Open When You Are Confused

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Today, the inevitable happened.  My mixed child revealed his insecurity about his racial identity.  I knew this would happen. I really did, but it still hurt.  More than hurt, I was frustrated because I did everything right with this kid.  We talk openly about race in our home. We stress the imago dei in every single person. We point to Creator God who made all of us beautiful whole expressions of his divine love–not in spite of our skin color–but because of our skin color.  We point to systems of oppression. We identify hate speech. We celebrate the civil rights leaders and on Monday we talked about the First Peoples and their plight towards equality.  We are good parents to biracial kids.  So, the hurt came secondary to a profound confusion. A deep sense of “wait, that’s not right!”

And it’s not right.

It simply isn’t. Not because we did something wrong, but because this world is fundamentally broken. Sin still corrupts good kids’ thoughts around race, sin still allows bigoted parents to infect their kids, and sin leaves black bodies in the street for hours.

I’m confused.

Confused that I’m a Kingdom person who tries to live out the teachings of Jesus and yet the Kingdom value of love for who God made you to be is not evident in my son’s heart. I’m a mama who wants to see this world put to rights–not just for my babies–but for every child of color who has ever stood in a mirror and hated the skin their in, and yet my son doesn’t even want his friends to see his African-American mama.  I’m a peacemaker who’s willing to pray shalom when I’m tempted to speak fear, and raise my hands, and identify that yes, sometimes, I wish I was a white woman– because I believe peace comes when someone is courageous enough to stand on the bow and yell “Peace, be still!” And I did that and still there’s no peace in my twelve year old son’s heart.

He’s willing to hide below deck and I’m confused because his mama taught him better than that.

The thing about confusion is it has the capacity to consume you with fear, doubt, and self- hatred.  You think something should be one way, but it’s not.

Like when you read in the papers about the quiet kid from a good family who walked into a school with a gun and killed classroom full of children. Now, you have a panic attack every morning you put your babies on the bus.

Confusion leading to fear. 

Like when that good friend snaps at you and you thought you had the friendship that would invite a quick reconciliation, but she doesn’t even notice that her quick temper cut deep. Now, you struggle to trust women categorizing yourself as “the kind of woman who doesn’t have girlfriends”

Confusion leading to doubt in your ability to find your place in the sisterhood.

Like when you work so hard, jump through all the hoops, stay late at the office, smooze with the right people, give up on your social life to make the deal, and the guy you brought in gets the promotion. Now, you think that maybe there’s something wrong with you, that you’re not good enough, smart enough, qualified enough for greatness.

Confusion leading to self-hatred.

Like when your son tells you that your skin is a reminder that he’s “less than” and in his tentative grasp of identity “less than” is simply not an option.

Confusion leading to fear that he’ll never grow out of this, doubt that I’m doing a good job as a black mama to mixed kids, self-hatred because I’m still fighting for my right to engage my world from a healthy place, without suspicions and baggage. 

And I’m tired, y’all.  I’m tired of the fight.  I’m tired of the confusion.  And I’m tired of standing at the bow with the storm of racism in American raging around, crashing into us, sinking us under it’s enormous weight.

Peace, be still.  Please.

I think I know my problem.  I’m confused and I want a quick fix. I’m confused and I just want someone to come ease the tension. But, what if I need to learn to sit well in my confusion because the world’s problem won’t be solved overnight?

Four hundred years of oppression can’t be absolved in eight years of a presidency.  This world will remain broken until Jesus comes back to inaugurate his complete shalom. I don’t want to admit that because If I can’t solve all the world’s problems now, what’s left for me?  What’s my shalom right now?  How can I re-frame this confusion?

I don’t know what else to do, so I’m just going to be present in this confusion.  That’s it.  I need to learn to sit well with the ambiguity, because shalom–wholeness, love, community is our goal, not problem-solving. Shalom is much, much deeper than problem solving. Shalom asks for and promises more than a quick fix.

You and I have the ability to sit well in the deep confusion of this broken worldl.  Whether it be confusion around race like me, or confusion around wealth inequality, or confusion around death of a loved one, or confusion around any area of painful brokenness, we have the ability to sit well in it.

To be honest, I don’t want to be all shalom–oriented right now,  I just want the quick fix, the solution to my problem, the bandage to my wound.

But you don’t get to stand on the bow yelling at the storm if you aren’t willing to get a little wet. A little windblown. A little bit off-kilter.

I have to be totally okay with confusion because confusion doesn’t mean I can’t get through this, confusion just means I don’t know exactly how. Confusion means I have to participate in the transaction of grace and grace is a currency, I’m not used to handling.   Confusion is the starting place of shalom for me, the place where I most poignantly see brokenness and the place where I lift my palms up and say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

I need to learn to sit with the confusion well in a way that is loving towards myself and empowers me to take small steps of faith towards wholeness.

One step at a time. One movement at a time. One thought at a time.

I want to sit well in this so my son can know how to sit well in his confusion and not run to fear or hate or anxiety.
What does sitting well and it look like?  I think it starts with love, I really do.

It starts with something we can all access either a deep love for ourselves, a deep love for those around us, or the deep love from the community around us.  I think is starts with accepting the love of Christ and letting that flow out of you, even when you’re tormented by “what ifs” and “why?”  Jesus modeled that on the cross for us– terribly brokenhearted and confused by his Father’s absence, he cried out for forgiveness for his tormentors.  He extended hope to the thief.  He said, “it is finished”. Our wholeness made complete by his brokenness.  He moved through confusion by loving.

How can you access love in the middle of your confusion?  Find a friend, get quiet in prayer, read uplifting words, or post in the comments and I’ll love on you like crazy.
I think it starts with love and then I think we need a fair bit of courage to sit well in confusion.

I don’t know what to say to my son about this conversation. When he told me he didn’t want me to meet his friend, I think I said something profound like, “Oh, really?”  Yeah– Mixed Mama of the Year, y’all.  For real.  So I need to lean into what I do know:

I know Jesus loves me and while that might sound trite, I need to know I’m loved, brown skin and all.

I know my community loves me and it’s evident in their 58 responses.

I know I have a fantastic sense of humor and I will find some way to talk about race with my son that is both profound and entertaining, because I can’t handle this much heavy without a punchline.

I’m confident that Jesus is with us, even when we’re hiding below deck, and I’m confident that he that has begun a good work in my son, will complete it. It may not look like it now, but I’m confident that someday, I’ll watch him scoop his little mixed children into their arms and tell them, “Be proud, baby because you, no,  we are beautiful.

And I’m confident that I am a good mama. I am a good mama.  I did the very best I could and everything I’ve ever done for my kids I did for and out of love.  I’m also confident that love covers a multitude of sins, brokenness, confusion.

What are you confident in while you sit in your confusion? 

And finally, be I need to be myself in the middle of my confusion. Look, I’ll never be Christena Cleveland or Langston Hughes, or Maya Angelou.  I won’t respond to this confusion around race like them, if I tried, I’ll only invite harmful confusion.

So if I need to cry, I’m going to cry because I have big feelings and I wear them on my sleeve.

If I need to listen to Nicole C. Mullen because I need to know there’s another black mama to caramel babies out there and even in her confusion, she’s still able to create beauty, then I will.

If I need to wear my truth until I feel them accessing my keen sense of style…then I will. I’m going to be myself in the midst of confusion because Jesus was himself until the very end– subversive, witty, kind, and insightful.

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Yes for me and my babies I will sit in this confusion well. I will love like nobody’s business. I will lean into my confidence. I will be myself and that’s the best I can do.
Sitting well in the Confusion, sitting in the Shalom,

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13 thoughts on “Open When You Are Confused

  1. I’m sitting with the confusion over some choices my kids made over the last year, knowing I taught them better, but also knowing we’re all broken. Thank you for sharing from such a vulnerable place. Keep creating beauty, Mama!

  2. Osheta, as a mom of biracial kids myself, I totally feel you on this! What I’ve come to realize, so far, is that my children have a journey that is dramatically different from my own as a person of full Chinese descent. Biracial is simply not the same experience. For them, knowing they have White genes, too, brings up existential and identity issues that I simply cannot relate to directly. Of course, watching them go through it is painful on so many levels. Adolescents are already going through a huge identity defining process developmentally anyway. Unfortunately, the often grueling and messy process can’t be skipped over, no matter how much I wish for it. Thankfully, as parents, you have equipped Tyson with tools, wisdom and truth that will hopefully inaugurate him into a healthy, confident and secure adult. Adolescence puts him in a space where he can’t help but question and test all that you have striven to instill in him. I have faith that your children will emerge as adults who are much stronger and more confident than you could have ever asked or imagined. Hugs!

  3. Timely thoughts on more topics than race, but certainly including race. Thank you for sharing your heart and story.

    Clearly you’ve raised good kids — he felt safe enough to tell you and was able to articulate his fears far beyond what many 12 years old kids could do…be proud, he is a work in progress. And HE who began a good work is faithful to complete it.

  4. Thank you, Osheta. I feel in this piece the words I didn’t have when my mixed son told us he wished he was white. I’ve done all I can to help him see his beauty and value in spite of what the world will tell him. I’ve been honest about the difficulties he will face, but have assured him that we think our family is more beautiful for its diversity, and that this helps us look more like the family of God. I’ve talked about the fact that Jesus was a middle eastern man who spent time outside. His olive skin would look more like my son’s than mine. Still, I know he struggles with wishing he were white because life would be easier if he could blend in when he wants to. Knowing we are not alone, and that even great mommas like you (and dad’s like T.C.) struggle with helping their kids navigate issues of race helps me greatly. I sit with you in your pain and confusion. I have no answers, of course. But we can pray for each other, and for our kids, that they may see the imago dei in themselves and in those who persecute them. I know God is faithful, and somehow he will bring beauty from these ashes.

    Shalom!
    Sam

  5. Forgive them for they know not what they do. And, BTW, most kids are ashamed of their parents. For following Jesus (that cuts to the core). For the kind of car they drive, the foreign accent they speak or, well, you name it. But we strong, confident parents can take it. It’s when the world makes our kids feel like they are “less than” because of us that our hearts break and we ask ourselves “what could we have done differently?” As the Serenity Prayer says, we must strive to take, “as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I (we) would have it, trusting that You (God) will make all things right, if I (we) surrender to Your (God’s) will, so that I (we) may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You (Jesus) forever in the next.” Thankfully, we (and our children) are just passing through this earth.

  6. Osheta, If I could sit with you it would have to be in silence. I do not have the background, have not read enough of writing like yours, to claim understanding. Clearly you are a wonderful, loving mother. Please accept my great respect for you. I care.

  7. I remember one point in my teenage years when my mother was at her wits end with me. I told her that the Bible says to raise up your children in the way they should go and when they are OLD they will not depart from it. It doesn’t say anything about the meantime 😉 I can tell you that the words and the values that you planted in your son are absolutely still there; they have taken root and they are growing. He just needs time to make them his own. All of that time and effort and love you’ve invested has been worthwhile. It has not been lost. I know it and, if you listen to the Holy Spirit, you know it, too. And if you ever have a moment of despair and need to verify this, ask your son when he’s a little bit older. Ask him what will he tell his biracial child if they come home from school and tell him that they don’t want anyone to be reminded that they’re mixed. What he says in response to your question will convince you that he has learned more than you knew.

  8. This post really touched me because my son is also bi-racial. He’s five. I have felt concerned and confused about how he will see himself as he gets older, and whether or not we, as parents, are doing healthy things to ensure that he feels confident in who he is, and that he has an appreciation for the different aspects of his identity in American society. Reading your post has made me realize that the most important thing that we should be instilling in him is that he know who he is in Christ Jesus, and that he is loved unconditionally.

  9. Wow, powerful piece Osheta, thank you so much. And i know words will not do much good but just be encouraged and keep on and draw strength from Him. It feels like you are doing an incredible job and it will stick. Through the broken and messed up and sinful, the Love will triumph [just ask Rob Bell!] and it may take a while longer and be a bit of a bumpy ride, but you will get there, and you will get there as a family… and you don’t have to be [or try to be] that list of women you look up to because you are you, being your own inspiration, trying to live this thing well and doing a lot right along the way.

    As a white guy who has just returned to my home of South Africa after three years in Americaland i face some of the race and reconciliation and brokenness questions feeling vulnerable and confused and just not know what to do and how to do it, and yet i also have love as a starting point and trust that the rest will fall into place.

    So keep on
    love brett fish

  10. Osheta I am a relatively recent discoverer of your blog. I love the heartfelt way that you write and I have been encouraged often by your writing. This particular post touched me deeply. I am a white mama of four white boys. I want you to know that I hear you in your writing and I will try to do everything I know how as a mama to teach my boys to not be racist and to stand up for their not-white classmates. I’m so sad with you for the world we live in and I’m sorry that your family is experiencing this uncertainty. I believe you are the best mama that your kids could have. Be strong in Jesus! Love and prayers for you and your family.

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