#GoingThere: In Which I Can’t Go There



I woke up at 4 this morning when the dogs went crazy in their crates because a cat upchucked on the bedroom floor, and they wanted at it. They wanted at it bad. I made my husband get up and crawl around looking for the drop of hacked spittle.

But I could not go back to sleep.

I had read this post before I went to bed. And Deidra’s words still echoed in my head.

I kept waiting to hear from the predominantly white evangelical church in America. I kept waiting for someone from that community to chime in and say something—anything. Even something like, “I see what’s happening in Ferguson. I don’t understand it, but I want to. Can someone help me understand it?”

On Facebook, she posted,

I’ve been waiting. Wondering if any of my white sisters and brothers might chime in on the mess in #Ferguson. I was losing heart and losing hope . . .

Dear Deidra, I’m terrified to tackle topics like this on my little blog of stillness.

But I began to write a post in my head.

I thought of the black (man? couple? family?) who tried to rent a room late one night in our little Northern Michigan motel back in the mid or late ’50s. My father told them they’d just filled the last room and pointed them up the road. Then he went out to change the sign from “vacancy” to “no vacancy.” I remember more sadness in his voice when he came in–not hate. Maybe fear? Of repercussions from other customers who if it was hunting season would have had guns? I don’t know. I was young. My memory doesn’t know all the facts. Doesn’t hold all the facts. But it’s what I remember as my first “close encounter.”

I thought of all the patients I’ve cared for as a nurse and realized I never really saw color. I saw sick people who all wore open-flapped gowns and needed care.

I tried to remember what I knew about the Detroit riots at the time, but I think I was way too caught up in my own little world between the end of high school and the beginning of nursing school.

I remembered passing through a little town in north Georgia where Ku Klux Klan members were passing out literature. We rolled up our windows, locked our doors, shook our heads, and drove on through. I remembered that our pastor once invited a black youth group from a nearby town to our church after the Klan had announced a Sunday rally. I have a dim memory that he may have received threats.

I thought about my son’s black friend, a really nice boy from a really nice family who moved to Lansing and got caught up with the wrong crowd. He shot and killed someone.

I hate that I just don’t understand or remember or retain all the facts.

I love Deidra. I love her heart. I love her passion as a prophetess for racial diversity and reconciliation. I love that she offers a safe place to discuss our questions, a place to listen and learn.

This morning I began to read through blog links she’s collecting, friends offering their voices. It’ll take me through the weekend or longer to read them all. I’ve had the news on this morning as new information pours in.

I’m overwhelmed with it all.

And then there are Ebola and depression and crucifixions and beheadings and news breaking everywhere.

So much pain. So much anger. So much cruelty. So much hate. So much evil.

And I anything I could say about Ferguson or the heart of the matter seems so ignorant and misinformed. I don’t know all the facts. My brain won’t hold it all. Won’t compute it all.

I know that I can touch skin of other color, but I can’t crawl beneath it and feel the heartbeat.

I can ask the questions, “How is it with you? How is it for you? Really?”

Still, I don’t know that I can ever really get it.

But I know that every life matters. Every. Single. Life. No matter if it wears black or white or chocolate or yellow or green or purple skin. Every Michael Brown matters. Every Darren Wilson matters.

So I didn’t write that post this morning.

Even these words sound dumb and superficial.

But, dear Deidra, I do see what’s happening in Ferguson. I don’t understand it, but I want to. Thank you for trying to help me understand it.

I can’t go there. I don’t know how.

But I want to. I really do.

I’ll sit in the ashes with you.

And this I pray.

I pray for vacancy in my mind to understand.

I pray for vacancy in my heart for love.

In the stillness,



photo credit: LOLren via photopin cc


    • says

      That’s my prayer, too, Kris. Help me love, Lord, like you love. I don’t want to use the wrong terminology. I don’t want to offend. And so I am quiet. Listening. Lamenting. Love you more.

  1. says

    You’ve said it so well. We can’t live in another’s skin so can’t ever really experience or understand their emotions. My life has never known the kind of intolerance, hate and violence that I see reflected worldwide in the media, and it makes me impatient that others believe it’s okay to react like that… or how anyone can believe adding violence to existing violence will somehow solve a problem. I don’t close my eyes to it, but in some ways I do turn my back. I couldn’t survive in that environment, so I turn away and pray and write letters and donate to causes that I believe can make a difference. But I don’t speak out, and I admire people like Deidra who can and do. Light always spills into and overcomes the darkness, so my hope is that love will eventually do the same and overcome the hate.
    Carol J. Garvin recently posted..Summer Snapshot: Lichen

    • says

      I used to imagine I could feel the way another might feel, but over the years it seems I’ve gotten more hardened to it. Maybe because there is so much pain. I know that Love has already conquered, but I wish we could claim it and walk in it.

  2. says

    And isn’t this what real love is Sandra? That you are willing to sit in the ashes with Deidra and grieve with her?
    None of us can understand what it is to live in another’s skin, to live another person’s story. When someone is in pain, it’s love that says exactly what you’ve said here,”I want to know.”
    I’ve been sitting quietly, grieving and praying this week too. <3
    Caryn Christensen recently posted..Breaking Down The Walls

  3. says

    Oh, amen, Sandy. Amen. I’m reading around and trying to learn, to be open, to be prayerful, to ask forgiveness, to let myself ache for all the black mamas who are losing babies every day. I’ve been off line much of this week – just feeling sorta lousy (and sometimes really a lot better, too), and busy with family and PT app’ts, and . . . but I’m back today and reading and weeping inside. And I realize that I can’t go there, either. Other than to admit my apathy, my unknowing complicity and my exhaustion with all the pain everywhere. I love Deidra so much — and other women of color I’m coming to know out here in the worldwide web, but I don’t wear their skin, I can’t know their pain. But I will sit in the ashes. I will. Scootch over, will you?
    Diana Trautwein recently posted..Living with the Truth

    • says

      Apathy, unknowing complicity, exhaustion with all the pain… that about sums it up for me, too.

      There’s always room for you, Diana. And there are plenty of ashes.

  4. says

    I feel so much of what you wrote here. I just can’t bring myself to add my voice to the fray going on online, however. I don’t want to pick a side in a situation that I have no confidence that I have gotten unskewed information about. What I do know, is that in my own city, there have been several police shootings of unarmed people and the most common denominator is not the color of their skin, but the fact that they were mentally ill. No one protests for them. I just feel hypocritical to write about Michael Brown because he was black and it’s the hot button thing to write about, and ignore that injustice is injustice, hatred is hatred, and it’s all wrong whether it’s based on color, socio economic level, or mental capability. Some of the blogs I have read on the shooting of Michael Brown come across to me a bit arrogant, a bit patronizing, and a bit too much like they want to weigh in on a hot button issue for more stats. I want to read a post filled with humility and brokenness for this no-win situation, filled with concern for Michael Brown’s family, for Darren Wilson and his family, and for the people of Ferguson who are also victims in this mess.
    Elizabeth Stewart recently posted..Enduring clear through to the end…

    • says

      One of those best-career-for-you type tests my son took in high school showed him to be someone for whom justice was very important, as someone who was very concerned about protecting others. It suggested he consider law enforcement. I’m so glad he didn’t. What a scary job. One in which you can’t even approach a stopped car without your hand on your gun. They live with danger every day, and all they want to do is go home to their families. I can understand why they might get seemingly overzealous at times, but when one tells you to move, it’s a good idea to move. I think about how I always told my kids, when I yell “stop,” I mean it. Stop now. Don’t ask questions. Don’t argue. How do you know there’s not a car barreling down on you or a rattlesnake at your feet?

      If I’m a police officer, and you stick your hands in your pockets–I don’t care what color you are–how do I know you’re not reaching for a weapon? That’s not to condone undue force or authority, but I want to be able to crawl into their skin, too.

      Nobody really knows what happens in any situation without physically being there–and we can’t always trust a witness report, because what they see can also be skewed.

      And then there are prejudiced cops, bad cops, cops with their own issues–just like all of us. The difference, of course, is they have the means to enforce (or force) their commands.

      There was more chaos last night, more ransacking, more rage behavior or maybe just individuals taking advantage of the situation. More people’s lives upset. It’s messy. It’s scary. Would it be the same if Michael was white? I don’t know what the answers are. Does anyone?

      I also know our black brothers and sisters see and feel all of this in a way we just can’t. That they are still often seen and suspect in a different light.

      You’re right. This is a broken mess in a broken world. It’s devastating for Michael’s family, for Darren and his family, for the whole community, for all of us. I don’t know where the fault is in the situation.

      But unless we can come to understand we’re all broken no matter our color (or illness)–that all those shattered pieces could be fused into a beautiful mosaic–I don’t see much hope until Jesus comes. :(

      So, sorry… I guess I just wrote another whole post… Hugs to you, Elizabeth.

  5. Tami Tipton-Fletcher says


    You are a beautiful soul. Deidra sits right next to you. Your work, and your words ring beautiful to His ears. While our efforts may appear trivial to ourselves, or even to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, they mean so much more to The One who hears our heart and words in their entirety. I am married to a black man. I have a biracial step-son. While my husband grew up rather poor, his later years were spent around quite affluent business individuals who were definitely wealthier and more brilliant than myself. Prior to marrying my husband, I worked two years as an Asst. DON in a 3200 inmate county jail in a large metropolitan city. I even dated one of the CO’s there who was of color, but in order to make a point, the total opposite of my husband. He branded many tattoos, showered me with “gifts,” wore diamonds on his fingers and gold around his neck & in his ear, had developed the prison jargon, was a muscled gym rat, & we rode around in a tripped out, souped-up McLaren F1. Looking back, I’m not so certain how he got all of those toys on a CO’s budget, but my point is this … I was comfortable being a “white woman” in his black world and I am also comfortable being my husband’s wife today. I don’t guard my speech around our friends, nor do I worry about offending those of a different race or color. I am, however, acutely aware of others who see ME differently. THAT, I have no control over, but I will continue to speak out openly regarding my beliefs on that we should all embrace one another as our Lord and Saviour sees us … as His. There really are no differences – until we permit them. When we allow discrimination to rule, in ANY form, by continuing to fuel the cause by further segregation … black rights, black colleges, white supremacy, Hispanic rights, Indian rights … NOT UNTIL we are all simply people – God’s people, will it ever end! While I am empathetic to others’ culture and love to learn of their history, it does nothing to change how I treat them as a human being. Thank you all for blessing me with your perspectives … may He provide His loving graces upon all who read of your wisdom today. Blessed be. ~Tami

    • says

      Thank you, Tami, for blessing me with your presence here, for sharing your story, for speaking wisdom and truth.

      You say…

      “While our efforts may appear trivial to ourselves, or even to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, they mean so much more to The One who hears our heart and words in their entirety.”

      Oh, how we need to remember that. That God sees our hearts and honors even the small thing.

      And this…

      “Not until we are all simply people–God’s people, will it [discrimination/segregation] ever end.”

      Thank you!