This month, we turn the page and begin a new year. In some ways, it feels like a continuation of the old year, with Covid still spreading and restrictions still in place for our travel and movements. We continue to have restrictions on what businesses can operate and what hours we are permitted to be outside of our homes or at work. Spain continues to struggle greatly, as does the USA.
Billy and I were so distressed and dismayed as we watched the news about the Capitol, as well the constant news of the continuing unrest around the elections and race relations and inequality in our home country. As the news cycle runs rampant and the international community watches, heads turn to us, and our neighbors and friends in other countries ask questions about democracy and what is occurring in the United States.
Sadly, we have no answers.
The past few years and the situations that continue to keep the USA in the news are complicated and difficult. Do we have opinions? Of course. But it’s not as easy as just stating your opinion. Every one of these issues is intricately tied to another. Every one of them has a long and deep history. This is not just a case of the past year or two (or four or ten) as some believe. Some of these issues are decades and centuries old and have taken many turns and twists in the journey that brings us to present day.
As we have wrestled with these issues and the news stories and reading the daily inflammatory Facebook posts, it has become more and more disturbing for us. Watching our dear friends and family, church members and neighbors back home have heated arguments and write fierce responses to each other and others, we have struggled with what to say or how to engage.
The statistics prove that 50% of our homeland community will be unhappy with whatever we say or believe or do. No matter what we do or say, we will be “on the other side” of half of our friends and family. That is where we are as a country right now – divided. On any given day and on any given issue, half of the people whom we love will have an opposing viewpoint. It feels like a no-win situation. In fact, it feels like a lose-lose, no matter what you chose to say or do.
This has made daily interaction and conversation quite strained, and every word and topic and Facebook post and newsletter article has pained us as we weigh out what to say and how to say it, or if we should say anything at all. On many occasions, we have chosen to say nothing for fear of alienating half of our community. Living overseas, our relationships with our homeland community feel so very precious and fragile due to distance, and the thought of losing anyone or placing even more distance in the relationship due to possibly saying the wrong thing is overwhelming. So, we have stayed silent and stuffed our voices on much of what we have seen and heard and felt coming from our home country.
The voice of my grandmother is in my head. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not that what I have to say is ‘not nice’, but someone will take my opinion as fightin’ words and come out guns a-blazin’ (figuratively speaking, I hope)! Silence has seemed a good choice, at least for Billy and I and our very conflict-avoidant personalities.
Until last week.
After the Capitol incident, we were shaken. We were left unsure and off balance. When ‘home’ no longer looked like home and no longer felt secure and safe, we were confused. As global workers who always have contingency plans in place in case of government unrest or disaster or whatever might come our way, once again, we were left reeling. We were again left with the realization that our contingency plans didn’t take in to account this particular situation. Last year, every global worker realized that their emergency plans were not equipped for a pandemic. This week, we realized that we were not prepared for a possible collapse of our own passport country.
During the days that followed, we have listened as countless global workers have processed their feelings. During one of those video calls, a friend and colleague was processing with me about the current situation, specifically as it relates to race relations and privilege and how she was feeling it. My friend is a person of color, and she has felt the strains and stresses of this past year more profoundly than I ever could. For her, this is not a 2020 thing, but a lifetime of hard conversations and situations. I shared my feelings and how difficult it was for us to share those feelings with others, and how I have chosen silence most of the time in order to keep the peace. Her response has haunted me for a week now…
“When you chose silence, you are choosing your comfort and your security over me and the issues of people who look like me.”
I haven’t come to grips with that yet. I do not know how to walk through these times. I am often paralyzed by the fear of how others will respond to my words or opinions. Another friend said, “we need to fall back on the ‘what would Jesus do’ idea”. But even that causes me to pause. What WOULD Jesus do? Which part of his emotions and actions should I model in these situations? Should I be the Jesus that stormed the temple and tossed tables? Some have said that that was exactly what they were doing at the Capitol last week. Should I be the Jesus that quietly knelt in the dirt and drew circles in the sand and asked questions? Or should I be the Jesus that went to sleep while the storm raged? Every single day of my life, I work hard to live out his words and to love my neighbor and be at peace with others. Every day I teach others about his life and his stories and character. Yet in this particular moment, I am at a loss for how to live in to those footsteps.
I am very greatly conflicted and confused by the events around the world. I do not have any answers. I only know that I can lean on him and bring all of my confusion and worry and doubts and fears to him without having to judge my own words or fear that he will be offended and abandon me. I know that he is the one relationship that will stand rock solid through all of this, and that he can handle it. He can handle my tears and my confusion and my opinions. He can even handle it if some of my thoughts and opinions aren’t quite “right” in his eyes… he’ll work on that and we’ll get through that eventually. I can trust in his transformative power in my life.
As to the rest of our friends and family and community – be patient with us. Know that our silence is not intended to harm. Know that our opinions never weigh more than our love for our neighbors. Know that politics or race or gender issues or immigration or even religious differences will never mean more to us than you and your heart. You are precious in the eyes of God, and you are precious to us. No matter what! If our silence has felt like a choice against you in any way, please let us know and let’s open the conversation. We welcome the vulnerability and transparency. We cannot love our neighbors and build healthy community without honest conversation and sharing our struggles. Know that you are loved.
Let’s do this! Let’s make 2021 the year that we sit at the table together and talk without fear.
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!