I was going to crash. I gave my handlebars one last futile yank, but my tire lodged in the trolley track. I was eating asphalt before I could blink.
Traffic stopped. I untangled myself from my twisted mess of a bike and hopped up as quickly as I could. I was scraped up and mortified, but basically unhurt. When I pulled my helmet out of my eyes, though, I saw two people emerging from the SUV that had stopped just a few feet away. One guy. One girl. My first thought was, “Ugh.”
Now, if you’d asked me before the crash, I would never have characterized myself as a person who trafficked in stereotypes. I grew up in a total melting pot of a city. I loved diversity, didn’t I? I was comfortable with it. And yet, when I saw that guy and girl coming toward me, my heart sank. He was wearing a letter jacket and his baseball cap was on backwards. She had on a tight little sundress and all the right accessories. Boston College students. In other words, rich white kids. Rich, obnoxious white kids may have been the words that flashed through my mind.
Yes, as the BC students ran toward me, I was busy stereotyping them. The saddest thing is that it never occurred to me that I could possibly be wrong.
But wow, was I ever wrong. There, in the street, in the middle of rush hour, these two showed such concern and compassion. The guy fixed my bike—not enough to ride it, but enough to push it the last three blocks to my apartment. They offered to take me home and asked me if I was going to be OK. In those few minutes with my Boston College angels, I didn’t sense even a hint of judgment or superiority or “rich obnoxious white kid” attitude. Weirdly, their selfless love left me feeling as though, instead of being in an accident, I’d been to church.
Their kindness was also a merited rebuke, and one that made me buckle down and pray. Each morning, I started my day with the “Daily Prayer” from the Church Manual. 1 But I’d never thought of the line, “and rule out of me all sin,” as away to counteract the human mind’s tendency to categorize, judge, and script (often negatively) our interactions with others. After the crash, though, I started looking at that part of the prayer differently. When I asked God to cast sin—any misperception—out of me each moment of my day, I now included stereotypes in the mix. After all, wasn’t seeing my neighbor, not as black or white, Boston College student or Russian grandmother, part of seeing the other part of that prayer—God’s kingdom come—made manifest?
In my world, I realized, it wasn’t enough to be “comfortable” with diversity. It wasn’t enough to accept most differences and let a few subtle stereotypes fester. What my world—in fact, what the whole world—needed was my active faithfulness to the kingdom of heaven at hand.
What did that look like? For me, it’s involved committing myself to understanding more about the infinitude and glory and beauty of the Divine. The Bible says that we have a heart to know God, and that God Himself gave us this heart. 2 I think this means that God created us with the ability to see the magnitude and harmony of His nature, right where mortality would present the differences and cultural baggage that seem to divide us.
In my little corner of the universe, this has allowed me to have a more God-centered perspective. To look on people with more grace. To interact with them with more joy, and with a greater expectation of good. To bear witness to the child of God in everyone.
I also see the broader possibilities of these prayers. If we each listened exclusively to that heart that knows God, what could that do for our families and churches? Better yet, as we prayerfully acknowledge that each of us is compelled to respond to that God-knowing heart, we see the inevitable end to tragedies like ethnic cleansing and religious or cultural conflicts.
That is, indeed, the kingdom Jesus preached about. And it’s definitely the kind of world I want to live in. Don’t you?RSS feed
Topics: Etc. | Tags: diversity, negative stereotypes, stereotypes, unity