Could we be sicker than we thought?

Imagine you are in a doctor’s office awaiting the results of a test. The doctor walks in the door with a concerned look on his face. In hushed tones he says, “I wish I didn’t have to tell you this. You have cancer.”

What is your reaction in that moment? My guess is that one visit would drastically alter the way you live in the future. Your life would never be the same.

Although Coronavirus may have stopped our country in it’s tracks, it has only served to highlight a more insidious threat…the cancer of racism.

I use the term “cancer” intentionally.  I believe there are some unique similarities that cancer and racism share.

1. Both diseases build slowly over time

Unlike a virus that hits suddenly, cancer builds in our system over time. We can live months or years with the disease without ever knowing it. Racism is not suddenly appearing in the United States. It has plagued our nation for a long time.

My mom is a Native American woman who grew up in the segregated South. She is a positive person who doesn’t dwell much on negative experiences in her life. Maybe that’s why the stories she would occasionally tell me about what it was like to grow up as a second-class citizen stood out so much to me. She endured rejection, humiliation and had fewer opportunities simply because of the color of her skin.

The people who treated her maliciously learned those attitudes from their families. Some of them are still alive and they probably passed down their values to their children. Racism doesn’t appear out of nowhere. It lurks silently beneath the surface.

2. Images force us to embrace the reality of our disease

Similar to a doctor showing you an MRI or X-ray of tumors that are growing inside your body, modern technology has made the realities of racism apparent in a way that we can’t deny.

Videos showing Ahmaud Arbery being senselessly murdered as he was out on a jog and George Floyd being killed by a police officer as he was begging for his life, can’t be ignored. These images sear permanently into our minds. Reality reaches out and slaps us directly in our face. We can’t choose to ignore this any longer.

To all my black friends, I am deeply sorry that it has taken some of us this long to truly listen to your stories. It is horrific! Now no one has any excuses. I hope you will experience us closer to you during your times of pain.

 3.  Aggressive treatment is needed

Many cancer patients change their diet, go through chemotherapy and experiment with different medicines. Why? Because those are all fun options? No. Because the alternative is much worse!

Perhaps being quarantined is serving as chemotherapy for the cancer we are facing. This crisis has taken away the ways we normally choose to cope and ignore reality.

Americans are terminally busy. We almost never take the time to stop, think, feel and pray. We are constantly off to work, the next social event or kids soccer game. Unless something directly affects our lives it is too easy to ignore.

This virus has taken away our normal strategies for dealing with difficult things. It has broken down our emotional immune system and we are left to face what is left.

As someone who follows Jesus, I believe racism is a deeply spiritual issue. That means that it is more horrific than we often give it credit for. It is truly evil.

Jesus knows what it is like to come face to face with evil and have his closest friends walk away. I might not have all the answers but I pray I will be “present” with my black brothers and sisters during this time.

I pray that we will experience true justice and peace as we fight this disease together. For now, my soul cries “How long, oh Lord?!”

A note to the girl on campus, crying outside the gym

I saw you curled up in a corner outside the gym. It’s a spot where only someone desperate to escape the crowds would go. The window you were sitting next to is deceiving. You probably couldn’t see in, but I could see out. Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone else even noticed.

There was an undeniable look of pain on your face and tears were rolling down your cheeks. At first this startled me. I felt like I was peering into a very private moment.. Then, a sense of compassion hit me. I wanted to stop my workout to go outside and make sure you were OK. If it wasn’t for the fire alarm door standing in the way, I would have done it.

Then I began to think of what else I could do to help. Only one thing came to mind…pray. I don’t want to seem weird but it seemed like you could really use it. I also made up my mind that if you were still there in another minute or two, I would make my way out of the gym to where you were. It only took you about 30 more seconds for you to pick yourself up and move on. The gym is a complicated maze to escape. Even if I left when I first saw you, I probably wouldn’t have made it to you in time.

When you got up, many emotions filled me. I was sad to see you in pain. I was worried hoping that you would be all right. Interestingly enough, one my primary emotions was anger. I was angry at that door for separating us. There was someone in pain who I couldn’t reach because a barrier stood in the way.

I don’t assume you would want to talk with me even if I was able to make it past that door.   Still, it made me think of all the obstacles that stand in the way of me seeing and reaching out to people in need. Sometimes it’s self-centeredness. It is easy to look in the wall full of mirrors in the gym and stare impressed (or depressed) at what I see. Similarly, when my focus is on myself, I don’t consider what is happening in the world around me.

Other times, the fire exit doors are things like busyness or the next “important” thing on my calendar. I’m sure there are times when I miss people in pain because I’m too caught up in making it to the next meeting on time. It turns out, you taught me a very important lesson.

Most likely, you and I will never meet. I’ll probably never get to tell you this face to face but I want to let you know that at least for a brief moment in time, you had someone praying for you in your pain. Whether you realized it or not, you were not alone.

The same thing is true now. Even in the midst of your sorrow, you have someone who you can’t see who knows what you are going through. Unlike me, His love is unconditional and He can break through any door to meet you where you are. I pray that no matter what dark time you are walking through, you will experience the hope, joy and peace that only He can bring.