identity, mask, disguise

Hosting Your Spirit through Race, Faith and Identity Questions

As we finish observing Black History month, perhaps you want to keep doing the work of investigating how race has formed you and your faith. There are many important ways to do this, but I want to highlight the need for safe, hospitable relationships. As we attempt to become aware of and untangle the effects of racist ideology on us and our faith, we may find ourselves not trusting what we previously trusted: a church, a friend, even ourselves or God. Even if this isn’t the case, we still need places where we can safely lower and confront the masks we wear. We need to know deeply that God is present with us in the midst of this disorientation, difficulty, and discovery. Where do we find or cultivate such relationships? One such place is spiritual direction. With a spiritual director, we become aware of the sacred way that God regards us with love, and in his gaze we can safely consider how we have been, and are being, formed.

Our spirits are formed not only by Bible study, prayer, and church practices. In fact, most of our discipling is done in our unconscious day-by-day habits at home, school, and work. These are the locales of our cultural and personal forming. Our cultures disciple us in the shapes and rhythms of our faith and identity. No one can be formed without culture. It is good and necessary to remember that all cultures are gifts of God, intended for social good and our formation, but nevertheless are broken and imperfect. As we face the particularities of the fact that the social construct of race has discipled us in America—including our versions of Christianity—we turn to God to re-shape us. How do we do the hard work of investigating our own racialized discipleship? How do we make space for the Holy Spirit to disciple us into healing the fissures in our individual souls and in our communal soul?

We start with God’s hospitality. God hosts us with grace. His hospitality is always present for us. But often we don’t know it, or we’ve grown distant from the fact that he is giving us life every day. He knows our formational factors; how our places, environments, histories, bodies, and modern day practices all converge on us, exerting their pressures. It is his will to meet you in them, in their particularities. He is there already, hosting you.

Especially when we need to face and say difficult, confusing, painful things about our God, ourselves, our country, or our families, it’s important to do this in the hospitality of God. Any journey into how race has discipled you will require safe spaces and safe people. If you are looking for such a place, I suggest spiritual direction. Spiritual directors are trained to host such spaces, to be the hospital presence of God to his beloved creations. It is our calling and desire to be so. We do considerable, ongoing, personal work so that we can. In spiritual direction you are held in the love of God, welcomed as you are.

An important point to consider as you seek a director is whether you would feel comfortable to share with someone who is a different race from you. Acknowledging where you are, without judgment, is part of hosting yourself honestly. We can only meet God where we are, not where we think we should be. Also look for a director who is doing her or his own work on race, faith, culture, and identity.

There are countless ways you can increase your consciousness of racism, engage in healing and justice, challenge structures and individuals, and be a part of the church’s and nation’s change. We can adopt many spiritual, ethical, and cultural practices that align with Christ’s healing justice. We can join many, many conversations at all levels from family all the way to global. But one of the key needs for anyone to heed the personal voice of God, to travel the choppy waters with him, and to know oneself as His in the midst of all the voices claiming your identity, is to have a regular safe space to be—to be present to Him and self alone, to uncover wounds and to savor delightful discoveries, to be free to be yourself and ask the questions that mumble under the crowd’s noise. This is what a spiritual director offers you. This is what I offer you.

If you have read to the end here, then this post must have resonated with you. Take some time to sit with God, allowing him to stir your spirit. What desire rises to the surface? What action is he inviting you to take?

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May you know the host of your body and soul in this day, the Lord of Hosts.



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