Betsy and I moved from Spokane, a place where I had absolutely no exposure to black Americans to the Virgin Islands where it wasn’t unusual to be the only white person in the grocery store or on public transportation. This was initially culturally unsettling, but very quickly felt normal.
One day while standing in line at the bank a black woman in front of me turned, captured my hand in both of hers and proclaimed that she had a friend in Jesus. She then asked, “Is Jesus your friend as well?” Caught completely off guard I lied and said that Jesus and I were in fact very close friends. The truth was I wasn’t religious and had no relationship with Jesus whatsoever. Some how stating it..Lying! about my nonexistent relationship with Jesus had implications for me. There was a weightiness to a lie that involved Jesus that gave me pause. Sensing this, the woman kept chatting quietly and by the time I made it to the teller she had convinced me to visit her church the following Sunday, and I did.
To say that I was a curiosity is an understatement and is best summed up by two young girls who stared directly at me while wildly whispering and giggling into their hands. The service proceeded along when a woman just behind me stood and said that her neighbor’s son had murdered her son and she couldn’t find a way to forgive. She became very emotional and was screaming and wailing obviously consumed by grief and her inability to forgive. Well the minister was having none of this and came barreling down the aisle, his voice booming. “You must find a way to forgive in the name of Jesus Christ!” “I cannot. I have tried!” The exchange went on with other congregates chiming in. “You must forgive!” “MMM HMM. Forgiveness is the only route.” I stared stoically straight ahead with my arms folded across my chest…Hugging myself hoping it would all end soon. After the service I was approached by a number of parishioners who expressed a sincere joy that I was able to join in the celebration and hoped that I would become a regular attendee. I didn’t lie, nor did I commit. The point of this story is to encourage you to get out there and try something foreign, something that might make you uncomfortable but in the end just may be a very good experience.