Dreams are wonderful and amazing yet challenging and sometimes hard to understand. The Bible is full of dreams where God, angels or the future appeared to people while they slept. But there are those other dreams that are no less important. The ones we have with our eyes open. As I write on Jan. 20th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I feel compelled to share why this day matters to me – a white middle aged woman living in Gerrardstown, WV.
I’m not sure how aware I was of Rev. Dr. King’s dream speech, given in 1963, in my growing up years. I was raised in white family in Peoria, IL during the years of desegregation. Thankfully I had wonderful parents, who daily taught me by how they lived, not to judge people by the color of their skin but by their character and then to love all people. They took me and my sisters to an American Baptist church – not very diverse- but welcoming all the same. Through a series of fortunate events I found myself learning about those of other races and cultures in my high school and college years. I became friends with those who didn’t look just like me. And in the midst I learned their stories of living through prejudice and alienation that I knew nothing about.
After marrying a US Naval Academy grad, whose skin color wasn’t the same as mine, I learned sometimes others stare. There were places I didn’t feel were safe to take our young children because others might not treat them well. Yes, I learned very quickly what my in-laws knew only too well, Rev. Dr. King’s dream still has a ways to go.
Sadly, our marriage failed, as many do given the challenges of military life and our lack of communication skills. But we had two beautiful twin daughters who now live with the challenge of being bi-racial.
Recently, the Shenandoah Presbytery of the PC(USA) took up the study of racism in our Presbytery and the world. We read and discussed Waking Up White by Debby Irving and I found myself on a racism panel discussion with my twin daughters and Rev. Warren Lesane, Stated Clerk of Mid-Atlantic. I listened with awe as my daughters explained how their small physical differences made one more likely to be profiled and the other less likely. How it felt to be told by others to choose either being white or black. And Rev. Lesane’s explanation of a time in the military when promotion could be difficult if your skin color was known.
By God’s grace, I’m a Presbyterian pastor, happily remarried with a blended family. I have come to cherish the Rev. Dr. King’s dream because it’s been my dream all along! Now I welcome the stares when people see our four children and friends of diverse skin tones. I am so glad that we are not limited in our relationships to only those who look like us. What great loss and tragedy that would be!
I hope you will dream with the Rev. Dr. King too, because the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:8 tells us “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Today I think the Apostle Paul might add: there are no longer Black or White, Asian or Hispanic, for all of us are one in Christ Jesus. I pray for the day this is our reality. In Christ Jesus, may it be so.