The Discomfort Challenge

These are the beastly hot days of summer and the heat and humidity make life uncomfortable. Not only do we like to be comfortable in terms of our creature comforts; we like to be comfortable in terms of the company we keep.

Life is generally comfortable for those of us in the dominant culture. If we are White, speak English, and live an easy life (i.e. we have a roof over our heads and enough food to eat), we tend to be comfortable almost anywhere we choose to be.

But I have a summer challenge.

What if those of us who experience very few situations in which we are uncomfortable culturally challenged ourselves to intentionally seek an uncomfortable situation for the sake of the Gospel? I believe this might help us – White People – better understand what our neighbors go through as People of Color, People of Languages other than English, and People whose financial situations are tenuous. I’m thinking about this:

  • If you are never in a situation in which you are the only White person, where might you go to experience what it’s like to be a minority in terms of skin color?
  • If you are never in a situation in which you are with poor people, where could you go to spend time talking with folks who live in a shelter or pick up free vegetables from a church parking lot?
  • If you are never in a situation where everyone is speaking a different language from you, where could you go to spend time with those speaking a different language from your own?

When I hear people (and often Church People) complain about “the Mexicans” or “the people who won’t go back to work after receiving COVID checks” or “the Blacks” or “the gays” or “the Fundamentalists” or “the Liberals” I wonder how proximate we are to “those people.”

Chances are that our only access to people we complain about or have a bias against is through media. And the media is notorious for sharing half truths that divide us.

So I am challenging each of you – White readers – put yourself in an uncomfortable place this week. Take a book to read a library in a predominantly Black or Brown neighborhoods, go eat in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, visit a park where you are the other person who looks like you. And ask God to reveal something holy. This is not an anthropological experiment. This is an openness to connect with people we tend to ignore.

Jesus intentionally put himself in what the rest of us would call uncomfortable situations. But he was comfortable because he understood that all people are God’s people. To my White siblings: consider this a spiritual discipline for these summer days.

Image from a famous story in 2019 in which three young Black men invited an older White women to join them for dinner in Oxford, Alabama when she was eating alone. We can only hope we would do the same.

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