Everyone was laughing, but all I could do was force a half-smile. My skin felt like it was betraying me like a sunburn. I just had to get through the dinner and I’d be okay. I felt angry and awkward and embarrassed. I was engaged and meeting my fiance’s family for the first time. He warned me his extended family could be racist. We sat around a circular table, and I couldn’t escape.
Where do you go when you can’t hide your skin? It’s impossible to disappear.
Shame will always make you want to cover. That moment, with his family, made me want to cover my darkness with something comfortable, like the color white. I just wanted to fit in. The racist jokes were unbearable, but instead of turning the shame back onto the comedian of the night, I turned my shame inward. It became another moment where I just didn’t fit. I wasn’t fully Asian. I wasn’t fully White. I was somewhere in the middle.
I won’t ever forget that night. I won’t forget the way I wanted to scream, cry, and throw something. The racism seemed so obvious to me, but the jokesters were oblivious at the harm they were causing. I did what I normally do: I swallowed the pain and moved on.
I’ve been looking the other way, dismissing my pain and minimizing my feelings my entire life. I’ll never forget last year when an Asian American friend of mine invited me to a conference just for Asian Americans. She texted me the words, “You belong there.” I remember feeling instantly bothered. I was surprised by my knee jerk reaction when she used the word “belong.” The truth is I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere.
Belonging is an embedded human desire. We all want to belong somewhere. We want community, culture, and people who understand us. We want to know we are desired, welcome, and have a seat at the table. When we don’t belong, we are grieved. It’s an ache that rocks us to sleep. The pain is so deep it’s like a hole that tries to swallow us down into a world of darkness. It’s the same kind of darkness I see in our world right now.
As the racism in our country becomes more exposed and fear, pain, and panic escalate, so do our reactions. I am so tempted to find my sense of a belonging with a particular side. I think that’s what has been so tricky for me. I hear things from different sides, and I am torn. No one person, leader, or group fully represents my heart on the issue of racism, and trying to find belonging when I can’t wholeheartedly agree with one side has been futile.
As I try to find my place in all of this, I’m tempted to just bury my head and ignore everything, and I’m tempted to use Scripture or self-pity as weapons, to gather up arguments as ammunition for battle. Like so many, I want to handle my pain apart from God and manage it in my own power. We all want to control how we’re perceived, how others think, how a conversation goes, or what the outcome will be. But when we silence the vulnerable, cup our hands over our ears and only protect our own interests, that’s when our temptation for power is the strongest. And the only force to break it is to worship God.
Power is the attempt to be God, and worshipping Him allows God to be God. It puts us in our place and in a posture where we relinquish our power back to the One who is power and who is in control.
There are still days when I’m tempted to control everything or just bury my head and ignore it all, but I know God is calling me to grow and change. Growth is painful and hard, and it requires me to relinquish control. It means entering parts of my story that are still stinging with pain. But I don’t want to cover my eyes and just get through it the same way I did at that dinner table when cruel jokes were recklessly shot out like bullets. I don’t want to pretend I’m okay. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to go back to the way things were before.
Life will never go back to normal. And though, there is grief in that reality, there is goodness in it as well. When everything has been sifted and shifted, we will find the gift of deeper belonging when we exchange our power for God’s power and find communion with Him. When we don’t feel like we fit anywhere, acceptance can be found when we admit how unaccepted and powerless we feel at times. We become children asking God again and again for help to see and to have hearts to hear. Relinquishing our power to control everything around us and in us means we must break, opening ourselves to true intimacy — to true belonging.
I broke after that dinner party when I cried until there were no more tears. But in the breaking, my hands were pried open to worship the One who made me who I am and in whom I truly belong.
As we do our best to navigate this current season, may we find the belonging we so desperately crave in Christ, the One who laid down His power to reconcile us back to God.
Worship puts us in our place and in a posture where we relinquish our power back to the One who is power and who is in control. -Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve experienced due to rude and callous people. It may sound cliche, but I remember my mother telling me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I would add to that, “Look for something nice or encouraging to say.” Our tongues can be sharp and cutting and combined with a need to feel powerful or in control over someone else, they can be deadly. This line really jumped out at me: “Power is the attempt to be God, and worshipping Him allows God to be God.” It’s hard to be angry and worshipful at the same time. Isn’t it just like God to make worshipping beneficial to us more than it bringing glory to Him? You belong…right here!
Oh, thank you, Bev. I appreciate you!
Over the past six weeks I’ve read countless news stories and blogs. Yours is the first with which *I* can wholeheartedly agree. Every last one of us is broken, and we all need to let God be God; to let Him heal us and grow us as only he can.
Thank you for sharing truth.
“*I* can agree with this and only this because it doesn’t make me look so bad as a racist.”
For shame, in such a beautiful place, Jeanne. Don’t hide your racism and white privilege in Jesus’ name.
Anjuli said she can’t agree wholeheartedly with any one side. I simply stated that I feel the same way. Perhaps that did not come across as I intended, but God knows my heart, and yours. I pray his blessing and favor and peace on you!
Thank you for your response. I hear you and I’m glad my words resonated with you.
Beth Williams says
I’m grieved about the pain you endured with the rude & callous remarks. People can be rude & uncaring. They speak before thinking. Never realizing the harshness of their words. We need to learn to tame our tongues. James 3:5-6, 8-9 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. but no human being can tame the tongue. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.
I say it’s past time we put God back on the throne & let Him lead us & our country. Go back to worshiping Him. Then & only then will our anger cease & we become more loving towards others. You definitely belong right here. Thanks for thoughtful words.
Thank you for your response. I appreciate your encouragement and compassion.
Anjuli, thank you for your courageous and powerful testimony today. May God bless you richly. We need to hear more from you.
Thank you. I’ve found a lot of healing, but I’m sure I need more. Thank you for your compassion.
Thank you for sharing your heart. Your words are a beautiful reminder to not swallow our sorrow and pain but to share it with Our God who hears, heals and uses every bit of it to glorify Him in ways we never imagined.
I understand the heart that just wants to belong, to connect, longing for true intimacy in relationships. I know the feelings of wanting to hide, to escape, to getaway when it’s obvious I’m not like them and they only way to be like them means changing a part of me that cannot be changed. I know the desire to control and the desire to bury and runaway. But I also have experienced the bursting open. The moment when all the pain, all the hurt that we’ve swallowed has filled us to the point we can no longer keep it in. That’s the moment we know we belong to the One who has all the power to keep us and put us back together again. And if He can do it for me and for you we can have hope that He can do it for anyone!
Thank you. The “bursting open” is a painful place, but necessary. It is almost like a “rock bottom.” That is the place we find Jesus…. or Jesus finds us.
Dear Anjuli, you state your pain so eloquently. Thank you for your words to inspire. May you be richly blessed at our Lord’s table, where everyone belongs. I hope someday we can all be as welcoming to each other. Until then, I am so sorry for your pain and for the pain I have sometimes caused in my ignorance and insensitivity. Lord, help me to do better.
Thank you for your kind and compassionate words. I feel so loved.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
This is a different story completely. Nothing to do with skin color. I can feel your hurt. So does Jesus. It not nice. But Jesus loves you. If they knew the true you they look beyond your skin color and look at your heart and you for the beautiful person you are. How would they like it if was them and it said about them. But you did the right thing and Jesus will bless you for it. My story is I have two Sisters. They ask me to meet them now and then. If I don’t they think I am odd. I go for peace sake. We usually meet for coffee. When they get together they forget about me and talk among themselves. I feel do I belong here what am I doing here. Then when they talk to me I say yes I ok. It not nice. I try to join in but I know that they are taking about things that I don’t understand. So that why I wouldn’t join in anyway. It not nice. I do understand what you feel. I say nothing for peace sake. I pray for them my two sisters as they are not saved. Jesus see the hurt they are causing me. That they they don’t know they are causing me. If I said anything they say it all in my head. I know it’s not. I prayed to Jesus about it. He should me this. He said do nothing say nothing. As they are no saved. Until they get saved they will not realize what they are doing is wrong. That they are leaving you out which is not nice. If you said anything a row could go up. They say we only taking to either. No harm in that. I believe for you. Jesus is proud of you for what you did. We have Jesus he see the hurt they are causing he still loves us. We are special to him. He will honour us for keeping quiet and saying nothing. It not nice what people can do. Love Dawn xxx
Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young says
Anjuli, thank you for vulnerably sharing this personal story of racism. This was courageous for you to share. As a multiracial woman myself, I can certainly resonate with so much of what you describe here of being in the middle and wondering where you belong. I’m inspired by your willingness to press into the hard parts of your story and to seek belonging in Christ.
Linda S says
I’m so so very sorry you’ve had to go through such a horrid and humiliating situation because of who you are. There was no call for that from your fiance’s extended family. I’m surprised he didn’t stick up for you and tell his family to stop the bad jokes and stop humiliating you. Though you didn’t say he did. I hope he had the courage to do so. Because that’s what should have taken place.
May God give you extra strength and grace for each day and for any other times you’ve had to endure such treatment. Hugs to you!
Erin Peet says
I always appreciate your thoughtful words and perspectives. Thank you for sharing with us!