Where were you when?

There are moments in our lives that mark our place in history, and we ask ourselves this question – where were you when? Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell? Or when Mt. St. Helens erupted? Or when John Lennon was shot? Or when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff? Where were you when 9/11 happened? Where were you when.

Sometimes this question is more personal. I distinctly remember where I was sitting in the room at the doctor’s office when my mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was delivered. Or when I received the news that my father had died suddenly. Where were you when.

Why do we remember these particular moments? It seems that God has wired us so that when we face moments of great pain, our brain says ooh, I want to remember that.
Like the time when I was little and grabbed something hot. Ouch! Or when I put my hand over a marshmallow that had just been roasted over an open fire. I found myself crying and holding my hand because it hurt. My brain was saying, okay - remember that…don’t get burned! Don’t touch the hot stuff.

Over the past few weeks we have had one of those “burned” moments. Moments where we will always remember where we were when. Where we were when we watched the video of a Black man being literally choked to death right in front of us by the police. Or when we watched protestors marching in the streets. Or looters who broke into stores and those who were lighting cities on fire all across America.
Was all this because of one man? No – not really. George Floyd was one more man among many Black Americans who had been killed – by police, while in custody. Why is it that we keep coming back to this same place and putting our fingers on the fire and getting burned?

My mind lies awake at night spinning—the endless posts, comments, videos and more dealing with every aspect and facet of the racial injustices pervading our country.  

As you continue to read and explore, I want to encourage you to engage in this conversation with your children. Here are a few quick takeaways (from Saddelback Parents) that I pray will be helpful to you. If you have already had talks about racism with your children, keep the dialogue going. If you have yet to tread on this topic, there is no time like the present.

  • Pray. As with any and all difficult conversations with your children, start in prayer. Pray on your own, that God would give you the wisdom as to what and how to share. Pray that their hearts would be receptive to the realities of our world. Pray for transformational talks moved into transformed living.
  • Assess. Get an idea of what your child does or does not know. You may be surprised to hear what they bring up from social media posts, news snippets or keywords they’re hearing you say in adult conversations. This will give you a good starting place to know what they know first.
  • Be Honest. Be honest about what is going on. Be honest about the past and present of racism. Be honest about how you are feeling. Be honest even with how you might be struggling to understand it all as an adult. Do not get lost in the details.
  • Listen. Have a conversation with your kids. Ask if they have questions. Listen to what they think about racism. Hear what is on their hearts. Do not try to find the “right answers” or solutions because there simply are no quick fixes.
  • Sit with the Pain. Your child, especially if they are younger, may not necessarily burst into tears or feel heartbroken over the racial injustice. This does not mean they are cold-hearted or callous. Remember their age and stage as a little one. Even a teenager may come across unimpacted and that is ok. If that is the case, model it with an earnest expression of the pain you are feeling at our nation’s condition. Jesus’ heart is breaking. The images you cannot shake from your mind reveal the pain you cannot let go. It is ok and important you sit in the pain together as a parent and a child. And maybe your child will express sadness over injustice, sit with their pain. Feel it all—pain, sadness, anger—together.
  • Not just Once. This is not just a one-time talk and you are done. It should be an ongoing conversation. Check-in with your child to see how they are feeling, have questions or seek out their thoughts. Do not feel like you have to force conversations. But do not let it go and move on after one time.
  • Responsibility. Even better than continuing to converse about it is moving to action. Help your child understand that you and he/she have a responsibility to be different. We have to be aware of what we say or do not say. We have to be more aware of what we do or do not do. We cannot wear rose-colored glasses that while this is terrible it is far away and not where we live. It is in our schools, community, extracurricular activities and even our churches. Be bold and stand up if and when you should see it. Never fight fire with fire or violence with violence. Be responsible as an image-bearer of Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, these conversations must be had. Now is as good a time as any to speak up with your kids. And much more importantly beyond the discussions is to rise up and BE different. Do not leave this topic in the forms of words and dialogue in your home. Live it out. Practice it in your day-to-day. Speak up when you witness racial injustice in your community, at your child’s school, on the sports field and within your church. Trust me, it exists in all these arenas and it can no longer be overlooked. Speak up, stand up!
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8-9
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