Annoyed by People of Every Hue

I have been annoyed by people of every skin color.

That’s what I was thinking, sitting in a room full of Christians I call family.

One unspoken discomfort we quietly endure in the family of God is open sharing time at public gatherings. It can be a joy. Or, it can be a form of spiritual waterboarding.

While some Christians are gifted with brevity, with awareness of their audiences’ interest level, and with the ability to edit unnecessary details,  other Christians are not. But, because we’re accustomed to sacrifice in the family of God, both kinds of Christians are invited to “share.”

Hence, the annoyance factor.

Occasionally, an entire assembly of intelligent, loving people are taken hostage by one oblivious sister (or brother) with the advantage of being the one gripping a microphone before a group of people called by God to patient endurance.

Each one sits squirming, not daring to make eye contact with others. We wonder if, just perhaps, if we can conjure up an ounce of genuine compassion, maybe God will notice and silence the sharer quickly.

That day, I’d already explored the full scope of my natural gracious compassion with the current speaker and she showed no sign of stopping so I knew I wasn’t fooling God. I just gave up pretending, hoping the Holy Spirit would suddenly flood me with a supernatural interest in rambling, tangential, personal details.

That’s when it occurred to me there are boring people of every skin color known to humanity.

The woman with the mic doesn’t share my skin color but I didn’t find her ethnic background a barrier to finding her endless, mind-numbing speech torturous to endure just like I would with a boring Caucasian woman.

That’s when I scanned the faces of the other worshipers and thought, “Why do we let other people tell us about our own faith experience?” This gathering of multiple ethnic backgrounds is my experience of Christianity. It has been my experience that the house of God is a place of racial reconciliation – not perfectly, and not without intentional effort, but under His cover, we do make progress, one relationship at a time.

The headline we usually see on the church is that “eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.” To which I say, HEY! show up one Sunday, my friend and then come back midweek, to small group, to ministry meetings, and prayer circles and conferences and church family celebrations. Every color is represented in God’s family and inside His great heart is where we are most apt to learn to love.

In my experience, there have been some congregations of predominantly one ethnicity but every single one has been welcoming to those of other cultural backgrounds. Growing up loving Jesus meant for me that judgment and exclusion weren’t options. Christians of every color have universally taught me to love and accept my brothers and sisters of all backgrounds – even the boring ones (a characteristic, by the way, that can’t be spotted with the naked eye.)

In fact, it’s within this context of family that I’ve been free to cross bridges. To ask people from different countries or ethnic backgrounds to teach me about their experiences with God, with culture, and with racial divide. I’ve certainly been hurt within the church and so have my friends of other skin colors but that’s like saying my brother and I hurt one another growing up. We’re family. It happens. What better place to have our conversations than from within the boundaries of forgiveness, grace, mercy, compassion, and truth?

Within the Body of Christ, we’ve already openly confessed that we’re sinners, we’re guilty, we’re faulted, we’re broken, and we’re in need of salvation. Do we have prejudices? Yup. I, for one, struggle to love boring ramblers. But God gives me no other option than to listen to the testimony of my rambling brothers and sisters and, in fact, to learn to love everyone else He chooses to include in our great family.

And they’re stuck learning to love me. Even though I’m white. Even though I’m predisposed to love brief, tidy, pithy testimonies. Even though I’m impatient and sarcastic. Even though I rely heavily on the Holy Spirit for compassion for boring people.

When the boring woman stopped speaking, I heard sighs from people of every hue. Maybe her rambling speech was part of God’s plan to give us all another shared experience. Bored into bonding. Could be part of the plan.

Why don’t we tell more of our stories? Why don’t we speak out about the relationship building that happens in the church? Maybe we take it for granted. Maybe we’re convinced by the media it only happens in our little corner of Christianity. Maybe we’re afraid of the backlash. Could be, we’re afraid of being shouted down. We might be but that shouldn’t stop us.

Through Jesus Christ, people of different color experience communion. Sometimes, we bore one another but we tolerate even the boring people because, well, we’re family. C’mon. Click on the comments and tell a story.

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7 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Patsy Arrouet says:

    As usual, succinctly said. Once I became a ‘sold-out’ Christ follower, I marveled at the variety of loved ones in my new family of faith. Just the common bond of Jesus drew us, united in His love, young and old, rich and poor, famous or used-to-be infamous…the superficial no longer mattered. We serve such a great, all-encompassing Savior, and He puts up with, make that, LOVES, even me!

  2. Lisa Evola says:

    I understand what you mean by people droning on…but not everyone is gifted in the ability to convey what they would like to say, to make it pointed and interesting. I think that it needs to be said that whether we think another’s story is interesting or not, it deserves our attention just as much as any other story. I think that it kind of goes along with the statement Jesus made that if we want to be forgiven, we have to forgive. If we want others to listen, we must first listen. Saying in effect, you are not worth listening to because you are boring me to death is just simply not Jesus’ way. Unfortunately there are times that we all would like to drift off…but it isn’t our presence in the church that makes us Christians, it is our PRESENCE in church – in the conversations, in the sermon, and in the understanding of what others are trying to convey to us that makes us such. What does it say to someone that we are nodding off during their testimony? It says that we don’t care…and if we are honest with ourselves, we don’t….not enough to try to understand them. Maybe setting a time limit for sharing would help with the droning?

    • Thanks, Lisa. This isn’t really a post about boring speakers, it’s about race. Of course, everyone deserves to be heard. I spend my days listening to people. But after 54 years of Sunday services, midweek services, small groups, prayer services, funerals, etc, I’m pretty comfortable talking about those few people who aren’t truly trying to share their story, they just love the microphone and the sound of their own voices. I still strive (as I said in the post) to exhibit patience. The point of the post, however, is that there are positive things happening between the races in the Body of Christ.

  3. I thought you were talking about me at first ;). I used to be very long winded. I am learning to keep it short and sweet. I have been in situations, as group leader , where I had to pray as the person shared and shared and shared. I asked God if I should stop the conversation. He has only said “yes” once. The conversation was borderline gossip. I am developing my listening skills so that I can minister more effectively. Some people are so broken they need to get it off their chest, knowing that they are in a safe place.
    There are others who like to listen to themselves talk. I leave them in the hands of God.
    Thank you for sharing. I love your honesty.

    • Philippa says:

      I get this boring stuff from a relative on a regular basis – not sharing faith journeys, but just day-to-day minutiae that she needs to offload. With a wry grin I gradually realised that there is a lesson that God is wanting to teach me – Patience. Makes it much easier to bear!

    • Not you. And it’s not about people who can’t express themselves but about those more interested in hearing themselves speak than communicating.

  4. Patsy Arrouet says:

    Oops. I was one of those, pre-commitment and post. I processed by speaking, and those who loved me listened, as did I! I heard what I really thought; I heard when things weren’t lining up. Eventually, I learned to be a listener more than a talker, but it is a choice I must consciously make still, 40 years down the road. who can judge the motivations of the heart? Jesus alone. Love you, Lori!