The (G)race of Community

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Racial diversity is important to me, not only as a member of the body of Christ but also as a mother through adoption, for I have been given the incredible privilege of raising five beautiful children of color.  All of them different. All of them fellow members of the Church. Yet, for my family, finding a church (or even a ministry) that represented us, all of us, has proven to be difficult for too many years. I longed for community as it will be in eternity.

At Hutchmoot, the atmosphere was blessedly different than anything I have ever experienced.  There, I experienced community in its richest form. I relished the conversations I had with fellow believers from all over the nation and world. I watched my thirteen year-old daughter, who had come along for the weekend, find a place where she truly fit in. I saw her become comfortable in her own skin and blossom as the hours passed and she was able to be, fully, who she was created to be in every way: artist, poet, musician, dancer, and daughter of the King. She belonged. We belonged.

It was after a conversation with Andrew Peterson that my wheels really began turning. We discussed the diversity we saw in the sanctuary that day and the sincere desire of the Rabbit Room to be known as a place of welcome for God’s children of every race. They are actively seeking to learn and grow in this very important area, but we all know change like this is usually slow and often painful.

A few months ago, my family made the difficult decision to leave our old church out of a deep need to give our children godly role models who looked like them, could understand the things we cannot (no matter how much we try), and teach them how to live their lives well as black and biracial children of God. As much as we loved that church family they simply could not provide that for our children.

About two weeks after Hutchmoot, I joined a women’s Bible study at our new (and wonderfully diverse) church. The night of the first session I walked into a room of twelve women and I was the only white one. The last time I had experienced that was when I traveled to Ethiopia to adopt my youngest daughter.

My heart leapt to my throat, partly in excitement but also in trepidation. What would these women think about me, the only white woman in the room? Would they question why I am here? Would I say something stupid? I was nervous but knew I needed to be right where I was and, most importantly, that I needed to be quiet and listen. Just listen.

By the end of the hour I knew that I was indelibly drawn to each of these women. They looked at me with love and acceptance and, for the first time, I realized just how courageous the attendees of Hutchmoot, those who stood out in the room because they were “the diversity,” really are. I returned to the Bible study the next week, looking at the now familiar faces with affection and feeling so grateful for the privilege of sitting among these beautiful women of God. I went home that night and began to write, a poem flying from my fingertips and ideas swirling through my mind.

A few days later I began to search the Rabbit Room blog to see what had been written about race within this community I have grown to love.

I searched the word: “race.”

My screen filled with articles about grace.

Together, we are a coat of many colors gracing the broad shoulders of Jesus.

Jeanine Joyner

My spirit sang with joy because that is exactly what God was teaching me.  When we step into a room filled with people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, we learn to live and experience grace in a way that we never could have in a homogeneous group. Because of my children, I have spent nearly two decades seeking and learning for them, to better understand and teach them. But now, more than ever, I see that God wants me to learn the grace of race not just for them, but also for me. In grace we find unity. In grace we find peace. In grace we belong and love well without offense or tension putting bricks in a wall.

The Rabbit Room is becoming a more full picture of the community of God because of the brave, beautiful souls who stepped into that church on October 4th and contributed their gifts so freely and beautifully. I, for one, am grateful and thrilled to be part of a community that truly reflects the creative heart of God.

We need one another. All of us are vital to the Kingdom work to which God has called each individual. Together, we are a coat of many colors gracing the broad shoulders of Jesus.

This poem is the outpouring of my heart. It is with deep gratitude to my courageous brothers and sisters that I share it with you.

From the White Woman in the Room

You have no idea how much I needed you,
how much I needed to be surrounded
by the gaze of your dark brown eyes
and to hear the rhythmic cadence
of your voices as you read the Word of God
with such care
and grace.
You savored each word,
inhaling and letting the revelations drive deep into your soul
and mine.
Head back, eyes closed as your smile lit up the room with joy.
The way you looked at me,
this woman whose voice speaks of a different experience,
a culture removed for too long
from yours.
The tightness of the hugs you gave me when I tried to express just how much
I needed…this.
This room full of aged wisdom and youthful dreams.
This circle of determination and strength that refuses to bend
under the weight of the world’s angry words
and the brokenness that threatens us all.
That threatens the Bride.
Me,
this sponge soaking in the faith you share.
This mama who tried to find diversity in community
but only scratched the surface.
God gave me one friend like you,
then three,
then five
but still not enough.
Not enough for the pieces of my heart who needed to be immersed
in the waters of a culture I cannot give them.
You, beautiful ones, offer rich life.
You, with your bright smiles and knowing nods,
who love without judgment and embrace without walls,
you take us in and love us hard
and I sit in awe.
Me,
this sponge soaking in the wisdom you so freely give.
You have no idea how much I needed you.


Click here to read more of Jeanine’s writing at her website.


6 Comments

  1. Jonathan

    @esauodidi

    As an adoptive father of four children of color, your story so closely mirrors ours. Thank you for your transparency and commitment to the value of diversity. I so look forward to the day when I am surrounded by my brothers and sisters whose cultures I have not known and whose languages I cannot yet speak., praising our Lord together, forever growing and becoming more like Him!!

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