Monday, May 7, 2012

Male and Female He Created Them--A Post About "Race"

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them." ~Genesis 1:27

Male and female.  God created male and female.  Not black and white or brown and peach.  Not Asian or African or American or Russian.  Not Haitian or Chinese or Canadian or Mexican.  Male and female....that is what God created us to be.  Period.

The subject of race and skin color has rose to the surface in our lives more so than any time before.  I guess that comes with the territory because Nora has a different skin color than the rest of us Thieszen crew.  Some people think it is wrong to have a mixed-color family.  Some people praise us for adopting without bias of skin color.  Some people keep their mouths shut and who knows what is going on in their head--I'm not sure I want to know.  No matter what, everyone seems to have an opinion whether they keep it to themselves or not.

Last night I had a dream that has left me brewing thoughts about race and skin color all morning.  In the dream, Micah and I had been invited (along with his dad) to a huge church in a big city where they claimed to be inter-cultural and welcoming to all races (even claimed it right on the sign in their courtyard!).  They had invited us to share about our trips to Haiti and about our adoption.  I was excited to go to this church because I wanted to worship side-by-side with other brothers and sisters of different skin colors.  I was eager to hear a mix of all different worship styles and praises to the God of all of us.  However, I was appalled as we opened the doors to this huge, old, Gothic church building.

Inside, we found row after row after row of people separated by a middle aisle.  On one side were white people and on the other side were black people.  Up front were two choirs on opposite sides of the pulpit--one choir white and the other choir black.  There were even two preachers--one black and one white.  Micah's dad began sharing from the pulpit about his several trips to Haiti while Micah and I stood side by side up front getting ready to talk about our own trip and adoption.  I was bloomin' mad up there.  I was infuriated with the misled "advertising" this church was boasting about.  I was sad for the faces of people on both sides of the aisle who never even seemed to look across at one another, let alone worship together.  I leaned over to Micah and whispered, "They better get ready for this one cause I'm not about to talk about our trip or our adoption--I'm about to speak some Truth about their lack of loving each other to these folks!  Get ready, hun, this might get uncomfortable."  The face of dread came over Micah (hee, hee) as he knew what that meant--Angie's getting ready to talk some smack to a congregation of probably 1000 strangers. Oh boy....

Unfortunately, that is how I woke up from the dream...I was about to take my spot at the microphone to tell them what I thought about their idea of an "inter-racial" church, but alas, I was awoken by my sweet Lily's voice saying it was time to pack her lunch.  I still wonder what I would have said and what that congregation's response would have been.  I also still wonder if Micah would have been smiling or crying or running for his life as I talked. : )

Inter-racial church???  Seriously?  Yes, technically, I guess you could say it was one.  There were at least two different races/skin colors within the walls of one church building, so, I guess, it was "technically" an inter-racial church.  But man, oh man, was that misleading!  Having blacks and whites split down the middle was as far away from inter-racial as you can get!  I know this was just a dream, but it made me wonder how much of my dream had a touch of reality to it.  It left me wondering if this is really how the church still functions today.  Maybe the aisle down the middle of the actual, physical church sanctuary isn't there anymore, but do we still have dividing "aisles" in our hearts when it comes to people who are different than us?  I mean, come on, "church" isn't so much about the building or the set up of the sanctuary as it is about the people who attend there, right?!?  Is the church body truly becoming inter-racial in their hearts, or just in the pews? Do we say we are accepting of people who are different than us, but then secretly think we are better or less than them in our thoughts?  Do we give our nod of approval towards cultural differences but then pray "they" never move into our neck of the woods?  Or do we actually embrace Jesus' call for us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34).  Do we see each other as blessed equals no matter what color of skin the Lord painted on us?  All questions I have been mulling over today as I reflected back on this dream...and hoping for the later!

For myself, I would say I have grown into a person--an individual part of the church body--who can look past a person's skin color and simply see them as the male or female God created them to be, but it has unfortunately been a process throughout my life I wish I never would have had to get through.  Our culture has played a big part in the stereotypes I had been wrongly using growing up.  Thankfully, I have moved onward towards choosing to put our Lord and Savior's viewpoint above the stereotypes of our culture.  Oh how I wish everyone could do the same!  I wish I could guarantee Nora that everyone sees her as a female God created, instead of a black girl from Haiti going to live with a white family in the US.  I wish I could guarantee all my children that everyone sees them as the males and females God created instead of the stereotypes others will place on them throughout their life.  I will continue to pray that God would bless all of my children with a healthy God-view of all people despite the potential for cultural stupidities to effect their thinking.

Did you know skin color is never mentioned as a topic in the Bible?  There is mention of the different languages and nations, but never skin color.  Remarkable.  If it didn't seem to be a subject worth discussing or debating in Scripture, why oh why have we made it such a topic of discussion now?  Why oh why have we allowed skin color to determine what church we attend or what family we belong to?  Why oh why do we say we are a "melting pot" of a nation, but yet still get bug-eyed over a black child coming to live with a white family?

I have to say one of the blessings of this adoption journey for us has been knowing what kind of a local church body we are a part of.  We are blessed to be a part of a body who embraces the males and females God has created us to matter what color of skin we have.  Although there are currently more white skinned males and females than other colors, I have a feeling the changes that have been slowing happening are going to start picking up speed.  Why?  Because my church body is being built up with individuals who don't have an aisle in their heart.  Instead, it is built up by a body of people excited over a "mixed pew" of God's creations.  Even now, for example, we have several inter-racial families being developed due to adoptions.  I get all giddy just thinking of the ways this will bring a better representation of the rainbow of God's creation to our local body.  I am thankful my church is not (and prayerfully will not be) the church in my dream...especially as we look ahead to when Nora will be toddling down the halls there.  As we look towards being the Thieszen family--a family where there is no center aisle--there is much peace in our hearts knowing we will have a church body exemplifying the same values. We will all sit mixed together in one big family...a grand mix of males and females God created to be woven together!  It is my hope and prayer you and your church are finding yourselves not so much like the church of my dream and much more like the church I am a part of!


  1. I just gave you a virtual fist bump! Your post rings sooo true. Have you read Ken Hamm's One Blood. It is somewhat sciencey, but he talks about race starting at creation. It was fascinating.

    1. Haven't read that one, but it sounds awesome...thanks for the tip, Susan! : )

  2. Angie, I know what you mean when you say you get different comments about adopting interracially. You just never know what will come out of peoples mouths! I love being able to worship with other races and backgrounds. It truly is a little taste of heaven.
    As a mom who has been on this journey for over 4 years now, I will tell you that not seeing race seems to be the privilege of white people. Nora will have different needs and experiences in her life simply because she is black. My daughter already senses this. She knows she looks different than us, and it bothers her. She has had kids at the playground who either come up and stare at her like she is something from a sci-fi movie, or they flat out refuse to play with her. And we live in a large, multicultural city. The very best thing you can do for Nora is to invite people who are black to be part of your friendship circle, if you haven't already. And not just other families who have adopted, but adults who have already experienced life as a black person. The benefits of us being super intentional about this are already reaping benefits - not just for Amara, but for our whole family! That is a HUGE blessing of interracial adoption - this connection to a person of different ethnicity not in a friendship only way, but as the mother of a child you adore. And want to protect. That way, when your daughter doesn't feel beautiful because she doesn't have long hair that "hangs", or isn't happy about the tone of her skin, or runs into racist comments - you have friends to fall back on as examples and for support and wisdom for you as well.
    I look forward to the day when we can all worship in Heaven - simply delighted in how God made each and every person. Just as you said. Male and Female... and the other differences such as skin tone will only add to the enjoyment and celebration of what God has created in us.
    PS - I would have liked to be in that church when you stood up to preach! lol

    1. Thank you, Denise, for your honesty and openness to share your own experience (as well as Amara's). I wish it were different and I do agree we will have our own set of challenges to face when we get Nora home. I keep thinking of the beauty of God's plan for your own family having Amara and Giselle together. What a bond that will be! Praying for the future of all of our children...that it will be better than what we ever dreamed of!