Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Mother’s Heart Concerning Prejudice in America

Dannah Gresh: We’re hearing a lot of conversation right now on the topic of race. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Here’s Robyn McKelvy.

Robyn McKelvy: I think it’s time for us to get uncomfortable. We’ve been comfortable in our relationships; we relate very well to people who look just like us, who believe like us, who worship like us . . . and it’s time for us to get uncomfortable.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of our newest resource, “Strengthen Your Faith,” for June 26, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It’s impossible to be unaware that the topic of prejudice and racism has become a huge conversation lately, especially here in the United States. This is something that’s been of great concern on my heart for a number of years . . . and especially in recent weeks. 

I’ve found myself spending hours in conversation—honest, meaningful, constructive, helpful conversation—with a number of my African American sisters. Some of those conversations have been hard, some have been awkward.

But they’ve been so good as together we’ve been going to the Word and saying, “What does God say about all of this? What does He think? What does He want our response to be as women from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds?” 

Today we want to take time for you to hear from a couple of those women on this subject. I want to encourage you, whatever your background or ethnicity or perspective may be, to ask God to speak to your heart as I’ve been asking Him to speak to mine in these days.

Dannah: You might be familiar with Grounded, a videocast from Revive Our Hearts that’s been airing every weekday morning during this pandemic. Robyn McKelvy is our frequent co-host on that program. She’s also spoken at some of our Revive Our Hearts events. She’s married to Pastor Ray McKelvy. 

We invited her and her daughter ReNay to talk about the issue of racism and to share their hearts on a recent Grounded episode. Their reflections from their personal experience and their mothers’ hearts were so insightful that we wanted to air that conversation here on Revive Our Hearts.

Now, Grounded happens through a video conferencing call, so the audio quality isn’t the highest quality, but let’s listen in as Erin Davis chats with Robyn and ReNay about loving one another well in this difficult time.

Erin Davis: Today I want to do a lot of listening. I want to just hear what’s on your hearts. So, Robyn, what is the Lord stirring in you today in these difficult days?

Robyn: Well, first Erin, I want to put this out there: we will need tissues, because this is a very painful area for me. Racism has been a part of my history, and I’m going to share that with you a little later. Also, I am one who is a quick processor, and my first reaction usually is anger . . and I don’t want to be angry!

I don’t want to be another black, angry mom because life isn’t fair. What I want to be is a godly person, where people can look up and say, “Despite your pain, I see Christ in you.” So those are some of the biggest things that Christ is doing in my heart. 

If God’s people—I mean His children—think about it, all of us that name the name of Jesus Christ are His children. If we can’t work this out in our congregations, in our relationships with each other, do we expect the world to work it out? It’s so important that we work this out! And Erin, frankly, I think it’s time for us to get uncomfortable.

We’ve been comfortable in our relationships; we relate very well to people who look just like us, who believe like us, who worship like us . . . and it’s time for us to get uncomfortable. We are very comfortable with sameness, and I mean to say we’re comfortable with our families. We like things that don’t ruffle our feathers too much! Well, it’s time that believers get their feathers ruffled!

So this is the Scripture that’s been on my heart: John 13:34–35, 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this [by what?—by loving one another] all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Erin, I want everybody to know today that love is an action. It’s so much more than just saying, “I love you.” Love is doing something. It’s time for us as believers to lock arms and do something that may be uncomfortable.

Erin: ReNay, what is the Lord stirring in your heart as you’re living in these days, as you’re watching it unfold in a public way and living it privately? What is the Lord stirring inside your heart?

ReNay Nelson: I think something really similar. This season feels almost like a launching pad for something new. I’m asking the Lord what that is. But I definitely have a passion for us as believers to be linking together and going into the trenches together.

I think for a long time we’ve sat divided in separate trenches, and we are not getting as much done because we are divided and because we are going after our own comfortable agendas. I think in this season I’m like, “We are so much stronger and more powerful and have more endurance together!”

That is what I’m begging the Lord will stir in all of us collectively, and hoping to lead in as well.

Erin: Well, we’re all multifaceted people. I’m a wife; I’m a Grounded host; I’m lots of things. But the part of me that is most stirred as I watch all this unfold, is my mother’s heart. Now, you’re mommas of black sons; I’m a momma of four white sons, but there’s something the same about our mothers’ hearts.

Tell me if you still do this ladies. I haven’t had a baby for a while, but if a baby starts crying in a grocery store (somebody else’s baby), I still start doing this . . . I start swaying. That’s the motherhood in me. 

There’s this photo that’s moved me more than the flood of images I can, frankly, get so overwhelmed by . . . all the information, all the images coming at me. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s just words spray painted on plywood that says, “All mothers were summoned when he called out for his momma.” We have George Floyd’s last words, because they were recorded on video. And more than once he called out for his momma. 

It’s reminded me of something that I have studied and have been interested in for a long time. I’m a student of history. I like to study conflicts and wars and those kinds of things. I just like history. Something I’ve paid attention to as a student of history and a mother of sons is that many soldiers when they’re dying on the battlefield, cry out for their mothers.

The part of me that carried children inside my own body, the part of me that held their little bodies close to mine when I nursed them and rocked them in the night, is so grieved by watching our brokenness unfold this way.

It’s like the veil has been pulled apart on human brokenness, and we are seeing how broken we are! And so, I would love to hear from both of you—as mothers of black sons—what God is doing in your mothers’ hearts.

Robyn: Well, Erin, racism has been a big part of my story. I can’t share my mother’s heart without telling you a little bit of my history with racism. I want to start by sharing my father’s story. These are the big stories that stuck with me—there have been many others.

My dad was twenty-one years in the Air Force. Going from one platoon to another platoon, he had to ride a train. He was going to be AWOL if he wasn’t there in the morning. He rode the train, but a white man came in and needed the sleeper car berth that my dad was sleeping in. He asked my dad to have it.

My dad was like, “No, I’m military. I’m going to have to be there in the morning and be alert and active.” And this guy was very upset, so he went and got somebody—I don’t know who—on the train. They were able to stop the train and have local local police officers get on the train, handcuff my dad, and escort him off!

My dad comes off the train, and then that train leaves. My dad is like, “I have to be on that train, or I’m going to be AWOL in the morning!” The officers uncuffed him and said, “You’re free to go!” . . . and laughed as they walked away! That’s one story.

I’m also a sister of racism. My brother, who served over twenty years in the Army, walked into his barrack one day, and there was a noose hanging. There were only black men in that particular barracks, and there was a noose hanging. I won’t tell you the end of that story. But my brother did end up in jail, and he had to call Congress people to get him out.

I’ve been a wife of racism. My husband was walking home, and he was stopped by police officers because he looked like this man that had robbed somebody. Well, the man that had robbed somebody was six foot tall with white skin. My husband is five-foot-eight, standing on his tiptoes, and he’s a darker-skinned man!

And then, I’ve been profiled. I go to the grocery store with my kids, and people follow me. I go to the check out, and they want to check every item to make sure I haven’t stolen anything. I’ve been a mom of racism. 

My son who lives in Chicago was walking home with a friend; the police officer comes, handcuffs him, puts his face against the car with his hands and starts searching his pockets.

He pulls out his Moody Bible Institute ID, and the officer apologized. But that’s happened to my son, and it continues. 

The reason I asked ReNay here today is because we’ve been sharing a part of her life and what’s been going on in her life. I want ReNay to tell her story, because it continues.

This racism, this profiling, these injustices are continuing with my own children. And I want to be “mama bear” and go attack! But that’s not what God asks me to do. 

ReNay: I think for me, growing up as a minority in mostly majority settings is just being misunderstood by my friends constantly—with them not knowing anything about my culture but me knowing about theirs. I have to educate them—not only on my culture, but theirs. I have to educate them on jokes being said, just misunderstanding about my hair or my skin, and having to teach them, almost like you’re a spectacle constantly! 

And that was just my whole childhood and college life. I think for me, when I did enter into college and had a lot of other minority friends, seeing them go through the same things . . . carrying that weight together is also a burden of racism that we carry daily. 

And we compound it and compound it, because we’re carrying it together. I think that adds to the weight. My husband and I have been married just a year, and we’ve had over five instances that have jolted us. 

One of them was just a few weeks ago. We were having dinner upstairs with my family, and he called and said that he was on his way home. So we were going to wait to start dinner. We ended up waiting like twenty minutes. We didn’t know where he was. He called me again to say that he had gotten pulled over, and he didn’t want to talk about it . . . and so we went on.

But the next day he finally told me. He said that he was pulled over, pulled out of the car, put to the ground, and was told to lay on the side of the road face to the ground for twenty minutes while they checked out his ID, while they checked out whatever the confusion was. They said his car was suspect because it matched another car or something.

They let him go with a warning . . . and he had done nothing! So, that’s just one.

Robyn: When somebody wrongs you, if you even have a car accident and it’s somebody else’s fault, you would expect them to get out and say, “I’m sorry.” But that’s the part that’s missing. We don’t hear the “I’m sorrys.” What was he getting a warning for? We say, people are pulled over a lot of times because “they’re driving while black!” That’s the only thing!

Or you’re, “walking while black,” or you’re, “shopping while black,” “jogging while black.” So it affects you! Think about this man having to come home to his family, who has just been totally humiliated on the side of the road.

ReNay: It’s hard to explain what it feels like to know that he is powerless against those who are supposed to protect him. I think that is something, this year, that I realize in a whole new way. I’m kind of like my mom. I’m very fiery; I’m passionate, and I think I can fight my way through anything.

So I’ve been like, “Well, I’m going to fight this! What can I do?” And this year has taught me that sometimes I can’t do anything. In these scenarios with him, I can’t do anything . . . but pray, which is a powerful thing, but still you feel helpless!

Erin: So how do you counsel your own hearts? How does the Lord counsel your hearts through His Word when you want to rise up and fight against it, or when you want to default to anger, when you want to default to bitterness?

What is it that you’re saying to your own heart, that the Lord’s saying to your heart or around your own dining room tables, to respond in ways that honor the Lord to these terrible, terrible things that keep happening?

Robyn: Erin, one of the thingsI have to remember every second of the day, every minute of the day, every hour of the day—no matter what happens with profiling, the injustices, or racism or any of that—is whose I am! 

If I don’t believe that and I start believing what the world says that I am, just because of the color of my skin, then that makes this life in vain. But I have a purpose, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with everybody I come in contact with!

That’s one of the beautiful things, one of the stories about ReNay’s husband Donelle, when he was in the back of the car, he’s sharing Christ with the police officer! (This is another of the five incidents since they’ve been living here; they’ve been here since after Thanksgiving.) When they pull up, the officer is so sorry that he pulled him over.

He says that to my husband, but he has him handcuffed over in the back of a car. But as the officer began to speak to Donelle and see Christ in him, he even allowed him a phone call, to call ReNay. So when I want to get angry and when I want to go tell somebody off, that’s not my character anymore. That’s who I used to be before I knew Christ.

But I can now live as an ambassador for Christ every single second of the day. Sometimes Ray has to pull on my shirttail. But I truly know what it means to be kindhearted, to be kind to one another, to be tender hearted, forgiving each other, even up to seventy times seventy times! Over and over and over! I must forgive, because that’s what God did in Christ for me. 

ReNay: I was going to say what the Lord has been teaching me through this is that it’s okay to be angry . . .

Robyn: . . . and sin not. (see Eph. 4:26)

ReNay: Yes, that’s a proper response. I think that is a Christ-like response, to be enraged at sin, at injustice. I’m learning to then give it to Christ and say, “Okay, Lord, what are you going to do with this anger? Propel it for Your Kingdom.”

I think apathy is the lack of seeing with His eyes, honestly. And so for me, I’ve been angry for my husband, angry for the experience that we have lived and we will continue to live. But in this season, I’m like, “Lord, use this anger for Your glory.” 

I think that has freed me, because I don’t have to take something that feels like a flame and control it, but I give it to the Lord to do with it what He wills. And He beautifies it and uses it for His glory.

Erin: You are putting such beautiful faces and hearts to something that—for many of us—we just see the masses. It’s hard for us to know how to feel, how to think, how to respond. You’re giving voice to the human side of it, which we need so desperately!

Maggie wrote to us: “Forgive us, Lord! Humble us and stir in us a love that breaks hearts and the hateful barriers that divide us. Bring unity and peace!” 

Charlotte wrote to us and said, “This is a call to prayer for me.” 

And if, today, it becomes a call to prayer, hallelujah! Grounded has done its work! I’d just love to hear from each of you about what you would encourage us to do. I’m a white woman in middle America, and I don’t always know how to respond. I think many of us are wondering, What can we do as mothers, as grandmothers, as neighbors to respond rightly to the sin of racism?

I’ve been very, very quiet on social media because I want to know what the Word says! I’m sitting in the Word. I’m trying to make sense of it. But, of course, I have the filters of my own experiences and my flesh to contend with, so what can we do? Help me navigate that to help fight the sin of racism and the deep hurt that our brothers and sisters are facing.

ReNay: Something that I have been asking and sharing in this time is, as I talked about experiencing things with my husband and the feeling of helplessness, I think maybe that would not completely dissipate but would be alleviated if we as believers came together and fought the battle together.

I think, because you feel this helplessness, and then you’ve got your own people, believers, who come either debating you or willingly or unknowingly ignore your pain, that adds to the helplessness a sense of loneliness. It grieves you, and it makes the battle really tiring!

The Lord over several years has revealed to me how this is a Kingdom issue, how He created in Himself one man out of the two and broke down the dividing walls. (see Eph. 2:14) The enemy has crafted it in this American story to be a dividing wall between black and white, majority and minority, and we have allowed that, I think, as believers. 

So my call to us, to myself, has been, let us seek Christ in a way that rids us of our comfort and rids us of our fears. May we get into the trenches together to educate ourselves, to relate to one another in ways that may be uncomfortable, to have conversations, to meet with people who might not look like us, to get out of our comfort zones.

Erin: Yes, you’re helping us with so much Bible. Because the Bible tells us that when one suffers we all suffer together, that we’re to weep with those who weep (see Rom. 12:15), that we’re to carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), so we can just enter into each other’s pain and each other’s suffering.

How powerful is, “I see you, and my heart hurts because your heart is hurting.”

Robyn: Sometimes it’s easy for us to not do it because there’s nobody who’s close to us or in our neighborhoods. I was speaking at a conference in Pennsylvania last year, and the majority of that culture was a Dutch culture, and there were not a lot of African Americans around.

And I was like, “Do you go to the grocery store? Do you see them at the grocery store? Begin with a smile and then go say to them, ‘I want my family to know different cultures. Would you come to my house for dinner?’” It can’t be comfortable. We’re too comfortable!

It’s time for us to get out of our comfort zones so that we represent Christ in every area! I don’t want your four boys growing up thinking that your race is the most popular race, the majority race, “it’s the only race I’m comfortable with, so that’s who I’m going to stick with.”

Last Monday my daughter got engaged, and we’re going to welcome our first vanilla brother into our home, and he’s going to be my son! He doesn’t care that he’s only the vanilla brother in this sea of chocolate. But so many times we’ve been the only chocolate drop in a sea of vanilla ice cream. It’s time for us, all of us, to get uncomfortable.

I want people to know me. I want people to love me. And to know me is to know my experience and to see why we hold so tightly onto Christ! It’s painful, and it’s hard, and we all need to get hard. We all need to understand that it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take some sheer drive and willfulness to do what God calls us to do!

It’s more than just, “I love you.” I love you is an action! Love me greatly by getting in the trenches with me. If I hurt, you should hurt—not because something happened in this room, but because I’m your sister in Christ. And as sisters in Christ, if I know your experience, I should be just as enraged so I can lock arms and we can fight this battle!

People aren’t seeing Christians fight this battle. We do a lot of talking, but there’s no action. It’s time for action. It’s time for us to get uncomfortable!

Dannah: What a call to action . . . and to prayer! We’ve been listening to a conversation between Erin Davis, Robyn McKelvy, and Robyn’s daughter, ReNay Nelson. It’s from a recent episode of Grounded.

Nancy: Dannah, I’m so thankful for these godly women who can share their hearts, share their experiences about a difficult topic, and direct us to the hope of Christ! This is a much-needed and maybe overdue conversation for some in our world today. We can learn a lot by taking time to hear others’ perspectives.

Dannah: That is something you and I have been taking a lot of time to do these past several weeks. We’ve been on Zoom calls together with our sisters who are African American. We’ve been both individually on phone calls, or taking walks with friends, just to learn, because I think right now we all need to listen and to learn.

Nancy: I’m so thankful, Dannah, that as we came to this moment of escalated tension in our culture that we have friends—African American women—that are not new to our lives, that we’ve walked with for years, that we have cultivated relationship and trust with. And they’ve been a part of Revive Our Hearts—behind the scenes, on the platform, just in the context of our everyday relationships.

I’m so thankful for their willingness at a time like this to engage with us. That can be exhausting . . .

Dannah: . . . and time-consuming. 

Nancy: Time-consuming, hard, but these are precious women, among other friends, who have been willing to have that conversation with us, and I’m so grateful!

Dannah: An important voice in the conversation—I would say the most important voice in the conversation—is the voice of the Lord. You’ve been soaking in Scriptures about just how important our relationships are, haven’t you, Nancy?

Nancy: Yes. It’s so important that we anchor our hearts in God’s Word. You can see, beginning in Genesis chapter 3 and all the way through Scripture, that apart from Christ, our relationships are going to be characterized by enmity and strife and alienation and anger and hatred. These things flow out of hearts that are not redeemed.

Sinful hearts treat people in sinful ways, and this doesn’t just revolve around race. That’s an important part of the discussion, but you may be finding this in your own home, maybe in your own marriage or with your children. The enemy is always trying to alienate and separate people whom God wants to be of one accord and of one spirit.

That’s why when we come to Scriptures that talk to us about our redeemed life—what it looks like, how we flesh that out—there is a oneness in Christ that has to be lived out in our relationships. You see this all through the New Testament.

For example, in Colossians chapter 3, Paul talks about those who have been raised with Christ, are seated with Him, they’re to put to death (to mortify) attitudes and values that are earthly or carnal or fleshly. 

Then he says in verse 12, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other”. . . because those things will happen! White/black, young/old, poor/rich, male/female, Jew/Gentile . . . there are going to be complaints against each other. You see that in the Scripture; you see it in life today.

And he says when you have complaints against each other, you need to bear with each other. You need to not stuff it under the surface and pretend like it doesn’t exist; that’s not what forgiveness means. But he says, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

And here’s the verse I want to get to, Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love [put on love!], which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body” (vv. 14–15).

Love. Perfect harmony. It doesn’t mean perfect agreement on everything. You and I don’t agree on everything, Dannah. We have differences.

Dannah: I’ve often said we’re on the same page, just not the same place on the page sometimes.

Nancy: And that’s all right. But in the midst of that we put on love, our hearts are bound together in perfect harmony and we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.

Dannah: You know, isn’t it interesting, Nancy, that it says, “put on love.” We don’t naturally have it, and it’s sometimes an inconvenience. I know when one of my neighbors knocks on my door and I’m already in my jammies and I have to put on a sweatshirt and put on my slippers, it’s an inconvenience.

And right now, I think we need to love each other by taking on that inconvenience. Let’s “put on love.” It’s going to take a little bit of work.

Nancy: And that means reaching out to friends, to neighbors, to people who are different than we are—whether it’s their cultural background, their socio-economic background, their ethnicity. You and I have had the privilege (you mentioned it a moment ago) of having some really sweet calls in recent weeks with African American sisters. 

We’ve been saying, “Let’s talk about this,” and “How can we learn from each other?” and “Are there ways that we are tripping each other up unintentionally?” and “Let’s have iron sharpen iron. I want to better hear your perspective.”

We were on a call recently with a sweet friend of ours who was very transparent about some issues of injustice and racism that she’s facing in her secular workplace. Here’s a woman who loves Jesus, but she was really tearful talking about it.

What she described there is something that you and I have not experienced. A number of the things that Robyn and her daughter, ReNay, expressed on this Grounded episode are things you and I have not had to walk through.

So to listen to each other, to hear each other’s hearts, and to say, “How can I put on love? How can I express care?” And if we’re just ranting on social media and being quick to throw out accusations or to dislike this or react to that, that’s not the way the body of Christ ought to be functioning. We will have points of disagreement sometimes, but in all these things we need to put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony, and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts! 

Again, that peace doesn’t mean we don’t have differences. We have differences in my family. Robert and I have differences in our marriage. You and I, Dannah, have differences in our friendship.

We have differences at times with some of our black brothers and sisters, differences of perspective or experience. Those differences are not necessarily sinful differences, but in the process we want our hearts to be bound together and the peace of Christ to rule, so that together we can show the world a transforming power of the gospel to tear down walls, to tear down barriers, and to make us one in Christ!

Dannah: I needed to hear that today, Nancy! And we need that peace in our world right now. I feel encouraged, and I hope, listeners, you do too, because we certainly need that right now! In some of these very disturbing days that we’re walking through, we love bringing you encouragement from God’s Word and His people.

The way we do that is through friends like you who support this ministry. I just wonder, would you ask the Lord if He would want you to give a gift to keep this podcast coming to your device? When you support this ministry with a gift of any amount today, we’d like to send you the Flourish set. It’s absolutely beautiful!

This pair of resources, packaged together in a little folder, are both designed to help you flourish in your faith. One part is a booklet written by Nancy called “Strengthen Your Faith.” And the other piece is an assessment tool called the “Personal Vitality Plan.” 

You’ll never flourish without taking a prayerful look at what’s going on in your life-—what’s going well and what needs worked on. That’s where the Vitality Plan comes in. And, you’ll never flourish apart from spending time in the Word of God. That’s where the booklet by Nancy comes in. It’s a study through 2 Peter chapter 1. So be sure to ask for Flourish when you call to make your gift of any size. The website is ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Nancy: Have you ever felt frustrated about the trials you were going through, only to discover later that God was preparing you to face something even more difficult? That was true of next week’s guest. She had no inkling whatsoever how hard things were going to be for her and her family as they prepared to be missionaries overseas.

Stephanie Wesco: I am very much a worrier. My natural tendency is to freak out over stuff. The thought never crossed my mind that one of us would be shot there!

Nancy: It’s a riveting story I hope you won’t miss, all next week right here on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to love with your actions. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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