My good friend is a minister and I am a doctor. We love to lead with that statement, because we know people usually assume that we're men! It makes us giggle. Not only that, but my friend is black and I'm white. You should have been there the night I served as her armor bearer for her first official sermon in celebration of receiving her minister's license. We shook people up in the church, so I came to find out later. I guess people first of all expected Dr. Thomas to be male-and they apparently were even more surprised to discover that I am white. It appears that my friend thought it would be funny to leave that information out and watch what would happen.
My friend and I come from different parts of the country. I am a Midwesterner from the farm country of Iowa who never really understood racism until I moved to Virginia. A. (my nickname for my friend) is from Virginia and bas experienced the sting of racism her whole life. We have been able to see the world through each others' eyes because of our friendship, and we see that racism goes both ways. We see that we grew up in very different cultures-including church cultures-both having great strengths and both with serious flaws. A. and I share a deep love of Jesus and the Word. But, you know, we still struggle to let our cultural differences fade into the background. We still struggle against ingrained notions about each other, our races, and cultures. Because of that, in some ways our relationship is as difficult as it is enriching.
I want to press on in this relationship, however. I feel called to do so. We must bridge the gap relationally and it must go beyond just talk. My friend and I pretty much have the bases covered for stereotypes and prejudice; racism, sexism, ageism (we're both over 50!), she's single and I'm married, and I don't know what you call it when you don't fit in the box of some folks' Christianity, but that, too!
As we celebrate Black History month, we have a lot of work to do, my friends.