Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Challenging the status quo

Challenging the Status Quo: Going Against Our Elders

A guest post by Kristen Terrette

Spiritual Elders. We all have them. They may be our church leaders or mentors. Or grandparents. Or parents. Or even our friends’ parents. 

Really, what I consider an elder is anyone with earned respect through evidence of wisdom and spiritual maturity. It’s a position garnered through life experience, and it warrants a level of reverence and humility in the mentee. It’s a place, even if figuratively, of honor.

But what happens when an elder lets you down? Are we, as the underling, allowed to combat them? Do we speak up about the injustice? Or are we supposed to halt our mouths?

I’ve been dealing with this struggle a lot lately when it comes to the tension amongst whites and black or brown people. It seems the moment you agree to take a stand and do your part in fighting racial injustice of any kind, the devil comes prowling to show you just how weak and unworthy of the cause you are.

I’ve dealt with family members who don’t see eye to eye with my views on interracial dating or marriage. I’ve had someone who went to school with my husband incorrectly assume I’d be offended if I had a biracial grandchild one day. These were handled, hopefully, appropriately when I carefully stated I did not agree with their opinions. But recently, I was confronted not once, but twice with an uncomfortable situation with an elder.

And now, I’m feeling like I didn’t handle it correctly. That I let God and the people of color in my life down. Let me explain.

I was at an event with many childhood friends, and a man I’ve known a long time proceeded to tell a racist joke. My back was turned away from him at the time. He wasn’t close by but made an effort to tell the awful joke loudly so all could hear it. I froze, not knowing what to do. I decided to pretend I didn’t hear him, to ignore him. Maybe that way he’d leave having gotten no reaction from his audience. And no one, to my knowledge because I had my back to them, did indulge him. I didn’t hear laughing or comments. And honestly, it happened so fast, I thought: Okay, I reacted somewhat appropriately to that despicable joke which completely disgusted everything inside of me.

But then, hours later, he drew near once more and told another racist joke. A different one, like he had plenty to choose from, all stored away in his mind to pull forth when he wanted. I was facing my friend and, again, not him at the time. Both our eyes went wide. Our expressions turned angry and red as we, through the eye stare only close friends can have, silently asked each other, “What do we do?” 
I steeled my body against the rage. We rolled our eyes and made extra effort not to allow any movement or sound escape. We silently told one another not to let him even think he got a laugh out of us. 

But I didn’t say anything. Didn’t call him out for this repulsive humor. Didn’t stand and leave the area with a snarl he could see. Didn’t make sure, absolutely sure, he knew I didn’t think his jokes—or rather insults—were funny, that they in fact not only offended people I love but offended me as well by him thinking he could tell them in my presence.

And see, this man is a devoted church member. He’s raised a daughter with a beautiful heart and love for God. He prayed over the microphone for our dinner. He openly talks about Jesus, His Savior, which makes this situation so hard.

But, in prayer, I realized that I witnessed a blind spot in this man’s soul exposing itself. We all have them—blind spots. They’re a deception placed on us by the enemy. A part of our self that needs work, but a part that the devil has covered up carefully so that we don’t even notice it’s causing problems in our journey with Jesus.

My battle is not with this man, but with the enemy, so I must pray his blind spot is revealed to him (as I pray mine are to me as well). And I must ask God for forgiveness over my failure, and that He, in His glorious mercy, will give me opportunities to redeem myself.

I want to be respectful to my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I also want to stand up for my brothers and sisters in Christ. And as I’ve dwelled and prayed over this, recalling those few seconds after he concluded the joke, the conviction in my heart tells me I should have done more. This person told two racist jokes in my presence, and, elder or not, I should’ve reacted better and differently, defending openly my beloved people of color. I should’ve fought for them and the heartache his flippant words caused.

Will you, person of color, also forgive me, please? I am sorry I failed you. Will you also pray for me? Pray I have the courage and wisdom to combat respectfully anyone who may be in a position of authority, whether officially or superficially, over me when needed? Pray I’m able to stand up for justice, love, and my fellow Christian brothers and sisters without faltering?

I can do better. More. I will. For you. For my children. For my grandchildren.

And for yours.

Author Bio:

Kristen's passionate about storytelling and helping people take their next steps in their relationship with Jesus. 

She lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. where she served as a Children's Ministry Director for many years. With the support of her husband and two children, she now stays home writing fiction and non-fiction.

She also serves on the women’s leadership team at her local church and writes for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved Ministries. You can check out her articles and novels at

Connect with Kristen:
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  1. Kristen, thank you so much for your honesty. I have had a similar experience and have felt that same guilt for not speaking up. It's so difficult when it is an elder - one that you respect. Praying for you and me both!

  2. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Sherrinda! Keep the prayers coming! I will pray for you as well! Thank you.


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