Grace Is Not Pie
I am a white, upper-middle class, heterosexual Christian female. Outside of Scripture, the story that most recently changed my life is a true one, couched within a much larger narrative that I was unaware of before that point. I will never forget the day that I saw the video of the last moments of Philandro Castile’s life.
It was the summer of 2016, and at that time, I never clicked on anything that I suspected was going to try and convince me of anything I needed to do or change. Who knows why I did it—let’s blame God—but I am forever grateful that I did. I became viscerally nauseous and had trouble sleeping, perhaps because the color of Philandro Castile’s skin is very similar in shade to my brother’s skin, a sweet little boy our family adopted when I was 10 years old. It was the beginning of a search for the narrative I had been missing up to that point—the narrative that tells the history and story of what it is like to try to live/survive/thrive when you belong to a group that has been persecuted, oppressed or marginalized in some way.
Along my journey to understand this narrative, I started to realize in brand new ways, thanks to the words of people wiser than me who taught or wrote, that our God is the God of the marginalized, of the oppressed. God came to earth through Jesus as a man with brown skin, belonging to a persecuted religious group. From within this persecuted group, he spent his energy lifting up those even further marginalized in his society and challenging those with power. His redemptive act on the cross was for all of humanity, but the message of his life turned power structures on their heads and began the restoration of all things. And that is where God’s spirit is moving today.
My initial reaction to hearing this narrative of the oppressed isn’t one I’m proud of. And I would be lying if I said these thoughts don’t still creep into my head occasionally. I started to wonder where I fit in this narrative. Where is the concern for those like me—those who have a fair amount of privilege in this world? Does God care about my struggles since I already have a lot of power? Does it matter that I’m scared, or feel alone, or can’t figure out the right thing to do, or I just need His help to fix my problems—even though they aren’t as complex and difficult as poverty or racism? If you are thinking these are thoughts of fragility, you would not be wrong—but sometimes vulnerability leads to renewal.
I think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. I think about the priest and the Levite who passed by the poor man that had been beaten and left to die. Were they thinking about their next important career goal? Or maybe one of their family members was ill. Or a thousand other problems that privileged people, and all people, have. They missed their chance to love—maybe for what many would call a fairly decent reason.
When I get stuck here, I think about a t-shirt I’ve seen with this slogan: “Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.” God’s grace and love work the same—definitely not pie. The incredible honor of working with God to lift up the marginalized does not mean less grace or concern for me. I try to remember, as I listen to the stories of others who have all types of struggles, the words of the father in the prodigal son story as he replies to the jealous older son: “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” It’s like God is saying to all of us now, “Everything I have is yours. All my joy and all my presence. But we have this great work to do—join me so that we can make all things right and all my kids can experience freedom from their chains!”
Renae is a wife to one, mother to two, and part-time mental health therapist to many at a private practice in Peoria, specializing in anxiety disorders and OCD. She has attended Imago since the 2nd Sunday it has been in existence and loves the church and its people deeply. She sings in the Peoria Area Civic Chorale and kickboxes for fun. She has ridden over 220 different rollercoasters and continues to love traveling to different theme parks to increase that number. She is excited to join the Leadership Team at Imago to add this to her list of adventures.