Webster’s defines regret as “feeling sad, repentant or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).” Those last two words have been stuck in my gut today; churning over and over in a continual pattern that has me a bit melancholy today.
We all feel this way from time to time and you’ve probably had a few of your own regrets roll through your mind in the seconds it took to read through that opening paragraph. One of the major ones in my own life has been stuck in the forefront of my mind. If you’ve never been on a boat trip in South Carolina I would highly advise you make it a plan for the summer. Seriously, a group of friends and I literally count down days to our next trip. We start on a pilgrimage of sorts on a lake in the middle of the state and four hours later we’ve traversed the state across a lake, through a diversion canal into another lake, into a lock which drops us into the Cooper River and then all the way to the Charleston Harbor. It is four hours of glory. Seriously, put it on the calendar now.
However, I can only think today about regret. A few months ago I was returning from this glorious trip and when you approach the lock you typically end up with a dozen or so other boats all tied together in the lock. Just imagine being in a cavernous steel structure with sound that just echos all around inside this 100 foot tall albatross. Music is blaring as the carefree souls of summer just have a moment to enjoy. This is the typical scene and was unfolding as it always has on every other trip I’ve taken. One boat had selected the dulcet tones of Darius Rucker and then a voice broke through that changed the day in ways that still leave me shaken. “Turn that (n-word) shit off! I’m tired of that (n-word)!” I was a couple of boats over and at first stunned at what I thought I had heard. I turned to my wife and simply asked if I heard what I thought I had heard. She confirmed.
Then I made my move…Silence…I did nothing…I…DID…ABSOLUTELY…NOTHING…There I stood supposedly a leader in the church, a voice for social justice and I said nothing. I fumed and I ached and I hurt as I witnessed the unabashed voice of racism echo. The water filled lock but my soul was empty. The boats rolled out of that lock and I jumped off the boat and swam away just to be alone. I was at least angry I told myself but in a crowd of 100 people everyone just went about their own lives; me included. Talk about regret.
I’ve been particularly struck by the sinful sound of my silence today because of this:
99.99% of the people that see this are as sickened by it as I am. We are people that do not think this way or feel this way or express thoughts of this kind in any way, shape or form. However, look at the sinful sound of silence that fills this room. There is only one voice to be heard. The voice of racism. No one steps forward to offer support to these victims or to rebuke this rant.
I made the same mistake in my own corner of the world and boy do I regret it? You better believe I do. Church…Lean in real close and take this scene in. Here, in videos like this, and in even the more subtle racism we see everyday is where the gospel needs to shine forth. This is my blog to say to you that I am sorry. I am sorry for not speaking into issues such as this when I see them. I pray for the courage that we see in Jesus from the scriptures.
I’ve been thinking about the scene that unfolded that hot summer day in Samaria when Jesus walks up to a Samaritan woman and asks her for a drink. The custom of the day demanded of him to not even travel through this land of what Jews called half-breeds. Yet, there he is not just walking through but conversing with and even taking water from this woman. Why? Jesus is showing something to us that is incredibly instructive to our culture today. See, I believe we tend to live our lives as if we somehow think the message of the gospel is solely for us. Think about it. That is a statement that most would categorically deny as we know that God loves the world, right? Yes. We know that but how do our lives really reflect that? There isn’t a single person of color that lives on my street. There is not one member of my church that is a different color than me. My children’s school does not have one single teacher or administrator that is a minority. I have filled my life with people that look mostly just like me. So, when the woman in the video angers me, I say nothing because I don’t really know, I mean really know, the people toward which she is directing her anger. If I lived my life truly believing they were made in God’s image, as they are, then it would demand response from me.
When are my “beliefs” going to influence more and more of my actions? Herein lies the regret of my own life; far too often I’m a hypocrite who says that I believe in these glorious things yet I do not often enough live them out in meaningful ways.
I’m embarrassed to admit this yet I do so to repent of my own inaction in defending life. Those of us who claim Christ need to understand that pro-life is about much more than defending the life of the unborn. We need to care about those outside the womb as much as we do those inside it. May it start with me. Lord, let it be so…