It was just another day on Twitter. My feed, once populated with discussions on publishing, theology, and the upcoming election, was nothing but a dead scroll of COVID-19 updates. The rising confirmed cases. Celebrities who had contracted the virus. How to stay sane while quarantined. Some of the things I read were helpful. But other spaces of the Twitter-verse are filled with recurring racist attacks, and every time something new happened, somebody took it upon themselves to tell me and my friends to “go home” and that we, as Asians, need to own our complicity somehow.
Anti-Asian racism has been escalating in our country over the past few months, and with each passing day I have started to feel the visceral weight of it in my body. I’m fatigued. I find myself randomly in tears or wanting to pick a fight. Sometimes, I’ll wake up with my stomach twisted in a knot and the dull pain persists throughout the day. It’s the weighty burden of being an Asian American right now — a reality in which we must navigate the fears and threats surrounding the coronavirus while also being doubly scared for the contagion of racism that has ensued. This is my current reality.
And while some days I pursue activism and stand up for my fellow Asian brothers and sisters, other days I retreat. I make sure to get good sleep and play with my kids. I sneak away to my bedroom to read my Bible and pray. I talk on the phone with friends and hug my husband a little bit tighter. Having safe spaces like these to rest and heal is just as important as the activism.
Each of us have endured traumatic histories in our own way, and the racism that the coronavirus has stirred up is a reminder that many of us experience regular — even daily — assaults to our dignity. Whether you’ve been watching these horrors play out on social media or experiencing them personally, we all need to have safe spaces to retreat — spaces where we can step away, acknowledge and process the pains of racism, and find paths toward healing and resilience.
This is the model we see in Scripture. Time and again, men and women in both the Old and New Testament step away to find a safe place from the threats against their lives. Think of David and the many times he had to flee for his life from King Saul. Notably, he found solace in caves and remote spaces outside of the city. Think also of Elijah fleeing from Jezebel into the wilderness. He felt like he was completely alone and the whole world was against him, but it was also in the wilderness where God meets him. Jesus too stepped away, not just to get away from the masses but to also flee verbal and physical threats. Think of His night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He pulled away to meet with God. He knew He was about to enter a fire storm, so He sought His Father’s face for comfort.
There are many reasons why we need a physical space for retreat. We need them for our own physical, spiritual, and emotional safety. We need them so we can seek out God. Whether that’s our home, our bedroom, the park, or a nature trail, we need to know which spaces we can retreat to with the assurance of Matthew 1:23 that “God is with us” and that He will meet us in these places. These are spaces where we can find holistic rest – for us to close our eyes, go for a run, take care of our bodies, pull out a journal and reflect on our experiences, read our Bible and pray. It’s where we not only acknowledge the realities in our life but also lay them at Christ’s feet and cast our cares upon Him. When we step away from the threats and pains of this world, we can pray that God will comfort our broken hearts and heal and bind up our wounds as it says in Psalm 147:3.
When you’ve found that place to retreat, spend time asking yourself: What has been happening this week? What have I seen and heard? How has racism personally impacted me this week? How has it impacted my friends and community? How am I feeling right now? And what are good practices for soul care this week?
Write about it. Pray about it. It’s okay that some of these answers will sting. It’s okay to let the hurt in. We need to make space to verbally process the realities of racism and its impact on us. But, sister, know that God sees you and He doesn’t want you to carry the burden of racial oppression alone. Lay it at His feet, and believe that when you pray, “Lord, heal me,” He will begin a process of healing within you.
Know that God sees you and He doesn’t want you to carry the burden of racial oppression alone. -@drmichellereyes: Click To Tweet