Terrible, Beautiful, Fearless


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Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. —Frederick Buchner

I heard a sermon at Sanctuary Church by Jonathan Martin where he mentioned this quote. How did he know that fear and I are bedfellows? If you were to ask me, “Osheta do you struggle with fear?” I would laugh or get defensive— right quick and in a hurry. I’m wholly convinced that I am not afraid; I’m just realistic. I’m not anxious; I’m mobilized to see change.  I’m not paralyzed with fear; I’m being still before the Lord.

Oh, bless my little Spin Doctor heart.  

The truth is, my Lovely, right now I am deeply afraid about race in America. Maybe even terrified, and until recently, I could not for the life of me see beauty.

I can barely type all the names of brown people who have lost their lives just this year to prejudice and misused power. It would be a post unto its own. I don’t need a hashtag to remind me that black lives should matter. I’m watching my own son navigate his way through a school where he does not feel safe in his brown skin.

Last year he was called the n-word by a teacher and this year, a student told him his kinky hair looks like pubic hair.

I’m wondering, When will this stop?

Terrible, terrible things.

I’m afraid to send my son back to school. I’m afraid of the stories he’s telling himself. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do. As much as I’m a Shalom Sista, I’m also a Scared Mama. Perfect love cast out fear, though.

If I want to be a whole woman, I must choose. As a peacemaker, it’s exponentially harder to know how I should respond to things like racism, safety, ignorance, and biases. I want to be roaring Mama Bear angry. I need to protect my heart by leaning into my own prejudice. I can’t stand the inefficacy of loving my neighbor who holds an ignorant position— I want to let fear propel me to action. But these are NOT THE THINGS that make for PEACE. Wholeness and hate cannot hold the same space and they will NEVER achieve the same results.


I am made whole to make the world whole.  

This is my Practice of Shalom: See the terrible, but seek the beauty.

So,  let me share with you the Beautiful. Just this past July, I went on a racial righteousness trip called, “Mini-Sankofa.” Sankofa means, “To go back and get it.” It’s the practice of Shalom of remembering broken stories, so we can write better ones.  We started in Kansas at the cabin of an abolitionist and ended up on the very spot in Ferguson where Mike Brown was shot. Along the way, we discussed things like our family of origin and the stories we learned about race. Late into one evening we watched, “Fruitvale Station” on our charter bus. White, Black, and Asian women sat in horrified silence as the events leading up to the shooting of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man by a police office in Oakland, CA. As the credits rolled, sobs filled the midnight air on our way into Ferguson.  

Understanding, compassion and grace were taking hold.

The next morning we listened to our docent, Dimarco, tell us about Mike Brown. He didn’t lead with the sensational stories of shootings or riots. He started with Mike’s graduation, his hopes, his dreams, his love for his family. We stood in that hot Missouri sun for hours, asking questions and crying. \

“Why?” was a common refrain. “What can we do?” was the heartbreaking bridge.

Until one woman, Nancy, called the group’s attention to the dove on the memorial.  

“Ladies,” she stated, “I’m seeing a picture of us with our feet pointed towards the dove. Can we make that happen?” Even though we were hot, sweaty and more than a little hangry, several of us squeezed in around the dove.

“How beautiful upon the mountains  are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” —Isaiah 52:7-10

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Today, as I’m reeling from the news of my son’s school, I look back at this picture. I remember how the prayer of my heart was this:  “Jesus give us courage to walk this hard road as peacemakers.” The very Spirit represented by that dove, the Spirit who brought us together that day, this Spirit who calls me to wake, pray and seek shalom—that Spirit reminds me that I am not alone. That Spirit drives away the crippling fear.

I can walk this road in my brown skin for my brown son once again.

Beautiful, beautiful things.

It is both terrible and beautiful to seek racial righteousness these days.

Terrible, because we have so much work to do. Grace needs to be our posture, love our language. These are the lanterns on our pathway to peace.

Beautiful, because we’re making headway. A bus full of women from every age, background, and race came together for 24 hours— to go back so we can go forward. I can do this terrible, beautiful thing fearlessly. I know I can.

Now, in so many ways, I feel like Jesus is speaking this to me: Here is the world, Osheta. As you practice Shalom for it, you will encounter terrible and beautiful things. Do not be afraid.

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