Stephanie has been a part of Be the Bridge for the past two years. She originally found out about the organization when she heard Tasha speak at IF Gathering. We are so excited to have her step into a new role with Be the Bridge as an intern. The internship is part of her requirements for seminary and we are thrilled to have her on the team. In this role she will be developed as a leader to continue the work of racial reconciliation in the church.
To introduce you to Stephanie, we would love for you to read this peace she wrote:
Both lament and hope are what I am feeling at this very moment as I sit in a cell at a convent. No words are to be spoken today; only silence, meditation, contemplation and incarnatio, or the acknowledgement of how God is at work in our lives. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, whose convent I sit in today, posture themselves on the goodness of God. St. Julie Billiart, the order’s foundress, was known for exclaiming, “How good is the good God!” But what about when God feels far away and goodness feels even further? When we hear of another Black life innocently lost, another Brown life dehumanized and locked in a cage while seeking asylum from death and danger, sacred indigenous lands blasphemed and stolen for capital gains and the tokenization of individuals to the point of great burden? “To deny people their rights before the Most High, to deprive them of justice – would not the Lord see such things?” (Lamentations 3:35-36).
This morning, as I entered my time of silent retreat, my only expectation was for God to bring me some sort of healing. The deep pain felt from racial trauma often goes unacknowledged and remains binding because it’s validity is chronically unrecognized. However, it is important to contemplate how these strongholds can affect not only our work as Bridge Builders, but our identities as followers of Jesus Christ. I believe God allows those who engage in justice work to also use their work for the good of their own processing and self-reconciliation; moreover, as a means of drawing closer to Him. There is no justice work apart from the Father; there is nothing apart from the Father. Lamentations 3:49-50 says, “My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees.” Lament is a gift we are given from God as a spiritual pathway to healing because He sees our lament. Lament acknowledges pain; it allows you to hold the pain in your hands and lift it up to the Lord. Our tears cleanse our souls and are acknowledged by our good God. God gives us lament to make space for the renovations of our bodies and souls when we are constantly torn down and suffer great loss by the work we do as Bridge Builders. In lament, in this invitation to grieve, there is the fruit of hope that reconciliation is possible.
I recently had a dream that a friend was coming to town to visit and since she’d never visited before, I decided to show her around town. We were expecting another friend to fly in, but not until later that evening; so, I thought. Upon returning to my home, my entire apartment had been completely renovated. Not only had it been renovated, but it had been expanded to a larger space. My friend, whom I thought was arriving later, had been in my home all day renovating the space. As I walked through my newly renovated, more spacious apartment, there were people of all ethnicities and age groups making the final touches on the space and expressing to me their hope that I would like it. I entered the living room and saw the artwork that filled the walls. It depicted latinidad, or Latino/a culture, in all of its different hues, shapes and other distinctions. I wept at the sight of the beauty God had created not only of my ethnicity, but also how He intentionally created me; a Puerto Rican woman with African, indigenous and European ancestry. Guests, of all ethnicities, ages and walks of life began entering my home to see the renovations. They gathered in a large part of the apartment and socialized with one another. Each social interaction was inclusive of all people and was not segregated by race or ethnicity like we often see; it looked like Heaven. Enter in hope.
This dream, prophetic in nature, allowed me to see the fruit of lament, which is hope. My home, or in a literal sense, my soul, was in great in need of renovation and expansion. God, in His mercy and care for me as I lamented, saw this and guided me forward from lament to a place of hope. Moving from “my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me (lament). Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:19-21). Not only did God use the illustration in this dream to show me how He is at work in renovating my weary soul, but His intentionality in illustrating how renovations require the hands of many, from all different backgrounds was evident as well. Reconciliation is a collective and inclusive work and in this is work, we can find hope. Hope that one day, people will gather without inhibitions or prejudices. That people will carefully and intentionally “put the final touches” on one another’s lives in order to bring them hope and restoration. Furthermore, that one day, the lives of the marginalized will matter to everyone and therefore, there would be unity in the Body of Christ.
Lest me end without stating that lament and hope are cyclical. It is possible to feel both lament and hope simultaneously as we process the constant onset of racial trauma in our society. Being at the intersection of lament and hope is what reconciliation work is. As Bridge Builders, we must allow ourselves to live in this rhythm while practicing self-care in order for our work to bring glory to God and unity in the Body of Christ. The very fact that God allows us to come alongside Him in this heavy work and gives us the gifts of lament and hope, are indication of the very goodness of God.