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 picture says a thousand words…or does it?

The sands of time bury pictures on Facebook until they are so far under the surface that we hardly remember their existence. A few days ago, I was scrolling through some of my forgotten treasures.

As I clicked from one picture to the next, I found myself uttering noises like, “Awwwww!!!” or “Heyyyyy!!!” Each image captured a special moment in time. I was moved as I watched how much my kids have grown, how my hair hasn’t and all the adventures we have shared over the last decade or so.

In a particularly nostalgic moment, I came across a picture of my wife and me on a vacation. Since she happened to be sitting on the couch next to me, I pointed to the picture and said, “Look how happy we are!” Joy filled my soul, simply looking at the snapshot.

In response, my wife turned to me and said, “Is that all you remember about that trip?” It was like one of those scenes in a movie when that record scratching sound gets played. All of the sudden I was knocked off the 30,000 foot cloud I was riding on.

My mind was whisked away to a rather lengthy and passionate “discussion” we had on that very same trip. Even though it wasn’t our biggest fight, I remember it well. It encapsulated a lot of the frustration and feelings we have experienced over the years. In an instant, that very same picture that brought me a sense of peace and happiness, delivered feelings of discomfort and angst. Did that negate the joy we truly were experiencing the moment? No, but it didn’t represent every part of us either.

It has been said that “A picture says a thousand words” but I would suggest that those words aren’t always the whole truth.

When I am scrolling through a newsfeed…Yes, even my own! I can assume I know the entire story behind the picture that I am seeing. Rarely, is reality the same as that image.

I think of all the family pictures we took with wiggly, whinny kids (and parents for that matter). Sometimes it seemed like it took 50 or 60 photos to get ONE that looked halfway decent. Some of the truly “high” moments in life were also accompanied by “lows”.

This doesn’t mean the beauty of those magical moments isn’t authentic but it puts things in perspective. For someone so quick to see everything as, “all good” or “all bad” I need the reminder that things aren’t always that clear-cut. The boxes I create to put myself at ease are often crafted for my comfort rather than seeing reality.

Holding joy and sorrow in tension is one of the most difficult aspects to maturity. Yet it is essential if I want to see the world (and myself) accurately. It also helps when you are scrolling through your newsfeed.