Dear Church, Reconcilers Have to Reconcile!
For many years I believed my hope and my identity depended on how hard I worked for the body of Christ. But not in the 1 Corinthians 12-way, one body many parts, but in the way where we strive for perfectionism and create unhealthy habits looking for approval from man. After years of striving to prove that I was worthy, that as a black woman I deserved to be seen and heard, I was left empty and hopeless from the place that was supposed to be life-giving and a calling. Honestly, most of this was my own fault. I was not being authentic and true to who God created me to be, I was striving for acceptance from the wrong people, and I was focused on success at the wrong place and for the wrong reasons. I questioned my identity and purpose. As a black woman I often feel like I have to work harder and strive more just to be seen as worthy or acceptable.
Our identity is shaped by many factors; our childhood, culture, experiences, and relationships. I identify as a mixed-race black woman, my mother is white and my father is black. At times this identity is hard to live with, I have often felt I don’t belong to a certain culture, race, or community. I have been doing the work of reconciling myself to understanding imago dei, that I was made in the image of God and there is nothing unworthy about me. Culture will tell you that you don’t belong and that you are not accepted, those are lies and it takes a lot of work to recognize them, don’t let someone else define your identity and worthiness.
As I have matured and continue to grow in understanding my identity, I am so grateful that we get to continually redefine ourselves. Identity is extremely complex, I struggle to understand who I am daily. But I am also trying to reconcile my struggles to the understanding that my identity can also be simple as I find it through Christ. In this search, I am trying to avoid defining my identity based on my career, successes, social status, or financial status. Those identifiers are not solid foundations. Once we experience opposites of those things, our lives can be shaken. But when I have the foundation of first and foremost being loved by God, I find true freedom and peace in who I am.
Reconcilers have to reconcile our hearts and mind so we can be on mission and working towards the ideals we want our communities and churches to be. I believe we need to take care of each other. If you see a friend struggling, tell them you see their struggle and you know they are hurt. If you are hurting, tell someone and get help. Don’t be afraid to walk away from the thing that might be becoming an idol in your life and taking you away from your authentic self. If we want to be reconcilers we have to be working to attune our own hearts and minds. You don’t have to be perfect but hurt people will hurt others and that will not move our mission forward.
Here is my question, Church: do we see ourselves and one another for who we really are – the way Jesus sees us? In our current climate of racial injustice and violence towards black and brown people, do we see people not for what they are wearing like a hoodie or baggy jeans and not for the way we may speak or express ourselves, but do we see the imago dei in every person. The work of reconcilers is hard, it is dedicated and long obedience working in the same direction. The work of reconcilers will test everything you believe in and understand, that is why as reconcilers we have to reconcile with ourselves first! To truly see others in the image of God I first had to accept myself.
These things matter in the Church, are we still only playing and listening to one type of music from the pulpit or do we invite different styles and expressions on stage? As Martin Luther King talked about, is church on Sunday still the most segregated hour of the week or are we hearing from different voices so we can hear and understand different perspectives? The church needs to reconcile as well, instead of being separated by how we hear the gospel we should be gathered together to see the gospel through many different eyes, not a white washed view of a Bible that was written about a man of color coming to save us from ourselves.
Reagan Chaney is a native Washingtonian and loves her city and exploring everything Washington D.C. has to offer. She is passionate about social justice in our neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, and the global community. One of her favorite places to travel is Haiti where she has spent time volunteering with a program created to help orphans receive educational opportunities, you can find more information at Haitiscompass.org. Reagan attends National Community Church and loves being a Children’s Bible teacher and above all, she is a reconciler.