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More Than Skin Deep

Our friendship taught me to be colorblind.
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I was a fairly new Christian that Wednesday night in spring 1995 when I attended a new Bible study. I found the group's leader, Marilyn Parks, in the church's lounge, along with the only other woman who'd shown up: Bridget Thomas.

I didn't know Bridget well. She'd married our pastor's son, Tobin, earlier that fall and had joined the church, but we rarely had occasion to speak.

Since there were only three of us at the Bible study that first night, it seemed inappropriate to simply wave "good-bye" and rush out following our discussion, so I took my time putting on my coat and made polite small talk. Bridget struck me as open and friendly, an impression that solidified during our interactions in the weeks that followed.

I soon learned from our Wednesday evening chit-chat that Bridget and I had a lot in common. Not only were we both new to the church, but also both new to our faith in Jesus and hungry to learn more about him. We had similar tastes in music and other entertainment. I also enjoyed Bridget's encouraging spirit.

But as similar as we were, there was still one major difference—our racial makeup. I had no idea how heavily that difference weighed in my mind until Liz Butler joined our church later that year.

Liz had a sincere, welcoming disposition—and she was black. I was immediately drawn to her warm smile and deep faith, and soon I was inviting her to my home for dinner, calling her on the phone, making a beeline for her after church. I was excited about my friendship with Liz, and I ex-pressed my enthusiasm to Marilyn and Bridget one Wednesday night: "Thank God I finally found a friend in this area!"

Bridget and Marilyn smiled politely and offered congratulations. But later that evening, Marilyn phoned me. "Kim, I know you're glad, as I am, that Liz joined the church. But I have to ask—what have you been forming with Bridget and me if not a friendship?"

I was accustomed to Marilyn's forthrightness, but was taken aback at how insensitive I must have sounded earlier that night. I answered, "I've always considered you more a mentor than a peer, so I haven't really thought of our relationship as a friendship. And Bridget. … well, I guess I should have put it a different way. Bridget's a friend, too."

Marilyn confided that I'd hurt Bridget's feelings with my declaration about Liz. After we hung up, I sat wondering why I hadn't embraced Bridget as a close friend—the kind I could go places with and invite over for dinner. I finally had to admit her white skin color was the primary reason.

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Related Topics:Ethnicity; Friendship; Injustice

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Shubha

February 02, 2008  1:02am

I applaud Kimberly's openenss and honesty. Its amazing what God can do with people who are wiling to accept their weaknesses and seek His grace to be able to forgive others and truly examine and judge themselevs. I have to admit there have been times I have felt resentement towards others due to prejudice and pride not in a racial context, but in Church itself with people who belong to my race! Lord have mercy on me is all I can say, and repent. Why do we believers forget that forgiving others as the Lord has forgiven us is the basis of our faith. We forget that our faith is inclusive and in God's sight we are all equally sinners and all equally worthy of being forgiven through the blood of Christ. How great is His Love and truly beyond all measure. Praise God for Kimberly who has struck a deep chord in my heart that I shed tears reading her story, and God used her to break the hard place in my heart. Hallelujah!

Janet

February 01, 2008  6:42pm

What struck me most in this expose of human assumption/frailty journey under God, was the similarity of the Negro Americans with the Aboriginal Australians. The need of forgiveness towards the "transgressor"/enemy is of paramount importance ; the request to be forgiven really doesn't mean to be made, for one to forgive the other, they will soon know by changed attitudes. The choice to obey God is theirs, unless the well of bitterness is overwhelming in their lives... but then comes the necessity of asking God for His love & forgiveness for that person to be made evident in your life ! It is history, generations change, you don't need to be stuck in the past, but Satan desires it ! that one doesn't embrace the newness of life that is in Christ Jesus... a new creation ! As He says in John 10:10, "I have come to give life, & life in abundance ". Again answering Peter on forgiveness, ".... I tell you seventy times seven !"

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