I read One: Unity in a Divided World fully intending to write a review of it when I finished. But it turns out that this was an Esther book for me, a “for such a time as this” book, a book whose message I needed desperately at this exact moment in my life. So I’m responding far too personally for a normal review. It felt like a wise and experienced friend took me by the hand to tutor and disciple me in the art and beauty of reconciliation, forgiveness, oneness with myself, others, and God.
To sum up: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I highly recommend it, and I think you should read it, whomever you are.
Here are the top 5 things I learned from reading Deidra Riggs‘ wonderful book:
#5 I have to deal with my own heart before I can address injustice or enter discussions about unity.
When I bought this book, I expected it would lead me to think about unity and diversity. I ended up thinking far more about forgiveness. Anger. The conflict in my own life.
I expected a book about the issues out there in the world. What I got was a book about the issues in my own heart, in my front yard, in my church, my friendships, my world.
I don’t have all this figured out; I’m on the same journey you’re on. I struggle with wanting what I want when I want it. I struggle with making sure my anger doesn’t guide me when faced with injustice or naysayers or angry people who try to quiet me down. I have to work at not putting other people down so that, when compared to my version of them, I come out smelling like roses. (ch. 1, A Soul that Hears Well)
#4 I need to move from the judgment seat to the mercy seat.
Our tendency to take on God’s role of judge stands in the way of our experience of reconciliation and unity. God sits on both the judgment seat and the mercy seat. But only He can see all and know all and only He can judge. He has shown mercy to us, so we can trust His judgment.
When we face a situation that makes us estranged from another person…we might consider the incident an opportunity to hear and embrace God’s invitation to us to move from the seat of judgment to the seat of mercy when viewing the other person… (ch. 3, What Do We Do About Evil and Injustice?)
I am in the midst of some pretty major conflict at the moment. I’m having imaginary arguments with real people in my crazy brain and since I’m making up both sides, I always win. After reading this, I’ve begun picturing God standing before two chairs. I’m sitting in the judgment seat, making my case of why they are WRONG and I am RIGHT. I look in God’s eyes and hear Him inviting me. So I get up out of the judgment seat and move over into the mercy seat. I receive God’s mercy, I ask Him for help to see others through eyes of His mercy.
This has been one of the most life-giving spiritual activities I’ve ever engaged in.
#3 Brokenness is God’s way in, but we break in different ways.
ONE uses glass as a beautiful metaphor for brokenness. Hot glass will break when you put cold water in it. Sometimes it cracks down the middle, sometimes it explodes. Deidra says our hearts are like this – too much stress, pain, hurt and we either break open (making room to let God in) or break apart (often causing tremendous damage to those around us.)
When we allow the world around us to divide our attention and distract us from believing in the power of God to overcome evil, we surrender our faith to the storm. This is the true danger of brokenness. When the world – with its worries, fears, grief, and strife – presses in on us, we can succumb to the impulse to look away from God, instead of toward Him. The true danger of brokenness is that we allow it to keep us, even lead us, away from God, from others, and from ourselves…
In your own life, have your heartbreaks and disappointments served as an open door or a dividing wall? (Ch. 7 Our Breaking Point)
#2 Being agents of God’s reconciliation and redemption in the world requires the Holy Spirit and Holy Imagination
Our world is full of chaos, and evil is REAL. We can’t just join hands and sing Kumbaya. But we also can’t give in to fear, and we’re motivated by fear more than we realize. We run away, we hide, we avoid, we stick with old ways of doing things rather than asking God what new way He might be making through the fear and chaos. And without meaning to or even realizing it, we often act as if evil is greater than God, as if there is no hope. ONE invites us to “surrender our imaginations to the will and the wonder of the Spirit”:
When we see the world burst apart under the stress of terror and fear, oppression and despair, we are the ones who know this is not all there is. We reach forward, expecting that God is doing something new, even when we find it impossible to believe. We reach as far as we can, and then the Spirit of God extends our reach and transforms our perspective so that is one with His. (Ch. 8 Beyond Our Wildest Imagination)
#1 I prioritize white voices when I read about Christian faith.
Years ago, I began intentionally diversifying what I read and watched. Some of this was the result of bringing a brown body into our family (and being embarrassed that it took that for me to see how white our books and entertainment tended to be.) But also as my awareness of racial injustice and violence grew, I realized I’d been seeing the world from a very white place. And I wanted to fix that.
As I read ONE and listened to Deidra’s depth of experience and compassion handling issues of forgiveness, I am embarrassed to admit I was surprised. I expected to learn from her about diversity, about racism, about her life and story. But I wasn’t expecting to learn to learn to see Jesus in new and deeper ways in my own life. Why was I surprised to learn so much from a woman of color (whom I respect and have already learned much from)?
Because my Bible teachers and the writers I tend toward, the writers available to me, have primarily been white. I have sought out men and women of color to teach me about diversity, but I’m realizing I wasn’t expecting them to have much to teach me in other areas. That is gross and ugly to me, but I think it’s important to confess.
Women and men of color have a perspective on all things of faith, and I want that broader perspective. But it will take work to get it. I watched a conversation on Twitter last week where multiple women of color shared that when they are asked to submit for Christian magazines or online outlets, it is nearly always and only in the area of diversity and race. I am a part of that problem.
I have much to learn.
Have you read ONE: Unity in a Divided World yet??
I wish I’d read this as part of a book club, it is a book that lends itself beautifully to discussion. Instead, I’ve talked about it non-stop to people in my life, and I’m talking about it here. Read it, and tell me what you think!