The first time I realized Vik and I were an inter-racial couple was in South Africa, 1998. We were holding hands, walking on the beach of Camps Bay and I said, “why is everyone staring at us?”
He said, “four years ago it was illegal to be an inter-racial couple.”
I was stunned by this. I mean, I knew about Apartheid, duh, but we’re an inter-racial couple?
It hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Later we toured the District 6 Museum and I saw, in horror, all of the memorabilia.
Now this was only 4 years post-Mandela election so, even though the posted signs were gone, the culture still existed. The two distinctly different water fountains remained. The black townships and colored townships separated from each other, and far, far from where the white people lived. A lot was much the same as pre-Mandela.
You wouldn’t think so, right? But when it’s always been that way, and you’re settled into it, it takes a lot of time, generations even, to change cultural environments.
If I’m remembering correctly, the definition of apartheid, at least the Afrikaans definition, is “separateness”.
Imagine you are standing in front of two water fountains.
For the sake of the story, you’re white, your child (as is the case with my children) next to you is not. One fountain is marked “Whites Only” and one, the rusty worn down one with the trickle of brown water is marked “Non-Whites”.
This has always bothered you, long before you had kids, but what can you do? You’re thirsty. You didn’t make the rules. You didn’t create the signs. So you do what you gotta do and take a drink. At least there’s water. You drink the clean. Your child drinks the nasty. You feel bad about it.
But your child is used to using the “Non-Whites” fountain, because that’s how it’s always been. They know they are not as highly favored as you are. Do not deserve the good fountain. Even though you tell them they do, and this is unjust, they’re watching your actions and know it’s not true.
Besides, the signs have told them they are “less than” for as long as they can remember. Before you even noticed the pigment.
A new day. New fountains.
Your fountain is in working order with a concerning tint of brown water, but their fountain is completely broken.
But it’s worse.
Theirs is broken, but there are no signs. Just the two fountains. You’ve been trained by now to know which one is not for them. So have they.
There is an unspoken apartheid.
You can still get a drink, and in fact, your child suggests you go ahead. That they’ll be alright. Maybe they say they’re not that thirsty anyway, to make you feel better.
You tell yourself you can give them clean water at home.
But it’s gone on for soooooo long. It goes against everything you’ve ever believed or held dear. You know every time they see you drink they feel less valued by you and by God.
What do you do?
Do you bleach their skin and straighten their hair, and lie and say they are white now? Do you betray your child one more time? Betray yourself? Betray the Spirit inside you saying “don’t you do it!”
Do you seek out a place where there is one fountain with clean drinking water, accessible to everyone?
This is a simple question. Try not to complicate it. Do you drink from a fountain from which your child cannot drink, or don’t you?
What. Do. You. Do?
If you are childless, and need to re-read this story inserting a person that matters to you, please do.
LoveManifest’s mission has always been love. In fact, our statement is, “If Jesus were walking the earth today, where would he go? How would he love? This is our mission.”
I believe Jesus would take that child by the hand, shake the dust from his feet, and keep walking until they could both find a place to drink. Don’t you? It could be any child. Any adult. He would keep walking in search of a safe place for all to quench their thirst, where the water was sparkling clean.
I feel like I followed him right into LOP Community yesterday to witness the dedication of the Edwards twins by Pastor Stan Mitchell. The moms are the very proud, enthusiastic-breathtaking-baby-photo-sharing Erin & Chelsea Edwards. Erin pastors the church with power, and wisdom, humility, and joy, and Chelsea leads worship with the heart of a worshiper, tucked away in the corner with the rest of the team.
As the babies hands, feet, ears and foreheads were anointed by grandma, I cried. Yes, because it was beautiful, but also because of the hope instilled before me.
What blessed babies. What blessed mommas.
I’ve written about LOP before, and being my third visit, I can tell you those first times of “incredible” weren’t a fluke. Third time’s a charm, and this place, and beautiful people are charming indeed. Real, authentic, inclusive of all. Lovers of God and people. Passionate about Jesus, the community they live and breathe in, and each other.
I was also set free a little bit more yesterday. The lemons of the past I hadn’t realized I was still clutching were released. The lemonade of today is sweeter. Tomorrow is wide open and anything is possible.
So if you have one foot out the door, walk if you must, but my God, my God, keep seeking.
Leaving a building, or a toxic theology is not the same as leaving your faith. In fact, it may be the only way to save it. There is a community out there waiting for someone like you to add to its beauty, and bring life back into your soul. Don’t forsake it because you’re angry and disappointed, and by all means, don’t settle.
If you find yourself anywhere near LOP Community at 66 Vine St. Vacaville, California, I encourage you… if you are thirsty for God, for community inside and outside of the walls, for love that spans the entire human race without exception… come inside. There’s room for you. There’s room for your kid, too. For everyone’s kid.