Tuesday, October 1, 2013

European Communion and Reconciliation

It was the end of one of our worship sessions, about the middle of the week, when our team and a few others with whom we had all made friends were gathered together to take communion. One of the fabulously friendly members of one of the German teams had invited us. Having taken communion with my team many times I expected this to be a rather similar experience: the solemnity of pondering what Christ had gone through along with the joy that comes from pondering what He accomplished. Of course, there is also the step of repentance for any sins I am aware of, because communion is serious and as a youth pastor dutifully informed me, we don't want to take God's judgment upon us because we entered into communion with hard hearts. Now, I had taken communion just two hours before with my team so I skipped the self examination and repentance part and just pondered the cross.

I went to place the bread, representing the body of Christ, in my mouth. As soon as the bread touched my tongue I realized that skipping the repentance part might not have been so good an idea after all. I was physically unable to take communion! In a split second I was down on my knees asking for forgiveness.

God had revealed to me that I could not take communion with the greater community of Europe because I had not forgiven the entire continent for their involvement in the slave trade of Africans so many years ago. I had not forgiven Europeans (and people of European descent) for the fact that what heritage I did have would always be hyphenated, as I would always be AFRICAN-American and AFRO-latina. I was tired of being asked what country in Africa I was from after having just said I was American, and I was tired of people touching my hair and asking me awkward questions about my African heritage when any knowledge of it had been purposefully taken away from me.

Most of all, I was tired of being angry.

God had mercifully brought me to a place of repentance and through that, healing. Burning in my heart as I got up from my knees and drank the wine, representing the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins, was the desire to confess the sin of the hardness of my heart and my lack of forgiveness.

Now, I was the only person of color at this event until someone who looked to be of Latin American descent arrived with one of the teams from England. At any rate I was certainly the only Black person and one of two Americans, the only non-Europeans present. I wasn't exactly thrilled to go up in front of everyone during the morning meeting and be like "Up until yesterday I subconsciously hated all of you, but God revealed that to me and healed me. Forgive and forget?"

I asked to speak with the organizer of our team, who is also the other American. I explained to her what I was going through, and I asked if it made sense to go up and confess. Given the focus on Israel no one was thinking of the enslavement and torture of Africans. Germany was far too busy feeling guilty about the Holocaust and their poor treatment of the Polish people in general, and that's all most anyone else was focused on. Why bring it up, even if to apologize for my lack of forgiveness?

Alisa told me that in my place she might not be so gracious as to go up and apologize, but I felt it was the right thing to do. What use is there holding on to hurt and pain? It just holds you back from entering into the fullness of God's will for you. She agreed with me.
So up I went to apologize, and as I rushed off I heard the scattered "We forgive you!"s.

I had resigned myself to the fact that most likely no one would apologize to me, but it still hurt not to hear it. But then, having a knowledge of the way of the world I know that Black people are generally not much more valued than they were during the slave trade, however enlightened the world may now consider itself to be. I expected no one to feel guilty or compelled to confess to their nation's part in the slave trade, and I had determined to come to my place of forgiveness without receiving someone else's apology.
With the weight of un-forgiveness no longer dragging me down I already felt I had come out a winner.

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