Recently I caught a little of the documentary, “Shut Up and Dribble” and it got me to thinking how people constantly try to box you in. This infamous statement was made by a newscaster who found herself perturbed that LeBron James, a black NBA player would dare to use his platform to speak against racial ills. After a breathy run of statements attacking James for leaving high school to join the NBA it ended with, “shut up and dribble.” Undoubtably her monologue was shrouded in racism, but for this blog that is not what I’m focusing on exactly.
Like LeBron, I have had incidences where someone attempting to minimize my personhood fired off a crass statement. One of the most notable occurred while speaking with the assistant to a pastor I once sat under. I went to the office to speak with him about receiving a call to a church. For those unfamiliar with the term call, it is when you are selected for a pastoral or otherwise ordainable position in ministry. Although I completed seminary, had been licensed as a minister; in my home church one could not get ordained as a Reverend without having a commissioned church position.
I went to the office excited to discuss how I wanted my ordination to flow. His assistant asked me why I was there, excited I told her, “I’ve been called and need to talk to Pastor about ordination.” She also was excited, well initially as not many women got ordained in our church. Then she asked where I would be serving, to which I replied, “I’ve been chosen to serve as Interim Pastor of so and so Baptist church.” Her face flattened as she said, “Ooh just interim.” The half second between her statement and my response seemed like an eternity, as somewhat deflated I replied, “there are no just with God!”
That conversation occurred nearly 10 years ago. As I write this, I am days away from celebrating 10 years of ordained ministry. I can say honestly say nothing about my first ministry assignment, nor any of them, nor in any position I've held as a therapist I have I operated from the position of just being... Everything I have done has been with a spirit of excellence understanding first and foremost the privilege it is to sit with individuals through the greatest joys and deepest sorrows of their life. Changemaking can be done from any position, at any age, any social economic background or educational status. LeBron James gets this. While he is a phenomenal basketball player being a basketball player is not all he is. Reframed, basketball is what he does, not who he is. In his case the statement was spoken by a white woman; in mine another African American. Both statements were meant to “put us in our place” said attempting to “dim the magnificence of our personhood in hopes of limiting the vision of reach we’d dare imagine operating from in the positions we found ourselves.”
During this global pandemic much has been illuminated, one of the greatest being how one can be a changemaker. We have witnessed grocery store workers deemed essential. While doctors and nurses have been called heroes, this title must also be extended to the janitorial staff called to sanitize those spaces. We see children collecting food for needy families and making care packages for hospital workers. No, we don’t have to shrink to fit the “just” box whomever is suggesting for us. Such spaces often prove to be nothing more than an invitation to be sedentary, lack growth and limit your vision. Little souls it gives their egos wings to feel yours are clipped. Have you checked your wingspan lately? “You were faithful over a few things; I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master! (Mattew 25:23)” Remember there are no “just” with God!
May Your Hope Be Full,