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Ramblings from a Heart Exchanged

This last year I partnered with my friend Johnny Lee to help teach Christian youth about Indigenous justice through The Mustard Seed’s Seed Serve program. I usually start the conversation like this: 

Would you ever buy something from someone if you knew it was stolen? 

Most of the youth would say no way! 

What if you really wanted it? 

Still the answer was a firm no. 

What if you really needed it and you would use it for good. 

The answers get a bit more fuzzy. 

What if the church bought something that was stolen and was using it to help others and glorify God? 

Now the youth were just frustrated with me. One youth asked if this was ‘a trick question or something.’ Eventually most of them said, no the church should still not do it. This is when I reveal what I am getting at: the thing that that church has obtained and used for God’s glory – which had been stolen – is land. 

From there Johnny and I trace the history of how colonists systematically took the land from Indigenous peoples. We particularly trace the history of Papaschase First Nation in Edmonton whose land was stolen even according to the standards of the Indian Act.  During the conversation, I hope that not only information was exchanged but also our hearts, full with passion and pain. 

I tried not to give any definite answers for I myself am guilty of a blind and apathetic heart.

This was also the hope of the recent Hearts Exchanged Cohort I participated in. While we did explore lots of excellent information, we also, with tenderness and vulnerability, exchanged our hearts. 

When I asked the youth what their parents consider when buying a home they came back with the typical answers – neighbourhood, price, resale value, nearby school. I then asked the youth: Do your parents consider injustice and loving your neighbours when buying a home?   They were silent. One youth told me that they had never thought of this before. I tried not to give any definite answers for I myself am guilty of a blind and apathetic heart. All I could suggest is that in every decision keep the two great commands in mind: in this decision how am I loving God, how am I loving my neighbour? Also how may I be dishonouring God and hurting my neighbour?  Once these questions attend our mind like a habit, next comes the hard work of answering them through research, introspection and prayer. 

Of course, one cannot excavate the heart on your own. The heart is too tricky for that. We must do our investigation in community. Our hearts are notorious for absorbing the dominant and diseased theological imagination identified by Mark Charles, Soong Chan Rah, and Willie Jennings. In this imagination, European values and skin are elevated to a God-like status and, in this deification, colonization became a justified crusade honouring to the Lord, rather than a sinful and demonic injustice. This is why groups of the people who are similar may also be blind to certain aspects of sinfulness of their hearts. They are able to hide their sin from themselves.  When we engage in diverse communities we re-examine each other's hearts in new ways - leading to new confessions.

This is my heart bare and naked. I urge it to look to God

Each month at Hearts Exchanged we would engage in heart-work in a supportive and loving community. In this community, I soon realized anger in my heart towards settlers. I am frustrated by the patience required for hearts and systems to change, while so many of my Indigenous friends are suffering. But I also identified a colonist mindset behind this anger – my solution was to bring change now, forcefully if necessary. I want revenge. I want the subtle but unrelenting barrage of colonization to turn itself back on the perpetrators so that they feel the same pain my friends do on a daily basis. This is my heart bare and naked. I urge it to look to God who is the avenger, the forgiver and the healer. 

The burden on my heavy heart is greater as my wife and I seek to buy land. I mentioned to her a little bit of what I was learning at Hearts Exchanged including a Spiritual Covenant some churches are making with Indigenous communities which gives ownership of land to the latter while, at the same time, supporting the former to function as a church. My wife paused to consider. I took this to mean she was against it – my heart was furious. Later she told me it was a good pause – a pause to consider a new way of seeing our decision to buy land. Her honesty (her heart exchanged with mine) helped heal some of the anger deep within me.

I am not sure how we will proceed in purchasing land but we are seeking intently how to best love God and neighbour. 

Lord we give our hurting hearts to you. Mend and heal us in Christ!

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

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