His Look of Fear Haunts Me

The Sunday before Alton Sterling was shot in Baton Rouge, before Philando Castile died in the front seat of his car, before five officers were shot in Dallas, and others in Georgia, Tennessee, and Missouri, before all of that bloodshed, I got a glimpse into the fear that black men in our nation live with.

We were in Philadelphia and had traveled to the core of the city to visit Eric Mason’s church, Epiphany Fellowship. It’s a diverse, multi ethnic body of believers sharing the gospel in the heart of Philly. We loved worshiping with this body. We made some new friends and are excited about how God is using them to spread His glory there. (If you live in the area, you need to check it out!).

As we left the service and made our way through the inner city streets, we came to a crosswalk where a young couple stood waiting to cross. LeRoy slowed to a stop and we waved for them to cross in front of our car. I’ll never forget the look on that young man’s face. He shook his head sternly at us—just a few feet from us—he held his ground, there was no way he was going to walk in front of our vehicle.

His stubborn refusal to step in front of our parked car spoke volumes to me.

His face haunts me.

He’s lived with the fear of white people to such an extent that he wasn’t willing to step into the street in front of our vehicle. He didn’t trust us to let him cross unharmed.

What has he experienced that he would fear us to that extent? What has he seen or heard that would convince him we would harm him if we had the chance?

I wanted to roll down my window and speak to him. I wanted to let him know that we wouldn’t hurt him. But I don’t know that he would believe me.

Just four days later, I see that same fear. As we watch the violence in Dallas erupt, I think of that young man, and I wonder what it is like to grow up in a world where you fear people who look differently than you. I think about the years of conflict between the races in my nation and I wonder how to address this, how to reach out with the gospel message that is the only hope for unity.

The day after Dallas, on Friday, I’m struck by the awareness that the Dallas event is on everyone’s minds. We stop for lunch in Missouri, we sit at a table next to an older black couple. I smile at her, she smiles at me, he looks down at his plate. I know they are both thinking of Dallas. And we are, too.

As we leave the restaurant, a young family is coming in. LeRoy is still paying the bill at the counter, and I step outside, but I hold the door for the little girl that is leading the way for her family. They are black, I am white.

I’ve never felt more aware of my skin color than today.

The mom looks at me and smiles, I smile and speak. And I know they are thinking of Dallas. This day, there is a strange uncomfortable air every time we exchange looks with a person of color, something unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced. It’s like everyone is on edge. Everyone is dealing with the fear of what will happen next. Everyone seems more keenly aware of the color divide.

It seems everywhere I turn, I encounter suspicious looks and fearful eyes.

This is not how God intends for us to live among each other. He has a better plan than what we see splashing across our news screens. There will come a day when every color and every tongue will be united by one thing. The redeeming work of Christ will be the perfect bond of love and unity that will hold us.

The redeemed of every tribe, tongue, and nation will unite our voices in worship. And fear will be completely vanquished.

[box]And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10)[/box]

[box]Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6–7)[/box]

We must hold high the gospel as we discuss these issues. The gospel provides the only hope for lasting unity. The gospel favors no color, no ethnicity, no class. The gospel sheds love abroad equally.

How are you dealing with the horrors of this past week?

How are you praying for our nation?

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  • Kathryn

    The horrors of this past week have caused me to pause and consider how much our nation needs to turn to the Lord. How much families need to turn to the Lord. How much I need to turn to the Lord. I am praying that God draws His church and helps each of us to see what our hands are to be about in both small and large ways. I am praying. Praying for repentance and praying for lavish grace. God bless you Kim.

  • Julie Musil

    I’ve been praying for our nation as well. I appreciate how our church paused to pray for our nation as well this past Sunday. It’s strange because I never paid much attention to race before. We have friends of all races. All of this also division and anger makes me so sad.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Great way to pray right now, Kathryn! Oh, that God would bring revival through these tragic times. We so desperately need Him! Our nation needs to turn in repentance, joining you in that prayer ~

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Yes, it is so sad, Julie. Praying God will use our broken condition to awaken the church, and to turn our nation’s focus and hearts to Him!

  • Gail

    I love what our dear friend and Bible study leader Beth Moore said in her Bible study, Breaking Free. ” The over turning of Prejudice will come to those who willfully unite to magnify the name of Jesus!”
    “It takes coming back together, building up and magnifying the one and only name of Jesus Christ. In this we find unity in the midst of all our differences. IN the power of His Name!We need to take action, to reach across denominational barriers and racial lines or we will be in big trouble. We need one another.”
    (Hope ok to quote from her study. It just fits so well and this was from years ago.)

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Good word, Gail! Thank you for sharing this. Willfully uniting with the goal of magnifying Jesus is our only hope. Real unity can only be found through the fellowship provided by the Spirit of God residing in us! The gospel is what will break down the barriers that divide.

    Thank you for sharing, friend ~