Reconciling Race

(Please listen to Justus’ story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)

The story that came to mind was my wife and my relationship, how it got started. And so it’s more of a work of just what the Holy Spirit did in working through her parents, because they were not okay with us being married because I was black. I still am, by the way.

In North Louisiana, if you don’t talk a certain way, or look a certain way, you’re just pigeonholed. And it’s not on purpose, it’s just things have been a certain way for a long time. And people have a hard time moving out of the norm. It’s part of what makes Louisiana great. It’s like, it’s been the same. It’s a slow pace, you can’t make Louisiana busy. I mean, they call New Orleans the Big Easy, like, it is hard to change. And that’s why some people move there. It’s just like, I want a new pace of life, I don’t want to have to worry about certain things.

At the same time, there’s still a lot of racial tension. And if you’re white, you usually look a certain way, talk a certain way. And you hang around in this, like the same circle. And it’s not that you’re keeping people out, but you’re not really looking to bring anybody in that’s different than you. We all do that. We attach ourselves to similar. I moved to Louisiana, it was a culture shock. I’d never been called nigger, I’d never been, like, looked at as less than or different. And so I had to kind of learn. And if you’re African American, you look a certain way, you act a certain way. You kind of have a similar background.

And I didn’t have that, like, at all. I talked proper English. And they thought that was hilarious. I didn’t do certain things and they thought that was weird. And so they didn’t necessarily want me around. And it was both sides. I don’t think they’re being necessarily racist. Again, I might have a different definition. They just, I was different. And the only people that we could have commonality with were people from other countries that were like first generation here. And so those people were like, Oh, yeah, our lives are very similar, like, very, very similar. And so we just were able to spend time together. And I ended up having some great friends that were white in Louisiana, through church.

And my brother actually had a lot of favor with the African American community. And so I got to see a lot of all of it, which I think helped me here. Like, know how to act and respond in certain situations, because I’ve seen it all. I’ve been in every circle. And so I knew their hearts. And I knew their intentions. And so I didn’t hold anything against anybody.

Stephanie, my wife and I, we met through our pastor John at a karaoke bar. He knew she was single. And he was like, would you, would you? Would you date this guy? And she’s like eh, maybe. I was super excited. I knew she was the one pretty soon. And we I, because of that, I wanted to take her to meet my parents. And on the way there, as we started talking about our relationship and all that kind of stuff, she said, you know, “There’s something I need to share with you.” And I think I had an idea what it might be, because I was just asking her questions about her family. And she was kind of short, not really sharing a ton.

She was like, you know, we need to talk. So we pulled over on our way to Ruston, Louisiana, about a three hours drive. And it was a serious talk. And she said, “You know, I’ve got something to share with you. My parents are not okay with me dating someone that’s black.” And I don’t know why. But I was, I think because I was raised in Louisiana, where there is some racial tension, I kind of knew that, that there was a chance for that by dating someone that was a different color than me. So I really wasn’t thrown off by it. I was like, sweet, and I just I was in love with her. So I was just like, oh, it’ll work out, like this is gonna be great. But she was really sad, because you know, any, any woman wants her family to be accepting and exciting, of someone that they’re excited about.

And so she shared that with me. And I felt I felt okay about it. I thought it was… I felt bad for her that she was having to go through something like that. But we went to my house, met parents, hung out. But it really, as we got more serious about our relationship, it, it became more and more like, Okay, how are we going to handle this, this situation.

And so I look back now, and I’m so thankful for that opportunity, because I can say that my wife and I, because we had to wrestle through some heavier conversations in our engagement, we skipped over some things in our marriage, that like we didn’t mess with, because we just, we were so heavy in prayer and fasting for her parents, that we had a unity during engagement that was, I think, kind of rare for most people. Engagement is more of a time of like, definitely some marriage counseling, but you’re just planning for this marriage, whereas we were like, Hey, we’re praying for souls. We’re praying for unity for us. We’re praying that we would be strong together. We’re praying for peace, we’re praying that we have the right attitude, that the Holy Spirit would just shine during this whole process. And so, they aren’t believers. And so we were just praying that like they would come to know Jesus through this process.

And so as we went through the engagement season, the first hurdle was her telling her mom, because her mom, although she wasn’t going to handle it great, we knew that she would handle it better than her dad would, because her dad was the one that I think just had a negative view of people of color. And it wasn’t something he was looking for. But if you, if you listen to his life story, I’m surprised he turned out so well.

And so I had a lot of grace for the man, because I’d seen so much, I wouldn’t say racism, but I’d just seen a lot of like judgment of people because of what you see on TV or what you perceive. And so I always lived in this place when I lived in Louisiana of I’m black, but none of the African American people really accepted me because I was African. And then I spoke, like I speak now. But a lot of the white people didn’t accept me because I wasn’t like, white enough.

So I only fit with, like, other people from other nations. Like we actually sat at a table together. And every one at the school called it the UN table. It was like, people from Jordan, people from Palestine, people from Argentina, like it was really cool. I mean, but it was like that was–we were the only ones that fit. We all played soccer. And because it was like the universal language.

And so, you know, her mom was definitely the first hurdle. And I went with her when she went to go share with her mom, and her mom was really disappointed. Which was, I was so proud of Stephanie, because she just was like, she just came in like a boss, was like, No, this is what’s going on, and we’re not gonna freak out about it. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, I’m marrying this amazing woman of God. She’s intimidating me. But it was sad because she wanted to tell her mom everything… you want your family to love that you’re in love. And so she told her mom, and her mom was scared.

I think her mom wanted to be excited. But she was more scared of, how is my husband going to respond to this, because I’m the one at home. And it wasn’t physical or anything like that. But you just don’t want to be at home with someone that’s angry. And you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. So it came down to during a Thanksgiving, Stephanie went down that Thanksgiving with her parents are some meal. And she shared with her dad. And her dad was not happy.

He was not happy at all. And he kind of brought up some other things that were just from her past. And it was just like, and you did this, you did this. It was just hard, really hard. But again, we just started praying and fasting. And when you’re going through a trial, you just become more attentive to the voice of God. And we felt like the Lord was going to make everything work out.

My definition of racism is like a hatred of the other race. I think sometimes the enemy can make a word vague. So that you don’t have a clear definition of it, then everything is, and then people can be hated. And I think that’s the end goal is like, hate them, isolate them, and then I’ll take over.

And we had an unbelievable community around us. When they, when people heard this story, they like rallied. And they’re like, we cannot believe that’s happening for you. The flowers for your wedding, we’re going to give them to you at cost. And our pastor John bought her dress. It was a beautiful dress. And photography, like the photographs were free. Like, as soon as people heard the story, they were like, we are behind you. We are praying. So it wasn’t just the prayers of my wife and I, it was the prayers of our community. Because they were like, not angry at her parents, but they were like, God’s doing something. We’re for you. We’re praying with you. We’re believing the best out of this situation. And so at one point, her dad knew that we were dating, they knew that we were dating, but I knew that I wanted to marry this woman. And so I was like, I’m going to call her dad, and just, you know, tell him like, Hey, this is the deal.

It sounds really brave, but like my heart was beating out of my chest, because I’d never seen the man. I’d never, I didn’t know anything about it. So I call him, my heart’s beating. And I’m like telling him all this stuff. And I could tell he was upset. But I think he was just as scared as I was. I think he was scared of his, of the perception that he had in his mind. I don’t think he was racist. And I think I might have a different definition of racism than most people. But I just I didn’t think he hated me.

I didn’t think he hated me, because of the color of my skin. I think he was scared of me. I think he was scared of his perception becoming a reality with his daughter. And I think I was able to separate that. And the Holy Spirit just gave me a different view of him where I kind of fell in love with him. Like before, but I was definitely still scared. And so I just told him and you know, his questions came from a great place. He was like, you know, do you have a job yet? All this stuff. And it might have come from a place of judgment, of assumption of, you know, practical, having no job or whatever.

But he wanted to know that his daughter was going to be taken care of, but he still wasn’t for it. And I wish I could say it was like this awesome conversation where he was like, oh, like black people are awesome. I just thought you were this way. Thank you for opening my eyes. I love you. son.

It wasn’t like that. It was like, All right, we’re done here. All right, bye. And we finished. And I don’t know what it was. But I just feel like God was like, he’s going to be there like he, he’s, this is going to work. And he was not happy. And he said he wasn’t coming to the wedding. And so we had to plan like some of Stephanie’s friends walking her down the aisle and just the whole nine.

So we got closer and closer to the wedding. And we were like overcoming, we were praying, believing, and we had planned for just her mom and her brother to be there, but not her dad. And then I think it was like, one week before the wedding. She gets a call from her dad. And he was like, Hey, I’m at Macy’s trying on a suit. Can I have the honor of walking you down the aisle?

We were undone. You know, it was just, it was nothing we could have said. It was just the Holy Spirit going ahead of us. And she was like, Yes. And we’re just like, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening. And I’m like, Well, you know, good for you. Like, he walks you down the aisle and he hands you off to me. I don’t know if we’re good. Like, what’s he going to say when he gets down the aisle to me like, Hey, dude, don’t mess this up. Like, I don’t know. It’s a it’s a lack of, you know, they say fear is false evidence appearing real.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was like, This is great. Thank you, God. And, you know, the day of the wedding, it was just beautiful. All of our friends are there. And it was like our community; like, they weren’t just there to celebrate our marriage. It was like they were there to say, We’re with you; we are for this union. And we are going to make it work.

It was, I mean, it’s easy for me to say that because it was my wedding. But it was like, you could tell it was a wedding that was purposeful. It wasn’t just a celebration, it was like, we are going to help these people make it. And it was like, it was, it was insane. Incredible.

And we had no, I mean, I was making no money during this time. And God provided every penny. Like every penny, I was making 1500 dollars a month. But God said to marry this woman. And I mean, I wasn’t gonna disagree with him. She was awesome. She’s still is awesome. But it was just, everything, like I didn’t have money for the ring. Somehow we got this amazing ring for next to nothing. My parents pitched in. It was, it was crazy.

So God was like, I’m not just going to give you a wedding, I’m going to give you grace, I’m going to give you union and I’m going to bring you, give you reconciliation. And so at the wedding, he walks down the aisle with her and she was looking amazing. And I’m seeing… I’m smiling the whole time. I can’t stop smiling.

And he says, he walks her down and hands her off. And he says, “Welcome to the family.”

And I just think it was the greatest picture I’ve ever seen of racial reconciliation. It was unity, all of that. And he is an unbelievable grandfather to our to our kids. He is, if you bring him in the house, he’s not going to stop talking to me, asking me questions about work, asking me questions about life. He’s not perfect, and neither am I. But like, we haven’t had an argument ever with either of them. And they always want to be around our kids.

And so the Holy Spirit just worked on him. And I mean, we’re moving to Austin, they’re helping us move. And I love this man. And he loves me too. And I just think, you know, for me, this has been just a great reminder of what God can do through prayer. And that, like, God wants to reconcile people, more than we could ever imagine. It’s the cross. It’s like, He died to reconcile us to the Father.

And so in this marriage, this marriage which is just a perfect depiction of God’s love for the church, He brings two people from opposite sides of the road and says, I’m going to do more than just marry you guys. I’m going to reconcile a person from a negative view of a person and a person who’s imperfect and I’m going to reconcile this whole thing and I’m going to make you, I’m going to make you someone that’s going to show this to the world!

And we really feel like my wife and I have that kind of calling on it to go around and just go, we’re two races in one, but we just feel like when people see us together, it breaks down some barriers and they can ask the questions.

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