Colourful resilience

Colourful resilience

Written on 08/31/2020
J.M. Bergman

Written by J.M. Bergman
My brothers and I were born from a coffee and cream recipe: a Caucasian father and a beautiful, chocolate-brown mother from a country in the Caribbean. Yet I was labelled as less than because I had a different skin tone. I was planted in a Mennonite garden among a field of white lilies where differences were seen as dandelions or weeds. 

I’m proud of who I am, and I value who and how God made me, but to many, I was seen as a problem without a solution. I left the playground, tear-streaked from pain that a small child should never have to understand. So many times. How do you explain to a little girl that some view colour as less and teach their children to do the same? 

I auditioned for a Christmas play in Grade 4. I thought maybe I could make some friends if we were all doing the same fun thing together. But right after the auditions, a group of classmates found me and said: “You won’t get a part because all the characters in the Bible are white.” 

I froze. Then I thought about the images in my Bible and Sunday School materials. They were right. According to what was circulated in our small town, Jesus and everyone else in the Good Book were white. I know better now of course, but without any other perspective at the time I had no other choice than to accept their words. And when the ringleader of this particular little gang received the leading role in the Christmas play, she and her posse made sure to let me know. 

I remember thinking to myself, surely this behaviour will pass. Nope. Not in this life. Perhaps the lilies didn’t understand that my feelings could be hurt in the same ways as theirs, or that the ability to feel is universal to humanity. Perhaps they didn’t agree with my family’s coffee and cream blend. Either way, they let me know that I would be on the outside forever.

When this happened, my mom embraced me, wiped my tears, and said: “Keep praying, keep reaching, and never give up. You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your strength.” This encouraged me to search for strength in the Bible.

Jesus’s words have stayed with me to this day: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

Why did Jesus say these things? Maybe because He knew hate contaminates our mind and body like a disease, and over time it can destroy us. 

But love can set us and our enemies free. 

I decided that if God said it was so, I would do my best to live what He asked. I chose to smile at my bullies. I chose to pray for their healing—maybe their hate stemmed from a deep hurt they were too scared to face. I remembered their birthdays and listened when they needed a friend. I felt God’s love for me and them, and each time I chose to share this love, my heart became a little braver.

It was like God planted new seeds in my life every time I loved through obedience. 

These seeds rooted deep. 
Then sprouted and grew. 
Then multiplied. 

They turned bullying into spiritual warfare, where a little girl learned to fight racism and discrimination with grace, boldness, and colourful resilience. I found security, identity, and promise in God’s presence when I cried out to Him in prayer from the confines of my bedroom. I learned my faith was more important than temporary earthly relationships, and I chose to find strength in my eternal home instead of this broken planet. 

God taught me that my own brokenness was part of a bigger picture. 

You see, He was moulding my heart and equipping me to help others battle abuse and rejection. It was through battling this pain that my timid voice learned to roar. God led me into leadership roles at my university campus, youth ministry, and mentorship with Canada’s newcomer community. 

God has used my brokenness to connect with and love hundreds of youth and young adults in Canada. What a calling! And I feel like the harvest has only just begun.

Where would I be if life had been easy or fair? Probably on the breezy sidelines with the white lilies who led our town. But choosing strength means fighting darkness with determination and intention. It means speaking up for those who are still finding their voice and spreading compassion over hurting wounds. 

Hate, on the other hand, is an easy fallback. It’s a lazy solution that takes no premeditation or courage. Fighting hate with hate is shallow and better left for the dead and dying. 

Love is always the answer. Always. And only the brave will find it.

I hope I will always choose to fight on the frontlines with the resilience grown from picking myself up and helping my neighbours stand.

That’s where Jesus will be, after all. And He’s the strength I choose.

Heaven’s womb

Heaven’s womb
is where we all began.
Brothers and sisters 
formed by the same hand who poured his paint, 
mixed with love and infinite creativity. 
Like wildflowers on the grassy
mountain slopes we grew.
But then the created chose
to despise those coloured by a different shade.
As if we hold the power 
to lower our equal’s worth.
To bloom where we are planted 
but say that others cannot.
Our beauty has been cast aside
by waves of hate and floods of pride;
we are doomed unless we realize 
that we grow 
with the same roots 
and blood
from the womb of our Creator.
And whether we live or die 
We are One.