2 Chronicles 7:14 If then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.
My forty days of prayer for our nation began today. Out of the gate, I am already called to ponder that which fears me the most, differences among people. Looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is the verse that my friends and I have been praying over today has a number of “if you” behaviors performed by us, “then I” consequences from God. If we as Christians humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, turn from sin, then God will hear us, forgive us, and heal our land. Sounds simple enough. Except for the fear part.
My family of origin is white bread all the way. I grew up in a small town where we had one black family attend our school for maybe six months total. I once met a Jewish kid at an summer theater program. Other than that, we were all white, Christian, and nondisabled in the area of town I lived in. Back in those days- before social media created a global community within our world, there was absolutely no discussion of homosexuality and no one even knew about transgender issues. Just all of us the same, day in and day out. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized there was a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors and abilities and lifestyles in the world. Life was not all white bread. It was wheat, rye, pumpernickel, and even a touch of sour dough. And it was beautiful. I thought that I was living the dream, free of distant family prejudices and fears, unfounded beliefs of differences. To me separation and segregation and discrimination were just words that had no bearing on my life and thus I assumed were not real to other people.
Then 9/11 happened. The illusion of safety our country lived with was broken. America was vulnerable and life became us and them. Them being terrorist, people of the Muslim religion. My first moments of discrimination leaking through when my husband hired a Muslim man to work in his lab and I asked why he would hire this man after the planes had just taken down The Towers. His reply was “Mohamed wasn’t a terrorist on the planes.” Come to find out Mohamed’s family had suffered tremendously under Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq. Mohamed showing way more courage than I could ever have when forced to enter the country secretively to check on his mother with the real threat of being caught and killed for doing so. However, fear is strong and it comes to all who lend a blind eye to it. I felt comfortable with my fear of Muslims, terrorists, ISIS. Who in our country was not afraid of these people?
Then Trayvon was killed and suddenly we had #BlackLivesMatter. I could not figure this one out in my thinking. Of course black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter. To me, there was no white privilege. There was no discrimination as I knew and had heard over and over that there were laws to protect black people from being discriminated against. Then Dallas happened and sixteen innocent police officers were shot, five of whom died (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarirpa, Brent Thompson), at the hands of an obviously mentally ill, hate filled man who chose evil over good, violence over peace at a #BlackLivesMatter protest rally over the recent deaths of two black men in two different states, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. This was the moment, when many of us opened our eyes and realized that we as a nation are severely wounded. Prejudice and discrimination are still alive and well in our country. Suddenly it was time to pray, pray, pray.
So today I’m looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 and I keep focusing on “seek my face.” The quiet whispering of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to place my faith in God’s perfect love to cast out my fear (1John 4:18) when seeking God’s face. Seeking God’s face seems insurmountable as 1John 4:12 tells us that “no one has ever seen God”. but we are to find hope in His promise that “if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1John 4:12). If God’s love is in us, then we may seek the face of God in those around us; others met in our day to day lives, strangers and loved ones alike, those who look like us and those who are very different from us. It is easy to seek God in those I love and am familiar with. However, God challenges me to seek Him in those who are different than me, whose race, religion, culture, sexuality are not the same as mine. This challenge has been overshadowed with feelings of fear and indifference sadly by many in our nation. But our God remains in us and others, nonetheless. He never leaves nor forsakes us, calling us to be brave and courageous in our seeking of Him (Deuteronomy 31:6). It is through God’s grace, my intention to find Him in those very different from me, and with prayer that I seek and find Him in others. If I can overcome my fear of those different from me, I can transform my heart. In transforming my heart, I can transform my life. In transforming my life, I can transform the world. Prayer, grace, intention these three things, but the greatest of these is love. Perfect love that casts out my fear of those who are different than me and allows me to seek the Face of God in all….
Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
May you always seek the face of God and may you always be blessed with recognizing His face in the faces of others.
Wishing you gratitude and peace in every moment, Joan