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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