Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thoughts and Considerations: On Micro-Aggression

Reading about the limitations of feminism with regards to race and class and reading about micro-agression may not be the healthiest literary diet for me. But again and again I find myself drawn to the articles my friends post on Facebook, or that I stumble across in my own internet trolling adventures, usually occurring right after having read an article posted by a friend.

There's something almost therapeutic about seeing someone lay your feelings out in an article when they'd been talking about themselves all along. It's like "Yes! Me too!", and the building blocks of shared experience begin to connect the community of women of color in ways more meaningful than color palettes and a history of shared suffering. Because as many know, not even those have always been enough to unite us.

But now I see more and more a community of strong women who are speaking up for themselves and asserting themselves in ways I had never dreamed possible as a young girl. I see women loving themselves, and it's easier to follow an example than to be the example. (I love you mama! You are and always will be my #1 example.)

Through my own personal journey I have had the privilege of counting many different and diverse people among my sisters. However, this does sometimes pose challenges. Still, I find the Bible to be true when I read "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation (testing) to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted (tested), he will show you a way out so that you can endure." 1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT. Often, that way out in these situations is simply to love.

So when I re-post an article about micro-aggression and I receive well-meaning comments of how I should feel about and react to it:

Comment 1:You mean people being worthless dicks? The world if full of em, let it go and keep moving on, cause that's the only way to get even!

Comment 2:Microaggression is still aggression.  M. is right, keep moving on.  The best revenge is to live well.  Show them how it's done!

I can better understand my reaction to those comments, which was rather strong, all things considered. You see, I am all fine when someone writes how they feel and I can relate to it, but upon reading those comments, my gut reaction was "Don't tell me how to engage with something you can't understand."
I'm not going to take what you say any better because you insult all of those terrible micro-aggressors out there. I'm going to love them, and you, just as Jesus would do, and just as He has given me the strength to do through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

You see, I've been holding this in, sucking it up, and being the bigger person all my life. No need to tell me to get started now. And honestly, sometimes the best help you can offer someone is showing them a mirror and shining some background light. It took me breaking down my sophomore year of college during an intentional missional living program with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, crying the biggest cry I've ever cried before or since, to finally let go of the crap that micro-aggression sticks on a person. I finally had a name for what I was experiencing, and from that knowledge and newfound awareness, and the love and hugs and touches of everyone in the room holding me as I sobbed, God came in and said, "Let it go. Surrender to me. I MADE YOU BEAUTIFUL. In all of your diversity, in all of the multiplicity of your identity, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL."

And the joy that characterizes my personality bubbled up, no longer covered by all the gunk. Sometimes though, God reminds me of this special time we had, always right when I need Him to, and I love Him all the more for it!

Once again, I will mention that I know these comments were well-intentioned. And one commenter in particular I know will remain one of my dearest friends for the rest of this life and through the next. I won't be upset with anyone, because let's be fair here. Racism here in the U.S. (and I would argue other places as well...) works as a system, and not everyone who falls under the bracket of "evil oppressor" is there knowingly or willingly. Not all privilege is a welcome responsibility.

To those who try to use it well (and especially to you, my stalwart defending commenters, my only two), thank you.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Home for the Holidays

I am home for Christmas. I AM HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!!

This has been made possible largely due to my stay in Pearl House, the missionary base where I handled hospitality in exchange for rent these last few months in Italy. Thanks Alisa!

This time last year I was in Rome, and while it was lovely I've got to admit it wasn't quite the same. My first Christmas and New Year completely away from family.

Well, now I'm home and everyone's asking me what my next steps are. How do I tell people "I don't know" without sounding completely out of touch with reality? I can't not know.

The impossibility of my situation makes it seem even more likely that God has His hands in it. You see, if I perceive this situation to be beyond my human efforts of making it happen (and trust me, it is...), then the only recourse left for me is to rely on God. And that's where the magic happens. And boy oh boy do I want something to happen.

Coming home literally felt like stepping into some alternate reality.
Little boys running around, excited about Christmas presents, already so much bigger than the last time I saw them. Already beginning to walk through the world as young men.

Big girls experiencing big woman problems and stepping up into those shoes far too soon.

Being home, my heart is filling and breaking all at once. Not just because of my family and friends here, but also for what I've left behind. As much as I've talked about my desires to settle and be closer to my family, my fears of never being able to find a husband who has the same calling and passions I do to travel, lead worship, teach, and walk in the Spirit, I'm not ready to give this all up.

I'm not ready to settle down.

I'd rather traipse around Italy, Poland and wherever else God calls me, working in communities, writing worship songs, and leading worship. Oh that my life's work could be leading worship!

As I seriously contemplate the life of a nomadic (at least for now) missionary, I wonder how on earth this is ever going to work. I mean, really. It's not like I have a long-term visa just...but wait, I think I do. I claim it now, Jesus!

Such rational and perfectly mommy acceptable thoughts to dissuade me from my travels have entered my head, such as:

  • where and how I'll live (especially legally)
  • student loans?-how are they going to get paid?
  • on that note, what would I be living off of? my current source of income isn't exactly bounteous
  • what is it exactly I'll be doing to advance the kingdom? I want spoilers!
It's up to me trust and wait on God. He will provide. Always.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


In Italy loyalty is incredibly important. The importance of loyalty can be seen in every level of society, but it is important to note that it takes place largely on a sort of unit-like microscopic level. The same perosn who hates someone simply because that person roots for another soccer team may treat you like gold because you have become such good friends that you are "like family". (I can totally relate, btw, since I'm a Bostonian and a Red Sox fan.)
Invitations for dinner and outings flow freely, and it is a good idea to reciprocate, but only out of genuine affection. No one likes to feel that you are doing something just because you feel obligated to.

Another level of the family unit extends to where you go for coffeee and brioches in the morning. Or where you go to get your shoes repaired and clothing mended. Or which stalls you stop by in the markets. It matters to someone if they see your face again. In fact, it is a most fabulous compliment, and once you become a regular you attain a sort of pseudo VIP status.

This was revealed most clearly the first time I got a heart in my cappuccino at the nearby cafe one morning. I went with some friends to the cafe for the second morning in a row, and the light of recognition lit up the eyes of the cashier and the bartender. I got the usual fresh pastry and the coffee that was already good enought to keep me coming back had the special plus of a heart in it. Yaaaaay. By the end of the week the bartender had already learned our preferences and named our oders before we did.

It was a cute moment, and I am reminded that we create small communities around us wherever we go. It's all the more reason to put a smile on my face and support the community around me, because I can see that those smiles spread and people are brought closer together.

Another awesome moment was when I was offered a free glass of wine while waiting for some seafood pasta at a restaurant nearby. I order from there probably quite a bit more than I should. I suppose it paid off though ;).