Love in the Time of Activism

They’re saying the revolution is starting here – that Prince foretold it, and we are living it. Police forces are changing. More white people are realizing that systemic racism is OUR problem to solve. Companies and business leaders are making substantive investments. For instance, my former employer, Thomson Reuters, is making a significant contribution to rebuilding efforts, and the founder of Reddit is giving up his board seat to make room for an African American director.

At the same time, many of my white peers and colleagues are spinning, wondering what they can do to make an actual difference. There are great articles online (Like this one listing 75 things we can do), bank black challenges (I set up a savings account for my kids with One United), reading lists galore (Here’s one from Ibram X. Kendi), animations of Something Happened in Our Town and articles for the white parents of a black child’s friends to help us talk with kids about racism, and loads of suggestions for how to respond when someone says All Lives Matter on social media.

I’ve been to 38th and Chicago and prayed where George Floyd died. I’ve smelled the charred ruins of Lake Street and in that moment felt: shock, awe, and shame that so much grief, anger, desperation and hopelessness sat at the surface a short bike ride from my home. That I’ve walked through this life and this city intellectually accepting that racism exists but having no visceral connection to it. It wasn’t in my body until I could smell it – burned out buildings smell like the chemicals in a dentist office to me – and until I heard the quiet praying and full-throated preaching in the middle of that intersection.

From The New Yorker, June 4, 2020, by Victor Varnado

If all people are my people, and if our God is the God of love who loves all of us, then this pain has to be my pain, and fixing this has to be my responsibility. Not fixing all of it, but contributing. Planting seeds. Being uncomfortable and creating space for other people to feel their discomfort and move through it. As Ibram X. Kendi says, it’s not enough to be not racist, we have to be actively anti-racist.

That is going to look different for all of us. My husband and I talk a lot about which oar we should pick up. What’s our lane for activism? We talk with our kids and fill their bookshelves with diverse books. (My 11-year-old loves Nic Stone and Angie Thomas in particular, while our daughter prefers biographies of Harriet Tubman.) We give money to food relief and we march and put up signs in our yard. We write letters to the county attorney and sign petitions supporting 8can’t wait.

And still I feel like we’re just getting started. Like I haven’t pushed my comfort zone. It’s all been easy. And I get lots of likes on social media for it so that’s awesome too. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. My inner voice – the clarity that comes from sitting with myself and asking God to change me – is telling me it’s time to risk more. As the hymn says, “I will come to you in the silence….Stand up now, walk and live.”

Similarly, Father Clay tells us to find our growth in the silence. So, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and I’m going to create space for my inner knowing to tell me what to do next. Where to show up next, where to stick my neck out next. How to help my kids work through their confusion. There is no shortage of ideas and inspiration on the internet. I’ve accepted that I have to DO SOMETHING. I will listen and learn and do, above the noise, through the quiet, with love and empathy. Will you join me?

Love Your Neighbor As You Love Yourself

I don’t think we really know the reason why some people grow deeper than others. Sometimes it can be the environment we are in, the way we were brought up, the people we associate with, sometimes the ways we are challenged by people who are different. This can be very helpful. If we only talk to our own kind, we will never grow. I love to talk to my own kind. They think just like I do, and it feels wonderful. It is easy and it feels good, but it doesn’t bring any spiritual growth.

As I mentioned before, the other thing that helps is to meditate – and this can be done whether you believe in God or not, but for those of us who believe in God, God is the deep, infinite, mysterious love. Meditation helps us realize that we have so much to learn and that we are basically extremely ignorant and not that wonderful morally, although underneath there is the goodness that we all have.

As we meditate and allow the love to come in, we can say, Love change me. Don’t keep me like I am. Change me, but don’t change met he way I want to be changed, because that’s no good. Change me the way you want, any way you want.

That’s hard. I notice that I fudge sometime s when I say, God, change me the way you want. It’s like saying, “Lord, make me pure, but not quite yet.” There are places we do not want to go, and as we meditate and surrender to this great love that is God, we will be drawn in directions that we don’t want to go. But it’s good.

We can pray about this. Just sit back and relax. Close your eyes and keep your back straight. Breathe slowly and deeply, slowly and deeply. Let the cares, the worries, the fears, the hates, the angers, the vengeance, the cruelty, the bitterness, loneliness, despair and depression fall away.

We are surrounded by love, the love we name God. That love holds us, embraces us, cradles us, looks at us tenderly and with compassion. That love lives deep within our souls and bubbles up with powerful, healing energy.

Gracious love, help us to surrender to the love that you are, the love that knows us deeply and loves us, a love that is interested only in our goodness and growth and what is truly good for us. Loving God, help us to understand that what we think is good for us is not necessarily so. As we meditate and pray, help us to surrender a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more. This journey is too difficult, too hard, and too scary to do all at once.

Loving God, as much as we can, although we are scared, we invite you to come into the depths of our souls to change and transform us. We surrender to you, loving God, all the things that are in us, the things we think are good, the things we think are bad, the ideas and opinions that we have. We surrender to you all the things we hold most precious. Loving God, we invite you to change us in any way you chose.

God bless you

Excerpted from “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” by Father John Clay, from Awesome Love, 2013

One thought on “Love in the Time of Activism

  1. Katie – I pray asking God to help me become who He wants me to be everyday. We believe that God works through people; you are one of those people. I ask myself “how can I help” and you have given me ideas and ways of helping. Thank you for sharing your ‘s and Fr. Clay’s thoughts on LOVE and life.


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