A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
In 1997, someone handed me a small piece of paper with the first part of this verse: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”
I gripped it and clung to it in hope that the trial I was experiencing would eventually pass and I would have survived it.
Only today, as I sat in the Seedbed.com New Room Conference in Houston did the rest of that verse register with me: “In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;”. If that part of the verse had been included on that day it likely would have terrified me and I would have cast it away from me in fear……. I would have known at the core of my being that God was visiting justice upon me, then and there, for I alone and my own choices were ultimately the cause of the trial in which I found myself. But even as I struggled under the burden of the trial, I felt the Lord’s Presence and Love for me in a personal and intimate way…like seeing a Father in tears as He finds it necessary to sternly discipline His child.
God is a holy and just God. He does not overlook my rebellion and dishonor. He did not excuse my ignorance; I had no excuse for ignorance. He had told me what was right and I had disregarded it. Even so, the discipline I received was a blessing. It could have been so much more painful and consequential. But He was merciful and kind and instructed my heart while breaking it, promised that He would renew it better than its previous twisted, contorted, and toward-self-turned misshapen form.
And so, today, in hindsight I see the justice of God in my own life. And there is no reason to believe that any of my further transgressions have been or will go uncorrected……
And not only mine, but those of God’s church and those of the nations on whom God has shown favor only to be pushed aside with disdain and disregard by its leaders and its fat and complacent citizens…… of which I am one. ( CBB 9/21/23)
LATER IN THE EVENING…. We are asked by conference leaders to reflect and respond to these questions in small groups:
What is te Spirit revealing to me?
How am I to respond?
When I was in graduate school in a diversity class, I was resistant to the idea that I (and today’s white Christians like me) are the entire problem of the racial divide in America and have the responsibility for the wrongs of generations past. I grew up in what felt like lower middle class, I had no animosity toward blacks. We attended school, played sports, and seemed to be living together and encouraging each other. …. at least by the 70s, post Vietnam….
When a black speaker today said America is not our native land….. West Africa is not his native land. Eden is our native land…. I cheered. YES! That is truth. The Kingdom of God is our native land!
The native land of all who believe in God, follow Christ, and embody the Holy Spirit! (I’m reminded, too, of how much I love the Switchfoot’ song “Native Tongue!”)
A dam broke. I felt both hope and pain at the realization of how I and others have missed the point and how that hope and pain originates in the heart of the Father who sees his beloved children divided, striving against, hurting, and hurting one another.
Then Jonathan “J.T.” Tremaine Thomas in such a beautiful, challenging way touched that place of resistance or denial of personal responsibility I’d had in grad school. But instead of pushing it aside I realized that though I and my generation (for the most part) had not personally perpetrated the injustices and violence of the past, we are the ones who stand in this moment and in the shadow of those generations’ actions and we do have a responsibility to listen, hear, understand, accept responsibility for being proactive in bringing about further change and healing.
I repented of my, and also white evangelical Christian culture’s failure to understand, of which I am a part, and failing to respond empathically in the larger racial context. I voiced that repentance to several black sisters at the stage in tears. I thought I had lived a broad-minded and accepting life, appreciating civil rights movements, etc. Not indulging liberal guilt, but simply being a kind and merciful person to others.
But NOW I think I finally “Get it.” And I am going to pray for the ways and opportunities to communicate it to my peers and demonstrate not so much my insights or understanding but my recognition that I have been resistant and clueless and am now willing to really listen with a heart being formed into the shape and sensitivity of the Father’s.