Seeing things differently

September 22, 2020
This is part of a series of testimonies that the SBC21 and Religion & Race teams invited people to share expressing their pain and hope, joy and tears, justice and accountability around the issue of race and reconciliation in America and the United Methodist Church

My vision is not very good. Since third grade I have worn either glasses or contacts. Without them everything is fuzzy and distorted. I am thankful that with the help of corrective lenses I am able to see things more clearly, both near and far. 
I fear I don’t see things as clearly as I should when it comes to the pain of those around me, particularly when it comes to the pain suffered by persons of color. I can’t begin to put myself in the shoes of a person of color and certainly can’t purport to have experienced what he or she has experienced. I simply cannot.
I can, however, be willing to hear the stories of my brothers or sisters, willing to live out the golden rule, and willing to see another person for who they are, a child of God.
These past few months have been excruciating indeed. The systemic injustices that have been brought to light perpetrated upon people of color have challenged us all. 
We are at a tipping point in this country where we are hopeful that real change will take place. I pray that is so. We can only hope. More than hope, we can contribute toward making that change possible.
I recently participated in a prayer service held on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Central Park in Louisville. There was a large crowd made up of people who found themselves struggling in the midst of the malaise in which we find ourselves. For me, the most gripping moment of that afternoon was when we were asked to remain silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd suffered under the knee of the Minneapolis police officer before his death. I found myself strangely contemplating his pain and the pain of others. I have been doing that since. Eight minutes and 46 seconds has taken on a new connotation. 
I pray my vision is corrected. I humbly pray that where my vision is clouded I will be able to see clearly. I will need help with that — help from those who will walk alongside me to bring me to a much better place, and certainly help from God who through his Spirit is always at work to make our hearts right. 
Just recently my wife, Cheryl, had her lens replaced in both eyes and she sees just fine, perfectly, if you will. I’ve considered having the same surgery. It would be great to be able to see clearly without having to struggle with glasses or contacts. 
I realize I am in need of a lens replacement when it comes to the pain of others. I need to see as God sees. I pray that God reveals my blind spots so I begin to see more clearly the needs of those who seek justice in the midst of injustice. And where I see, but not very clearly, I pray that God works on me until my sight is restored.
God help us all.
Tom Grieb, Senior Pastor
St. John United Methodist Church