At least among those I’ve read this summer. Waking Up White by Debbie Irving was a June read.
I heard of this book through colleagues earlier in the spring and was intrigued. And when I saw it on the bookshelf in the condo we lived in for a week, I quickly picked it up … and hardly put it down until I finished.
Saying it was one of the most influential books I’ve read recently might be an understatement.
Author Debbie Irving and I both grew up in the northeast, she in Massachusetts, me in New Jersey. We were both baby boomers. And that is just the beginning of all we had in common.
As I read her words story after story came to mind. Like the one when my friend Shira (not her real name) and I sat in the coffee shop across from each other. As ministry moms and moms with pre-school children, there was oodles to talk about. Then this stray thought almost stopped our conversation. Sue, you and Shira are sitting here like friends and Shira is African American! I’m ashamed that this surprised me. But until that point I never had a friend who did not share my race. Ouch!
In Waking Up White, Debbie candidly shares her journey. The short chapters ending with a few think about questions ministered deeply to me as I identified with so much.
One chapter, Intent versus Impact, both encouraged and left me feeling insecure. Debbie wrote about an event she was planning that she specifically invited some of her African American friends to participate in. Her intent was pure. However, at the evaluation she learned how the event impacted her friends … in a very negative way. She was shocked. I would have been too.
A few days later I sat on a plane next to an African American lady. I was scared! Not of her, but of how my intent to be friendly might be perceived by her. It took till the end of the flight for conversation to happen.
My heart is to love well everyone God brings across my path. Waking Up White is helping me understand how important and how hard that journey is.
I don’t do 40 day things.
I rarely use devotional books.
God broke through both barriers and I’m so glad he did.
Each short chapter is loosely patterned after the practice of Lectio Divina. Lectio is a practice birthed in the 1500’s to foster listening to God. It was designed to help God’s voice come alive in very personal ways. Bonnie’s desire is to “create space for your soul to breathe and revitalize you soul with God’s love.” p.xviii.
Bonnie also writes very vulnerably. Unlike Waking Up White her story is very different from mine. Yet her reflections and the offering of 2 or 3 questions in each short chapter guarantees the content has been personalized.
The scripture Bonnie highlights on day 3 is Mark 6:31, “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” That particular week, Bill and I were living in a dorm with 150 college students for a week. It was not quiet! But I found a delightful pond just down the street and I enjoyed the swing while sitting and reflecting. After a while, I penned these words …
I’m here with you God.
I’m here for you God.
I’m here to experience you God.
I’m here to be loved in a new way by you God.
I’m here to know you in a new way God.
I’m here for others God.
I’m here to be here God.
They became my prayer for the week.
“Come away with me by yourselves
to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
(I started this book on June 2. Today on July 12, I was up to day 21. LOL)