Skip to main content

Two unbearable griefs- by Adrianne Thompson

To my American church family:

If we need grace to bear with each other through Covid-19, you can only imagine how much grace we need to bear with each other as we try, as one family, to lament and grieve Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. Lord give us mercy. We must pray fervently because the enemy would love to help us to despise one another for so many things right now. There is so much to be grieved. There is so much to be enraged about. It is unbearable. Lord help us to do that well, and better, as one body. 

For those of you I don't know, I'm grieving, lamenting, weeping, not sleeping, wailing, raging as a white mother of four children, one of whom is a black 12-year old boy.

To the part of my church family who experienced such significant gut-wrenching trauma this week, I love you. I think I've only tasted such a small bit of the trauma still, and it is so utterly unbearable I can't breathe, sleep or stop crying. I pray God gives you spaces to lament and grieve safely and well. And I pray your church family will grow to not make that any harder for you or add more harm to you. I pray holding this grief together will one day-- please Lord maybe even some of these days-- be healing. Your love, patience, mercy and long suffering with your church family, like God's with His people, is undeserved.

To the part of my church family who didn't experience such significant gut-wrenching trauma this week, I love you too. I have more things to say to you. 

I have two things to lament and grieve about today.

One: a glorious black man was hunted down like an animal while jogging in Georgia in 2020. A man who looks like my son. A man who looks like your church family. And two: I'm still not sure how some of you feel about that. Especially about the systemic truths underlying it. 

That second one is an enormous grief. And a grief that makes it impossibly hard for me to want to grieve near to you about the first part.   

I don't want to grieve near to someone who doesn't get it.

Are you going to ask us to hold your hand again today? Do we have to spoon feed you? Are you still drinking milk on this stuff when you have had plenty of time to be on solids at this point? 

That's just a tiny taste of that added part to my grief that I have been holding in. There is so much more there. You have no idea how costly that has been to your church family. And not because they haven't tried to tell you. 

When we are posting a lot this week, I hope you know we are not proud of our church family, we are wrecked. We are just telling what is true. When we are posting a lot this week it isn't in any way enjoyable for our brothers and sisters of color. It is necessary re-trauma for them because white people have shown time and time again that we won't look into it enough. Arrests won't happen unless videos go viral. Although these issues never ebb and flow for people of color, they won't keep white people's attention, no matter how much we plead. White people have continued to act surprised or unsure. We have continued to asked for refreshers, for extra catered-to-us education about the most basic realities of racism that is the toxic air our brothers and sisters breathe, just to move the needle of our belief the tiniest bit. 

And not just what is racism 101, but we have shown that we also still need basic, bare minimum discipleship about what God thinks and says about these issues. Does God really care about systemic oppression, poverty, injustice? We still seem to have NO IDEA, even though it is ALL OVER THE BIBLE. 

It should humble us to the dust and lead us to repentance that our brothers and sisters have to put up with so much from us in the midst of this enormous trauma.

Please be sympathetic and appreciative about anything our brothers and sisters share with us this week because it will have been more costly and exhausting than you can imagine to show up to table with people who continue to question, or scroll through, barely glancing at their trauma. 

Yes I notice that some of our white brothers and sisters have moved on this stuff, and I'm really grateful to God for that. I'm so grateful some people have actively wanted to listen and learn not just in times of trauma. I'm grateful that people have shown more courage, stepped out and are posting and sharing more, even though they are unsure how people will feel. That is really good and we should keep going!  

And. All of those words I just said are sincere, but it cost me something just now to pause to tell you them. Would you have stayed engaged at the table if I hadn't? I felt fragility that needed shoring up. I may have imagined it. But it is a good question to ask yourself: did you need me to be careful for your sake in that moment? If so, we have not made a very safe table for grief or lament yet. 

Strong emotions are welcomed at a grieving table. Accusations and anger are a part of lament, but they aren't comfortable to be around. Have we made a hospitable place here for grief? Let's keep moving towards that, making it possible for real lament, groaning, wailing, grieving for our other brothers and sisters. 

Please LORD make this a table where grieving and lamenting can occur, not just education. Please let us lament the murder of a black man, not just lament the continued blindness and unbelief of white brothers and sisters, and their fragility.

See there's the trauma and grief itself of the murder...and then there's the extra. I think you're starting to see it better.

That's been part of my dilemma in offering anything. I don't want to offer pearls to swine about my son's experience. If you haven't been willing to learn already, why would I let you in on my grief right now. My wailing.

And yet, if I don't offer you that part, will you ever care? Does it have to cost me sharing a sad and sweet or terrifying compelling story about my family to educate you. To make this move a little for you so it can move a little systemically. 

I've wondered that. It has made me not want to share stories. It has made me resist offering you my pain. To think I could share my pain with you, the terror I feel, and you might double click "like" the post and, since you can, move on with your day? And then you might ask me to start all over again next shooting.

That's been a lot of extra to bear. I can only imagine how much that has cost my brothers and sisters.

-----------------


And yet, knowing some of the risk, I will close with a few stories, inviting you a little bit into my righteous anger and the grief I feel about my son. Stories from the past few days where you can see how our church family has grown and how we can continue to slowly and repentantly become a better nurturing family for sharing these kinds of griefs.

This has been long, if you need to take a break so you can respectfully and engagedly come back, please do. It is going to take reading and listening to a lot more than this to keep us nurturing this family of ours! We are going to need endurance.

---------------------
In the midst of my confused, pacing, rage-filled Thursday and Friday--never sleeping even one minute between those days-- most often picturing myself bashing cars with a baseball bat, God fanned and blessed my outrage. He gave me words for my fury. He narrated it with His righteously angry words. He called my anger “good.” His Word, Spirit and my willing brothers and sisters midwifed my righteous anger so I could meet with God there. The anger was so right. 

It is good when you bellow and quake with rage, it is like Jesus at Lazarus' tomb. It is good when you want to smash things, "pour down sulfur" about injustice and simultaneous uncaring privileged people. That's just like when God poured down sulfur on Sodom because "She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

Yes it is GOOD when you're angry when people are at ease in part of the global church, while others are hunched in the fetal position, without enough food to feed their children. Or because black men keep dying in the streets while white people are carelessly making funny tiktok videos or posting recipes. That reminds me exactly of what God says when in Amos He says,
"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure..woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches and eat lambs...who sing idle songs, who drink wine, who anoint themselves with the finest oils but who are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.

But righteous anger only stays righteous so long, especially when you can't sleep. So then I just wanted to hurt people. To make them FEEL MY PAIN.

So when Sara Kennedy, after trying to help me edit my scathing 6 page lament of fury drafted for you yesterday that would have been only hurtful said, "you remind me of Rachel in Jeremiah 32, unwilling to be comforted." Oh thank you Jesus that she blessed my anger. I'm weeping again. Every person who read that COMPLETELY MESSY draft blessed my anger.

And when I showed up at Pollard Park yesterday and unexpectedly lost it because it felt like I arrived to the funeral of one of our boys. Which one of them? Which one of those ADORABLE kids in the memory verse video? WHICH ONE. So I'm wailing. throwing phone. hunched over. scaring children. And I receive texts from friends saying that looks like Jesus. your mourning is beautiful.

yes to needing space for anger. inexpressible only gruntable righteous anger friends. yes to needing friends blessing it, being hospitable to it.

As the sun started to go down on Thursday, my outrage shifted to confused fretting, eyeing my coffee-skinned son’s gorgeous face, and God pursued me through my sister Kelly Vaughn as I received this text from her: “Not sure where you are at emotionally, etc in light of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, but we prayed for you and Hunter and Isaiah tonight. For God to protect Isaiah. For wisdom for y’all as his parents to know how to navigate conversations with him. For His help to grieve and be angry and to cry out for justice. For change. Lord be near and move. We love you guys and we love Isaiah.” 

The first part that moved me to tears was that she initiated towards us. She remembered our pain in the midst of the crowd. And then it was that she said the truth. She called it murder. She didn’t mince her words. She didn’t leave it unclear what she thought. And that gave me space to start to weep. And then that she loves my Isaiah. And she sees how many hard confusing conversations we have to have trying to warn and protect him, while trying to assure him nothing is wrong with the color of his skin. A nurturing family sees and knows and cares. 

And then my sister Elizabeth Harkless called and we cried and yelled together. 

Could it be, family, that when we act with godly courage and name people’s burdens, and leave space for their righteous anger and unjustified suffering, that we might make space for grieving? For loving one another? For feeling loved?

Because, like God who chose to identify with and save us, I have a son who was born into a world looking to kill boys who look like him. When a woman gives birth to a glorious black son in this country there is joy, but there is also a significant heaviness as he grows taller, stronger, faster. I have felt that with a pit in my stomach. Gaspy breath. You should know about that, family. And it should grieve you. Because it isn’t Isaiah’s fault. 

I had to look him in the eyes again this week and give him the talk. No white people, not that talk. I WISH. I wish I got to give him the awkward sex talk again. No. 

Are you listening? For our family and for many in your church family this is the awkward “people might gun you down if you wear a hoodie, if you show any anger (or even if you don’t) in response to aggression you receive, etc talk." The talk where I basically ask him to not be a growing black man

As I'm thinking all about what needs to be said to him, I'm getting texts from other moms having this talk again, and here's a snarky bit: 
“I mean, with the police stuff, it’s clear what we can teach our kids. Do what they tell you. Right away. But with this? What do you tell him? Don’t run outside?” 

You should feel uncomfortable that we had those conversations. Me and my son. Me and my friends. It should bother you. It should change you.

White brothers and sisters, I want you to say “I BELIEVE YOU. I BELIEVE THAT IT IS NECESSARY FOR YOU TO TELL ISAIAH THAT TO PROTECT HIM. I BELIEVE YOU AND IT IS WRONG. 

I want you to say that to my son as he gets older, not treat him like he is exaggerating. I want you loud and clear telling people the truth. Standing firm with us. Less than that is adding to grief in this body.  
  
When you read about Ahmaud Arbery’s life and death, I want you to ask yourself if you’ve been willing to see him as very much like my son, Isaiah. Because we see him that way. You need to listen or you’re refusing to see our pain. I pray these days of lament we will grow in really being a nurturing family, with space for righteous anger.  



Adrianne and her husband Hunter have been part of Northside Church for eight years. They have four children who are made in the image of God. They give all four of them the sex talk. But only one of them really endures the degrading, devastating other talk. Adrianne is thankful she can say things like that in her local church family and people understand and leave space for it.   

Comments

  1. Love you and your whole family so. Thank you for sharing your lament of anger and grief. It is precious in His sight. And in mine.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your words are beautiful. Your anger is beautiful. Thanks for always, always pointing us to Jesus and all the ways he loves us.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The ARC of Racial Justice - a Reflection and Exhortation from Pastor Matt Lorish

Here we are again. The video footage of Ahmaud Arbery is all over social media. It is a time for lament and a time for righteous anger. I write this blog post as a continuation to the initial posts offered by Northside Church members. My aim in this post is to help my fellow white brothers and sisters think about where we go from here. At the close of Jemar Tisby’s book, The Color of Compromise, he introduces a framework that he calls the A.R.C. of racial justice. Using Jemar’s framework, I’d like to humbly offer some application points that I think are important for me and my fellow white sisters and brothers at Northside Church to move towards.

I also write this as a Christian pastor. Christians of all ethnicities are Bible people. The end-game for us isn’t just racial justice. The end-game for us is conformity to Jesus and honoring Him. Racial injustice is one of the areas in which we need God’s Spirit to change us, grow us and conform us (Rom 12:2, 2 Cor 3:18). My prayer is that…

Rehumanization in Realtime: Waging War Against White Supremacy - Charles Lewis

White supremacy kills. One reason why white supremacy kills so easily is because its legacy is one of attempted dehumanization. I say “attempted” because if you are a human being then you are created in the image of God and no power of hell, like that of white supremacy, can take that away from you. However in its attempts to dehumanize – to make us less than human – real cosmic damage can, has, and will continue to occur. 400 years of lives being cut short and livelihoods being plundered; from the plantation to the parkway. It’s easy to cut human life short when you see said life as being just short of human.

The dehumanization process happens by dictating what is truly human through a grid of whiteness, and by divesting persons of color of their freedom to flourish fully in the imago dei that God has given them. Dehumanization – by way of dictation and divestment, has been codified in American law for centuries and has left an indelible imprint on the American consciousness in such…