Thoughts from 6/9
Que pasa mi gente! The New Abbey blog post has returned. But if you’re like me, you may be saying, “never knew it was around in the first place.” In our efforts to continue to tell the biggest story about God in Los Angeles 2019, we want to open as many outlets of conversation our community can offer. For those of you still mulling over that conversation we had the previous Sunday, here’s a chance to continue that reflection and share something yourself if you want.
Alright! If you weren’t at one of our gatherings this past Sunday, Brittany “Beans” Barron preached from Deuteronomy 10.17-21 and spent most of her time looking at one verse in particular -- v.19, “you must love immigrants because you were once immigrants in Egypt.” At the edge of the promise land, God is preparing the Israelites to be a community that strives towards maturity with multiple rhythms of healing and transformation to help them grow as a community.
As Brit pointed out, one of the greatest obstacles to our communal and personal healing is how we deal with our pain. At New Abbey we say all of the time, “hurt people hurt people.” Put more eloquently, Richard Rhor says, “if you don’t transform your pain, you’ll transmit it your pain.” In other words, if we don’t take the steps to deal with and process our hurts, anger, sadness, ect., They will explode or spill onto people in our lives, perpetuating the cycle of oppression and grief.
God connects the communal pain of the people to the possible pain they could perpetrate onto others. God knows how unstoppable the cycle of transmitting pain can be and reminds Her people that recognizing and processing their pain can eventually open a door to a new way forward.“A door through which people find their pain not only healed but transformed so they become capable of walking others through similar pain -- “love immigrants because you were once immigrants in Egypt.”
But let’s be honest, learning how to sit with your pain SUCKS. It’s easy to say “pain can be our professor”, but it’s a whole other thing to actually do the work of sitting with that professor. Sometimes, the process can seem unfair, even unjust. One of the best examples of that comes from Black Panther. Oppressive economic and police forces had ghettoized Erik Stevens (Killmonger) and his Oakland community, his Uncle killed his dad and told no one to keep an Empire’s narrative going, a military industrial complex channeled his rage only to perpetrate pain onto others, and then some of his Wakandan family refused to accept him upon his return. Erik had been dealt so much pain in his life; vengeful deconstruction seems pretty fair. However, at a second glance you can see how little space Erik had to process his pain, and you wonder what could have happened if he found another way to process the hurt. Would he have found enough healing to return to Wakanda a different way? Obviously, Wakanda has issues with outsiders, with “the other.” What better Wakandan to help change that than one who felt like an outsider, an “other?” Erik’s tragic narrative portrays the reality Beans reminds us of, “if you don’t deal with your hurt, you’ll become it.” Seeing how consumed Erik had become with anger against his colonizers, T’Challa warns Erik that his anger transmitted on Wakanda would turn it completely into the people he hated so much, would transform him into an oppressor.
Don’t get me wrong, I still stand by the slogan “Killmonger was right!” but I do want to practice mindfulness of my own hurts and urge others to do the same. Personally, I need to sit with the pain of exclusion and discrimination others have transmitted onto me. I need to process the self-loathing I store up inside for not feeling Puerto Rican enough. No doubt, this is a hard journey, but we’re not alone in this. We have outlets of prayer, counseling, small[er] groups, AA meetings, ect.
So, que piensas familia? What pains in your life do you need to sit with? Who are those peeps you need to walk with? What can you do to find that transformation to slow that cycle of transmitted pain and put into the motion that cycle of healing for yourself and people just like you.