What Color Is God?
- Stacy Hawkins Adams Author, Journalist, Speaker
- 2006 16 Jan
My husband is an associate minister at the Richmond, Virginia church we attend and is occasionally invited by other churches in the region to deliver sermons. While Donald preaches, I'm often tasked with keeping our children quiet and engaged, especially our squirming 4-year-old son.
He and his 7-year-old sister usually take their children's Bibles, filled with colorful images and brief biblical tales, into the service. My daughter will read those stories when the sermon goes beyond her second grade understanding. My son will flip pages, "reading" as he peruses the pictures.
Often they'll draw pictures or practice their penmanship in the margins or other empty spaces of the church bulletin. More often, though, they want to talk to each other - in very loud whispers. I spend quite a bit of time shushing them so everyone else can hear the sermon.
One particular Sunday last fall, just as Donald walked to the lectern and began to share the Scripture from which the morning's sermon had been culled, my son tugged at my arm.
I put a finger to my lips to indicate that it wasn't an appropriate time to talk. He couldn't resist.
"I need to ask you something!" he said earnestly.
I glanced at Donald, who was still speaking to the congregation and leaned over to hear my son's question.
"Is God black or white?" he asked and looked into my eyes for an answer.
I paused and stared into his curious pupils. What had sparked that question?
If circumstances had permitted, I would have explained how everyone in the world, whether black, white and otherwise, is created in God's image, which means God is black, white and more.
But as Donald prepared to pray before delivering his sermon, I put my mouth close to my son's ear and simply said, "God isn't black or white. He's both."
His expression indicated that he was satisfied with my answer. (How easy it is to make a preschooler happy.)
I thought about that conversation this weekend and we neared today's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Most of us are familiar with King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he envisioned a world where children of all hues fellowshipped together, where people were judged on the content of their character versus the color of their skin, and where individuals of all faiths practiced the central tenet of Jesus' earthly ministry - unconditional love.
Unfortunately, King's dream isn't yet our reality. Notice, however, that I said "yet."
Call it wishful or fanciful thinking, but I still hold out hope. Or maybe it's my faith, knowing that nothing is impossible with God.
Individually, if we'll begin to look for and appreciate ways in which we are similar to the people with whom we cross paths, maybe our differences won't matter as much.
In my dozen years as a reporter, I've interviewed some of the wealthiest Americans to some of the poorest. I've learned that people living in every circumstance love their families and long to do what's best for them. I've seen people from all walks of life express a sincere love for God and work diligently to improve the communities in which they live.
Martin Luther King Jr. sacrificed status and security as a well-educated, well-respected Baptist minister to insure that all Americans could have the right to embrace and be respected for what matters most to them. He went to jail, endured death threats and eventually lost his life to give others the gift of opportunity.
When my family left the southside Virginia church that Sunday in September, I turned the conversation to my son's question. I wanted to make sure that he and my daughter understood that God can't, and shouldn't, be limited by the perameters of our knowledge, opinions and imagination.
This morning, when my son awoke and crawled onto the sofa next to me to snuggle for a few minutes, I asked him if he remembered that discussion.
He said yes. I asked if he remembered my response to his question about God's complexion.
"God is all colors," he said.
If he is listening, so are other children and youth. We adults can lead by example, through the love we're called by our faith to share.
The more we do so, there is hope that someday, somehow, King's dream will indeed live.
Stacy Hawkins Adams is the author of the Christian fiction novel Speak To My Heart. She is also a reporter and inspirational columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia. Stacy often speaks to audiences about the blessings that come with authentically living one's faith. She and her husband, Donald, have two children. You can read Stacy's blog on Crosswalk.com.