Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kindness Mends

Have you ever heard the sound of a heart breaking?  Tried to mend the pieces after they’ve been broken? Were you once that person locked in a room of darkness unable to bring yourself to the light? Has your faith been downtrodden and disparaged to the point of what you thought was beyond repair? Brokenness, pain, or anguish, (ROCK BOTTOM) looks different for everyone, but each person who goes through these tough periods need the same things: comfort and assurance that life will get better from here. A faith of this sort is hard to develop and or maintain during tough times; however, there is a way that onlookers can to help the disheartened get better: Practice kindness.

This morning was not one of my best mornings. I woke up late, forgot my wallet at home, and as I was sitting in traffic 15 minutes away already 5 minutes late for work, I began to get this bubbly feeling in my gut. Needless to say, to me, I was having the morning from hell and I wish that I could have just turned my car around, go home and try again tomorrow. By the time I got to work, I was extremely annoyed and my stomach was in knots. The last thing I wanted to do was deal with any parents. While en route to the nearest restroom, a student ran up to me, hugged my legs and said, “Ms. JoJo. I brought you a snack.” It was a half-eaten granola bar, but that one gesture changed my entire mood. Momentarily, I forgot about everything that was weighing so heavily on my mind and the day seemed a lot brighter.

I began to think about how nice the sky looked as the sun broke through the clouds while I was sitting in traffic. I noticed the light airy walk and bright smile of one of my co-workers and it brought great joy to realize that she never seems to be unhappy.  Then I was extremely excited that there was not a line for the bathroom, and even more excited that there was no one waiting when I got out (thank God).  All of these thoughts began because a child decided to share a treat with me. One small act of kindness influenced my entire day.

Typically, I try to be kind to as many people as possible, especially to those people who I know dislike me. In the book of Luke, I am reminded that “it’s easy to love those who love [me]. It’s easy to help those who help [me]…But [Heavenly Papa] says to love your enemies and do good to them (6:32-35). Being kind to people that I know detest my guts has always been a struggle for me. For example, once during monsoon rains, I saw this girl that was always rude to me trudging along in the rain. She was about three and a half miles away from where she needed to be. My first mind told me to stop, so I did, asked her where she was going. I could see the look of elation come over her face when I pulled over to ask, but then it was light a light bulb switched on and I thought to myself, she's never nice to me. So, when she said where she was headed…I was like yeahh…I’m not going that direction and sped off, leaving her there to wilt away as she continued her walk. I’m almost certain that did not make her day any better. Reflecting on that situation, I can say now that she has a reason to dislike me, when before that day I had no idea why she did not like me. The reason why should not have bothered me at all. Instead, I should have been kind to her and perhaps she would have been nicer.  No one ever really knows the reason a person has a hardened heart, but instead of perpetuating their bitterness, sprinkle a little bit of kindness and prayer in hopes that the person will get better.
At the end of our church service on Sundays, we read a covenant in which we agree that "[Heavenly Papa] is sending us into the world to be his salt & light and that we are peacemakers and not agents of confusion." Continuously practicing kindness is one of the ways I try to adhere to my promises to Heavenly Papa. Over the years, I have grown and I know that if I Trust in the LORD with all [my] heart, and do not lean on [my] own understanding. In all [my] ways [if I continue to] acknowledge him, he will make straight [my] paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Just trusting and believing in God uplifts me in discouraged times, and I am appreciative that he sends kind gestures my way to remind me that he is always with me. It is for that reason alone that I do the best that I can to pay those gestures forward.  So ask yourself, what have I done to touch someone’s heart today? We never know what storm clouds just a simple smile can blow away.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Don't mind the White Jesus

“Son of God” is a pretty entertaining movie and I’d encourage anyone to go see it: believers or nonbelievers. It is interesting to see another person’s interpretation of how the Biblical stories played out. Watching the movie brought about different thoughts about the stereotypes that have been attributed to Jesus over the years. For example, a person could have seen Jesus as a hippie “promoting peace and free love.” Another person could suggest that Jesus was portrayed as a Rock Star appearing to be placed on a pedestal. What I’d like to talk a little bit about is the reason why in most cases Jesus is typically categorized as a white man even though most would argue that visions of Jesus in the Bible portray that “[parts of his body] were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15), meaning that Jesus was anything but white.
During the movie, my Bestie pointed out that Jesus was the only person in the movie that did not have a hint of color. He was purely white: skin, teeth, clothes, everything about Jesus was white. Part of the reason for this could have simply been because the color white in religion typically symbolizes pureness and well, you can’t get any more pure than Jesus.
With that being said, most people still get irate and find it offensive when they see the images of Jesus as a white man. I used to be one of them until it dawned on me that the portrayal of Jesus is not about his race/ethnicity, but more so what that color represents in its authentic world of colors.
Even though Jesus roamed the Earth, we do not get descriptions of him in the physical sense, but we do know that Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2) and that “when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (I John 3:2). When thinking of this description and the natural essence of colors. White is the only color that can be manipulated to look like other colors. For example, when painting and you’re running low on blue paint, one would just add the blue to the white and the white would then take on characteristics of the blue. Granted, it won’t be the same shade of blue, but it will still be blue nonetheless. In order for Jesus to be a representation of all people, he has to be portrayed as a color that would envelope the characteristics of all people. Because Jesus is portrayed as white and is the light, his presence should be a reflection of who we are as a people. His whiteness is inviting to all those who worship. “The glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23), there is reason to believe that Jesus should be depicted as illuminating that white light because he is our reason for seeing. He’s only depicted as a man because that is what we humans are: men.
The next time I see an image of white Jesus, as an African American woman, I will not take offense. I will simply smile and place myself in the image because when Jesus returns, he will be like me, and I am formed in Heavenly Papa’s image.