What does it mean to choose love?


My timeline this morning is full of quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And it should be. I’m encouraged by this as this year has far more participation–at least online–in my circles than previously. Many of my local friends are braving the cold today to march in one of the several marches in local cities. (I’m under the weather and bummed to not be able to join in).

I would like to encourage us all to pause today and choose to go deeper. As one friend reminded us, Black Lives Matter has a higher approval rating right now, than Dr. King did when he died. A dead Dr. King is a safe person for the white moderate–that King himself spoke reprovingly of–to lionize. So many of us are sharing his quote about choosing love because hate is too great a burden to bear.

And choosing love is a powerful thing to do, but it is not a fluffy, feel-good sentiment. What does it mean to choose love from the standpoint of the oppressed? Too many of us sharing that today as our token of tribute to Dr. King will never know what it feels like to stand where he stood, or to stand where our siblings who are black, brown, indiginous, people of color are standing still.

Dr. King choosing love over hate was powerful and sacrificial. If our love is not likewise, then it does us no good to share that quote. We cannot use this day to try to pacify feelings of guilt by throwing up a token that we are comfortable with. Love is not comfortable. Love is not easy. Love always seeks the betterment of the person or people being loved.

And we as Americans of white, European descent cannot say we love our siblings of other descents and origins if we are not seeking their total well-being in all spheres of life. To love is to put the needs of the loved one above our own needs, but all too often we don’t even seek to bring the needs of those who don’t look like us up to the same level of importance as our own.

How long will we ask our siblings to wait for equality? How long will we be content to benefit from the systems of white supremacy that have been in place from the foundations of the nation without questioning them?

I’m not asking us to feel some sort of ancestral guilt for people’s actions that we did not know or see. I’m asking us to take responsibility for the systems of oppression that are currently in action. I’m asking us to realize that white people are the system and that all it takes is the inaction of the many to promote the active supremacy goals of the few. We must tear these systems down in order to promote the mutual thriving of every resident of this nation. None of us are free until all of us are free. None of us have true justice until all of us have true justice. And a love that is comfortable and isn’t calling us deeper isn’t really love.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Intentions, Repentance, and Free Speech: Ruby Woo Day 1


Let me tell you, folks, getting here feels like a major accomplishment. I don’t know what it all was, but this week has been a major struggle. I had anxiety and panic-type flares for lack of a better term. And I’m super tired from getting everything ready to leave, and then plane, uber, hotel, straight into a meeting with no buffer because I was the last to arrive tonight, so I’m sort of wide open with the help of an IPA from the hotel bar. But now I’m tucked in and in yoga pants and I’m decompressing.

The trip leaders/facilitators lead us through a community-building exercise that started with a community safety agreement, which was fabulous. We were asked to imagine a person that we felt comfortable confessing to when we had messed up/sinned. And then in a word or phrase we shared aspects of what we thought of when we thought of that person. This sparked conversation about what we wanted to see in community throughout the trip and got us to go deeper faster I guess for lack of a better term in the sense that we have a lot of intense ground to cover in a short time and we needed a framework to help us get there.

We talked about intention vs. impact and which do we hold or can we hold them both or do we center impact. This is important in a multi-racial space because white folks often like to center intention when they do something that causes harm as though saying, “well, I didn’t mean too…” is some kind of get out of jail free card. This dovetails with a discussion I was having earlier this week regarding people treating repentance as a get out of jail free card, much like some do with the concept of free speech as though that means there should be no consequences for anything people say, when in reality free speech means you don’t get jailed for what you say, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get fired from your job or experience other personal consequences.

In Christian tradition, true repentance should be about facing and even welcoming the consequences of one’s actions as a path to make things right again. Repentance was never meant to be a “get-out-of-jail-free” card.

In the same way, some people–especially white folks in the context of talking about race–seem to think that as long as their intentions aren’t specifically harmful we should be granted a free pass on the harm that they caused. I’ve also personally experienced this with men thinking that if they didn’t intend harm, they should get a pass on the impact that they caused to women, and it doesn’t work like that either.

Intentions do matter. It’s ever so much worse if the intent is to actually cause harm and there’s not room for repentance or reconciliation in that case.

My main takeaway tonight was that if our intent is truly good, then we should welcome our neighbors telling us about the impact of our actions and be able to learn from that experience and change our actions, instead of centering our intentions in the conversation. By nature of someone telling you how they impacted them, they assumed good intentions, or they wouldn’t have bothered.

Ruby Woo Prep Call 3–On Grounding and other spiritual practices


I have to say again how excited I am to approach this trip. Just in the space of the three prep calls we’ve covered some theology, some history and culture, and now spiritual practices to take into the experience of pilgrimage. A lot of us were feeling scattered and overwhelmed at the start of the call tonight as the days before we leave tick by with so much left to accomplish on our lists. Teresa Mateus led us through some grounding exercises that refocused us on our breath and inside our bodies, allowing us to release tension and stress and other things we were holding onto.

I had a realization in the middle of exercise two that I really am a five on the enneagram. I feel like I’m all about feelings and intuition but I can’t actually access any of that until I can mentally process it. I can be in a space of contemplation and feel complete blankness and until I start writing about it, I can’t tell you what I experienced or saw. It’s an interesting thing to sit with and see where that takes me.

There were two separate exercises, the first, the word I heard was just “whole.” That isn’t surprising as it’s one I’ve been sitting with for a couple years now. It’s behind the story of the Sitka spruce tattoo on my forearm. I got that to embody embracing my whole story so I could write the ending. And that embracing is an ongoing practice as I process trauma and memories and the like, but if I don’t embrace the whole story, I give power to the past that prevents me from writing the end of this story as the primary actor instead of someone being acted on.

In the second exercise, people are seeing color and hearing things and I’m like, I was just still and empty, but as I thought about it (she didn’t call on me first, yay!) and jotted some notes I realized that what I was feeling was open, and an image came to me then: one of standing on a rock on a mountain, overlooking a valley with my arms outstretched, waiting. Not too sure what that’s all about just yet, but I’m open to finding out.

In four days I’ll be in NY getting started on this great adventure!