I was making room on my bookshelves when I ran across Lewis Smedes’ spiritual memoir My God and I (Eerdmans, 2003). Smedes is a beloved and revered theologian, a member of the CRC, who passed away in 2002 soon after handing in the manuscript of this book. I honestly have no idea how the book made its way to my bookshelf and was about to put it on the donate pile but figured I’d read it first. I’m so glad I did.
I was moved by so much of what Smedes wrote, his honest reflection on his life and the way God inserted himself in it, gently and consistently calling Smedes into a deeper relationship with him. A few nights ago I was particularly challenged by this passage where Smedes writes:
“I discovered a long time ago that listening to people who see reality differently than we do is one of the most important parts of discovering the will of God for that reality. Nobody sees reality whole; we all need others to show us the parts of it that they see better than we do. Nobody sees reality with total accuracy; we all need others to correct our own vision. This is why we need to pray for patience to see what is really going on before we decide what God wants us to do about it” (p. 148).
Smedes went on to apply this idea of seeing reality to slavery. No amount of rational thought would convince white folk of the sin of slavery “until their eyes were finally opened to see slaves for what they were—members of the same human family as the masters who owned them, fellow human beings who, like them, wept when they grieved and laughed when they were happy, who aspired to better things for their children, and were as likely as any Calvinist to love the Lord their God. It took courage for people to see what they were afraid to see and hear what they did not want to hear” (p. 149).
I need that courage. Courage to see another point of view. Courage to see how reality is very different for people of color than it is for me, and then to take the time to understand that more fully. Courage to understand how COVID-19 means something very different for those who’ve lost their jobs, business owners, the isolated, for those living in hot spots, for those who have lost one or more family members and friends, for those with compromised immune systems. I need courage to accept that my vision is clouded and I don’t accurately see reality. I need to listen to others. I need courage.
As it turns out, the book isn’t going on that discard pile after all. Praise be to God for continuing to teach through the words of faithful servants like Lewis Smedes.