Sharing Freely Our Knowledge

Often we think that we do not know enough to be able to teach others. We might even become hesitant to tell others what we know, out of fear that we won't have anything left to say when we are asked for more.

This mind-set makes us anxious, secretive, possessive, and self-conscious. But when we have the courage to share generously with others all that we know, whenever they ask for it, we soon discover that we know a lot more than we thought. It is only by giving generously from the well of our knowledge that we discover how deep that well is.

–Henri Nouwen

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog entry concerning my personal reasons for starting a blog.  That particular entry has received more hits than any other, so far.    Therefore,  again with inspiration from Henri Nouwen (quoted above and in my previous entry), I have decided to continue my explanation.

I have been a Christian since I was seventeen, belonging over the years, along with my husband of almost 38 years, to several moderately conservative churches.  I taught for nine years in private Christian schools (four years in one, five in the other).  Then I stayed home to raise my sons.  When my sons were in elementary school, I was active in the PTA, as a grade mother, did volunteer work, and served on various committees at their schools.  I am glad I did this.

But in 1993, a beautiful, mystical experience changed my life forever.  I was sitting at my kitchen table one Saturday morning, up before the others, drinking coffee and reading the paper, when I came upon a book review for Days of Grace by the African American tennis great Arthur Ashe.  When the reviewer questioned Ashe concerning AIDS, which he contacted from a blood transfusion following heart surgery, he remarked that “facing AIDS” was not the biggest challenge of his life, “being black” was.

I got gooseflesh all over.  From my little white comfort zone, the world looked fair.  But as I began to investigate, I found that it is not.

In the spring of 1995, I returned to school, this time to Wake Forest
University to pursue a masters’ degree, but I had no idea what would follow, only that God had called me to struggle against the ignorance and racism for the rest of my life.  I studied slavery (in the  US from a black point of view, worldwide, and in a class that compared the African American experience with that of blacks in South Africa), African American religion (mostly Christian, but also indigenous and Islam), African American biography, Medieval studies (which is where the understanding of mysticism comes in), and creative writing (poetry and fiction).  I wrote my thesis, for which I studied two years, on Martin Luther King Jr., on the redemptive value of unmerited suffering.  I graduated in December 2000 with a MALS.

Today I am a poet and free lance writer, who aims to bring truth to the world concerning many things.  I oppose the war, executions, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry and hatred.  I aim to educate (my first degree was a BSE) concerning racism in our nation and to help people see what they can do about it.  Knowing that we have a problem is just the beginning.  I do not have all the answers.  But I do aim to raise a few questions, especially to Christians (protestants) and white folks, because that is what I am.

Do I expect everyone to accept what I write with open arms?  No.  Some will battle hard to keep the status quo or go back to the “good old days.”  But remember as recently as the 1950s, Jim Crow was the law of the land.  Sure momma stayed home, and gas was cheap, but where did black people sit on the bus?  In the theatre?  Were they (are they) welcome in your church?  And if so, is that because you go to a church that is, as the country sons says, “so heavenly minded it’s no earthly good”?  Do you welcome gay people?  To change them, or to love them and let God do any necessary changing?  Just as the Spirit challenges you or me.  Would you give refuge there to an “illegal” immigrant?  [ Aliens still come from Mars.]

I have come a long way since my baptism at age seventeen.  I no longer listen to old white male preachers only.  I listen for the voice of God also in children, women, and blacks, in Christians of all persuasions (including some that my former churches called names), Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims.  I seek God’s voice in the gospel, and hear His song in the wind.  I see His grandeur in the rainbow, His tenderness in the butterfly and a baby’s soft skin, His humor in the giraffe.  I read His word and am convinced that He loves everyone.  I wonder that from the cross of Calvary, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  And I know we won’t let “it” be over.  Some people will disagree with me.  That’s fine.  But I’ll stop doing what I’m doing any time God tells me to stop.  Until then,  I will struggle (battle, if you will) against hatred toward the people of the earth.

But I am not a preacher.  Tomorrow I’ll post a poem.