I was listening to a panel discussion hosted by my judicatory ministry led by black leaders in my area when one of my colleagues, Dr Irie Session said “white people need to cultivate an ethic of bravery.” I grabbed a pen and scribbled it down on a post-it note pad I had sitting on my desk. All week I have been sitting with that quote. It stares up at me while I read, while I write and while I have wrestled slowly through the next phases of this consulting ministry I am building.
White people need to cultivate an ethic of bravery.
A whole sermon in a sentence. Right there on a pale pink post-it note, staring up at me and asking me–what’s the next level of this anti-racism work you have been doing for years? And what are you willing to brave for it?
Every quarter I take a day to do a retreat. I spend half the day in silence just listening. No phone, no computer, no email, I often go into the woods on a trail nearby and walk and listen and notice. I try to marvel in what God has done in the past few months and get curious about what God might be inviting me to think about next. The second half of the day I sit with my notebook open and four questions I ask my business.
What is working well?
What needs to be changed to work better?
What isn’t working and needs to be let go?
What is God inviting me into next?
I developed these questions and this process out of years of program ministry evaluation and spiritual development. Everything about my business gets laid on the table–from business management software, to clients, to how I am dividing my time, to my own spiritual life. All of it. It’s more than a chance to check, it’s an invitation to take inventory, be accountable and elevate what I am doing.
I believe in the power of asking the better question to shape a ministry, a heart, a life. The questions that we ask shape us. But they also sustain the work that we do that stretches beyond a single season or moment. A good question can anchor us to the work we are called to do as we ride the waves of that work. A good question will sustain us in burnout and endure failure and mistakes. A good question can help us build something better than our imagination can do on its own. A good question invites the creativity of the Spirit into the work that we do and the world we are building. And a good question can hold us accountable.
With the newest wave of police brutality and racial awareness gripping the moral imagination of our country I am realizing that it is time for a new set of questions. Not only from my business but for my family and our lives. It’s time to elevate the work we are doing in our community. And so each month I am going to ask myself “what did I do as a white person to cultivate an ethic of bravery?”
What concrete, actionable steps did I take to create the world I want to see in terms of not just my business and ministry but my family and community? What investments of time, education and resources did I make toward cultivating a white ethic of bravery? How did I educate myself on the best ways to be brave so my bravery creates space and thriving for others instead of self-congratulatory virtue signaling? What white privilege did I spend to create currency for my colleagues in the Black community? Who am I surrounding myself with that are also committed to this work of bravery in the name of racial justice and dismantling white supremacy?
Notice I didn’t craft the question to say “what CAN I do?” We can all talk about intentions and well meaning future plans. History is a burning dumpster fire of good intentions and white people with abandoned goals to do better. Like the questions I ask my business, this is a question that makes me reflect on what I have done so I can think about what I will do. Reflective accountability partnered with forward commitment, the two in constant conversation have proven an effective way to drive my work and ministry forward.
What did I do to cultivate an ethic of bravery?
It’s a question we should all be asking.
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