By Kathy Khang
It has been a difficult time to hope, but that night my husband and I hoped.
There were only two cars in the massive parking lot. Well, three if we counted the car parked waaaaaay out there. Two cars parked close enough to the entrance to indicate that the drivers intended to go inside.
Inside was supposed to be a prayer meeting responding to the racially motivated massacre of nine black sisters and brothers attending their weekly Wednesday night Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. Inside the mini-megachurch building was supposed to be a place to grieve, pray, cry out to God, challenge one another, and comfort one another.
Peter and I held our breath as we drove, nervously wondering aloud if we would know anyone there. We hoped we would.
But there were only two cars. We didn’t even pull into a parking spot. My husband squeezed my hand while the car idled in the middle of the driveway, and he asked, “Are you up for this?”
No. I was not up for this.
Every few months I have the privilege of writing 700-ish words here, and every few months a part of my heart wonders, “Are readers ready for this? Will they get tired of hearing from a writer who carries her heart and her gender and her ethnicity on her sleeve all the time?”—and hopes, “Yes!” I blog, write, and tweet quite freely but not without cost, and every other issue I sit down to share a bit of God’s invitation to me and extend it to you. But I am not always sure if you are up for this.
No, I was not ready to walk into that church building—a building we had visited years ago during our search for a new church home. A building, like several others, we had entered and exited with nary a member greeting us, welcoming us, or inviting us to stay awhile. A church where people looked at us, handed us a bulletin, but never spoke with us. A church that was open for a prayer meeting to respond to racism with two cars in the parking lot. No, I was not ready. Thanks, but no thanks to that prayer meeting.
But here I am a week later wondering what would have happened had we walked in. What would we have learned, heard, and seen? Would we, could we have been surprised? From what I could gather, only two people were at the prayer meeting. But two faithful and brave souls had clung to hope. They were ready for this. Had we walked in, three or more would have gathered in God’s name. What would have happened? What could have happened?
Every time I sit down to write or tweet the same kind of exchange happens internally. Will people understand? Will they be willing to engage? Are my sisters and brothers in Christ honest when they say they want to know more? Every Sunday morning after the alarm goes off, I find myself wondering if I’m ready. We attend a predominantly white church with strong Swedish Covenant influences, and every Sunday, after Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston, after #BlackLivesMatter, #TakeItDown (in reference to the Confederate flag), and the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality I have to ask myself, “Are you up for this?”
I can’t imagine I am alone, but that is what the Enemy wants me and you to believe—that we are alone in our wandering and wondering, that we are alone in our questions and our doubts, that we are alone in hoping for opportunities to learn and effect change. Feeling alone leaves us hopeless—and not up for anything. Being alone is far from the blessed community Christ calls us to.
Which brings me back to that prayer meeting and probably back to every Sunday morning. God, what is your invitation to me and to us every time we feel like we aren’t up for it?