Dear Tired Black Friend,

I can see you are exhausted. Since the end of May, and really since the day you were born, you’ve had to carry a burden for society, for your church, for your family, for yourself. You’ve had to be so much.

And I see you.

I’ve seen you as you had to be careful. When we planned long road trips, I noticed you had to be careful about not being the driver for the night shift. When we organized a backyard party at your house, I didn’t even think about how you had to be careful not to be too loud for your white neighbors. I also didn’t think about how, when you tried new churches, you’ve had to be careful to assess the level of acceptance and racial unity. When I ask your opinion, I can see how you’ve had to be careful to articulate your words well. Even when you were picking a college or career, I realize you’ve had to be careful to choose a path in which you’ll actually have opportunity. I’m sorry for not being careful and more thoughtful.

I’ve watched as you’ve had to be vulnerable. When I began to explore the racial injustice conversation, I knew you had to be vulnerable even when you were emotionally drained. When I asked you for your thoughts on George Floyd and police brutality, you were vulnerable even when I knew you were wrestling through your own issues. When we walked in the evenings on my street, I noticed you having to be more cautious and aware. I’m sorry I wasn’t more thoughtful of that on your behalf. When you taught younger black people about racism and prejudice, I’m sure you had to be vulnerable about the things you’ve seen and been through. I’m sorry for not returning that vulnerability with honesty on my part. And I’m sorry for not protecting you from danger when you make yourself vulnerable.

I’ve seen you, and it’s helped me to see myself better as well. I see now that I should have been bigger. When someone made a racist joke at the party, I should have been bigger. I’m sorry I didn’t say something on your behalf. When I made race talks just about politics, you were patient with me, but I should have been bigger. When some police officers showed aggression or unfairness, I should have done something. I should have stepped in. I’m beginning to realize the Enemy’s work in lulling white people like myself into a blindness and apathy when it comes to race. I’m also beginning to realize this is deeper than skin color. This is a spiritual battle. I’m sorry for coming to the fight so late. I’m sorry for not being bigger.

I can see you are tired, my friend. I can’t imagine what else you’ve had to be and see as a black person in the United States of America. I will never fully understand the burden you bear day in and day out, but I see this weight wearing you down. I want to carry this burden with you, but I don’t exactly know how.

I will keep learning. I will commit to carry it with you in prayer for a better world and for justice. I will commit to advocate and empower you when you feel unseen, unheard and not valued. I will commit to carry the burden with you in the fight for equality—not just diversity and inclusion—but in true equity. I will commit to weep when you experience loss, and to rejoice when you experience victory. I want to be with you. I want to be for you.

May I speak truth to you, my friend?

The truth is, God sees you (Psalm 33:18). He sure loves you (1 John 4:19) and went to great measures to lift the burden of marginalization off you (2 Cor. 5:21) and all His chosen ones. He fights for you (Ex. 14:14); He has a plan for you (Prov. 19:21), and He knows the extent of your hurt (John 16:33). When all the world skews the truth and seems blind to true justice, God stands ready to advocate for you (Heb. 8:1-2).

The truth is, you are beautiful and valuable the way you are (Psalm 139). You reveal purpose and innovation when you cling to your identity in Christ (1 Pet. 2:9). You have a place of impact in the church (1 Cor. 12:27). The Lord God can and will carry this burden for you (1 Pet. 5:6-7). The truth is, you are not alone (Isa. 41:10).

Thank you for being all that you have had to be. You have made the church and my own life richer. I’m sorry for not being more for you in times of need or demand. I want to work harder to understand all you are and all you dream to become.

I want to be with you. I want to be for you.

In respect, love, and lament,

Your sister in Christ,

Hannah Hanzel