A whole lot undone over Charleston

A Whole LotUndoneOver CharlestonThe family members of those murdered at Mother Emanuel popped up on my TV screen, speaking words of forgiveness to Dylan Roof. And I sat in my comfortable blue chair, tears streaming down my face.

In the words of a Washington Post article:

"The killer was welcomed by the ones he murdered, and then forgiven by the people he deeply harmed."

I ran to my bedroom, lay down on my bed, and wept some more. 

I wept because I believe that the Church of Jesus has often not been the one to lead the charge to justice and reconciliation across racial and ethnic lines; we have not embodied the truth that each person of every color imaginable is made in the image of God. We have not done our job well. I have not done everything I could.

Lord, have mercy on me! Lord, have mercy on us!

And who will lead us into the reconciliation Jesus ushers in?

It will be the very ones who have lost their family members to a premeditated, hateful act of terrorism when those family members welcomed him into their Bible study.

This is the gospel, the good news, that defeats death, and says that contrary to what we see death does not win. Our brothers and sisters in Charleston's Mother Emanuel Church declare that Christ is reconciling all things to himself. It is those hurting the most who will most embody the gospel for us to see on national television. This morning a CBS reporter quoted a Scripture verse read at one of their funerals, tears threatening to spill out of her eyes.

Yesterday, my good friend Natasha Sistrunk Robinson posted this article on the Missio Alliance blog. As a black woman of deep faith, she is mourning and she is calling her white sisters and brothers in Jesus to say something and do something:

"I need there not to be silence from my white sisters and brothers."

When I called Natasha yesterday, I told her how proud I am of her. Though I had texted her, I told her I was afraid to call for fear I would cry on the phone. South Carolina is her home state; you see, this tragedy could have involved one of my dearest friends.


I remembered all the regular Skype calls we've shared for several years now. We have talked about Jesus, and seminary, and my childlessness, and our call, and reconciliation across gender and racial lines, and we have cried through searing life changes and laughed and rejoiced in times of victory.

I am bound to Natasha not by blood, but by a deep sisterhood in Christ and a desire for his love to transform our relationships, for the good news of Jesus to evidence itself in our relationships, service, and daily living.

She said something to me on the phone that reminded me of how our posture should be on this crucial issue. She said she is not judging, but is open to meeting her brothers and sisters in Christ where they are at, to being an ambassador that brings both forgiveness and reconciliation to the great, big, beautiful body of Christ.

And this is so true. She has dealt with my ignorance with grace; she has educated me with conviction and love; she has answered my questions on race honestly and patiently. 

A month or two ago, I was at the Missio Alliance conference, a diverse gathering of folks who are interested in embodying the gospel and exploring what reconciliation means. My husband and I had experienced a searing adoption loss literally days before, and in a period of several hours, three women had crossed my path who had spoken words of such conviction, understanding and comfort in my suffering that I was blown away by their ability to empathize and enter into my pain.

As we entered our hotel room that night, I told Natasha about these women I had shared lunch and dinner with and she said, smiling: "They were black women, weren't they?" And I laughed, and said, "Yes, they were, and how did you know?" She said that those who have suffered often have a unique ability to enter into the suffering of others. What's more: each of these women held an openness that made me comfortable approaching them—with them, I felt safe.

So, yes, I am a whole lot undone over Charleston. Because Jesus has been teaching and loving and instructing me through friends of color who embody his love and his gospel and forgiveness in ways that take my breath away. I am not lamenting without hope, however; for my black sisters and brothers are showing us how to love like Jesus does.

My prayer is that I, and the rest of those who follow hard after Jesus, will have ears to hear and voices that no longer remain silent.

Your turn: Are you undone over Charleston? How might God be using this horrible crime to bring about renewal and reconciliation? How can we be a part of it?

Favorite posts from 2014

If I didn't fully grasp it before, I've become fully convinced this year: God loves his daughters. Virgin Mary and Eve Crayon & pencil drawing by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO © 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey

I believe he is, in fact, crazy about them. And that his heart beats to set women and men free through the gospel, arms linked, hearts joined, to spread the good news of his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation to all. So this is my image for 2014: men and women, boys and girls, arms linked, forming a beautiful alliance, their hearts joined to beat a path to hope and healing that can only be explained through the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Each week I hear cries of frustration and pain from women who are struggling to find their place. But there are stories of hope, too: Jesus, who came to reconcile all things to himself, is Reclaiming Eve and her daughters. Let me preach it from the rooftops for anyone who cares to hear: the reconciling mission of Jesus will not be stopped by any earthly power; the example of Jesus treating the women in his life with dignity, value and revolutionary mutuality is undeniable; the restoration Jesus provides is happening, story by story, relationship by relationship, home by home, church by church. 

Taste and see by sampling these diverse stories of women who are being reclaimed: Reclaiming Eve story series: Heather, Natasha, Vivian, Dorcas, Dorothy, Natalie, Robin and Cara. And now, the top posts for 2014. Thank you so much for being a part of this blog community! Your support sustains me.

Top Blog Posts on suzanneburden.com:

  1. Barren Guilt by Association
  2. When Men Subvert Gender Hierarchy in the Church
  3. What We Talk about When We Talk about Women in Church: Part One, "Does danger lurk in a woman sitting near you?"
  4. How One Women Struggles with Traditional Church
  5. For the Childless this Mother's Day (and Those Who Love Them)

Favorite Posts Around the Internet:

  1. When Gender Reconciliation Doesn't Preach (asistasjourney.com)
  2. Reclaiming Eve at Advent (missioalliance.org)
  3. When We Close Our Wombs (hermeneutics at Christianity Today)
  4. When I Opposed Women in Ministry (Intervarsity's The Well)
  5. A Woman Fully Alive (shelovesmagazine.com)
On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson's story

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson-Headshot2_2013 Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is an inspirational speaker, freelance writer, and human trafficking advocate. As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.A. Christian Leadership), she has over 15 years of experience in leadership and mentoring. She is currently authoring a book about mentoring women from the perspective of intentional discipleship. Natasha resides in North Carolina with her husband and daughter. Connect with Natasha through her website or blog, on facebook or on twitter.

  “Unfreezing Eve from the story of her sin.” This was the focus of the Reclaiming Eve book review I wrote a few months ago. Now that I’ve read the book three times, other nuggets are sparking my interest and passion. As I sit down tonight, I seem to connect with a very simple sentence tucked away in Chapter 7, Restored: The Serving Woman:

“Read to educate yourself.”

Next to that sentence in the margins, I have scribbled the word, “Yes!” 

I am a leader, which in the Christian context means that I am a serving woman. For the past few years, I have been serving the women at my church as the Founder and co-director of the Women’s Mentoring Ministry. We focus on helping women understand their identity in Christ Jesus. Before they can understand their identity, they must first know God.

The majority of our struggles and insecurities in life are a result of a poor theology concerning God or an inaccurate view of ourselves. If we are confused about the God we serve and are strangers to ourselves, it becomes difficult if not impossible to love others well.

Obtaining an accurate view of God begins with theological reflection. It is important that women learn how to think theologically and that often requires reading and a commitment to study. Completing deep studies and wide readings through large chunks of the Bible informs us about our God who longs to be known. The Bible reminds us of God’s love, his redemptive story, and his kingdom agenda. The Bible also reminds us of our purpose and convicts us of any wrong doing. In addition to the Bible, reading Christian classics are also a good source of learning. Finally, reading books that help us develop a Christian worldview, exposes us to injustices and God’s hand at work in the world, and Christian biographies are also helpful choices for our reading diet.

Besides knowing God and learning about ourselves, reading is an excellent discipline to help us prepare for our Christian calling. Part of my responsibility as a leader and mentor is to train and prepare others to lead and mentor well. One of my most challenging undertakings has been convincing mentees of their need to develop the discipline of study. The writer of Hebrews makes an interesting statement when chastising the hearers of his words:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb. 5:11-14 NIV).

Reading increases our learning. Reading also solidifies the understanding of our faith so we are not constantly having to learn the basic elementary truths. Like a baby who grows from drinking milk to eventually eating solid foods, reading matures us and ushers us on to holy and righteous living. Reading also helps us grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, it helps us to discern the difference between good and evil.

It is widely accepted that all great leaders read. If we are to equip women for leadership that includes training and encouraging their discipline of study so they grow in spiritual maturity and are able teachers of others.

We don’t need to stay in a place where we are confused about ourselves, about God, and about our struggles and insecurities. We have the opportunity to learn and grow so we might be better leaders and lovers of those God places in our lives. In that spirit, let’s go about Reclaiming Eve by encouraging every woman to eat more and more solid spiritual food. Let’s read!

Here are a few recommended reads to help women think theologically:

How to Think Theologically by Howard W. Stone & James O. Duke Think Like Jesus: Make the Right Decision Every Time by George Barna Discipleship of the Mind: Learning to Love God in the Ways We Think by James W. Sire

Your turn: What is your favorite read on theology, discipleship or mentoring? And why?
On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.