time of the story

Story Corps is my little Friday morning treat. It plays on my local NPR station around 7:30am and is a good excuse to snuggle under the covers for a bit longer. Story Corps records and archives people’s stories and some of them are broadcast on the radio. The picture is from a story that takes place when Francine Anderson was five years old and living in a segregated area. It is a world of which I know very little and a story I needed to hear.

Francine tells of riding in a car with her father and siblings and finding they were out of gas. The only gas station in the area refused to sell her father even a couple of gallons because he was black. A white man stepped in and purchased gas for them so they could drive on to safety.

The story is sad and embarrassing and demoralizing. I do not want to be reminded of what my country once represented, and what it still represents, today.  It is a story that forces me to admit I am a sinner and even though I try to avoid sin – I cannot stop it. 

Racism is a sin. I am a sinner. I cannot claim I do not have a racist bone in my body any more than I can claim I am not steeped in sin. This is my condition.

Yet, this is not all that this story has to teach. I am intrigued by an observation that Francine has made regarding different reactions people have to her childhood story.

White people react by focusing on the kindness of the man who purchased gas for them.

And he certainly was kind.

Black people, however, focus on the fact that what the gas station owner did was legal.

That perspective brings a whole new understanding. The story is no longer about one racist white man with a mean streak. It is about a government that legalizes discrimination and refuses to acknowledge the racism that both causes, and results from, discrimination. And it is about the people who do not stand up and denounce this situation.

Is legalizing discrimination really that much different than honoring the fight for the right to own slaves? 

The perspective, in this instance, is so very important. What do I focus on? 





Or the kindness or bravery of individuals?

My perspective tells my story.  It indicates my viewpoint. It shows my values, and how I might live them. Yet, perspective is only a small piece of the picture. It is not possible to see the entire story from my angle. Furthermore, the more “me” there is, the less room there is for truth, because truth comes from God.

A good friend, who meets me each week for a Bible study, brought an interesting picture to mind. She talked about our lives being a gigantic mural, but we see only a part of it – like a landscape hanging in a beautiful frame on the wall of an art gallery. God is the only one who can see the art of our lives from all angles. We want to find a pretty part of it, clean it up, dress it up, and focus on that. We not only do not understand the whole picture, we tend to crop out the bad stuff and Photoshop the rest. And then we take a selfie.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. I Corinthians 13: 9-12

In terms of my faith and my perspective on life, I am still a child. I speak, think, and reason like a child because I cannot see the whole picture. I miss the suffering of my fellow man because I am focused on my story, my fears, my idea of what is right, good, and kind. I look at myself in a mirror and I see dimly. While my brain tries to make out the details of my features in that dim mirror it conveniently fills in the blanks with good material. The truth is I could not handle the truth.

So we continue on. We work, we struggle, we study God’s word, and ask Him to help us to grow and learn. We ask Him to help us turn from the sin in which we are steeped. 

And God answers us with love, mercy, and forgiveness. He answers us with grace.
This grace comes with the power of the Spirit that allows us to see the perspective of love.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.     I Corinthians 13: 13

No comments: