The Only One (Day 1 of 10)
“But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” - Luke 5:15-16 (ESV)
“Be careful with me, do you know what you doin’? Whose feelings that you hurtin’ and bruisin’? You gon’ gain the whole world but is it worth the girl that you’re losin’? Be careful with me” - Cardi B
I always feel a sense of loss when I sell one of my paintings. Each piece takes hours to create and is often a labor of love and pain - a chance to expel what is happening inside me onto canvas. There is one piece in particular that I still struggling with the loss of. She is called “Brown Girl Worshipping” and I sold her to a White woman that had subjected me to several racial microaggressions over the course of an evening. I was the artist being showcased in a small bookstore and she was a friend of the owner. Friendly and complimentary, she still misnamed me several times and repeatedly tried to practice her Spanish on me despite me telling her I am no longer fluent. I found her exhausting and was especially grieved to hand her “Brown Girl Worshipping” - a piece about the constant struggle to practice my faith in churches where I am continuously othered. The sad irony in her loving and buying this painting is not lost on me. I wanted to say, “No, you can’t have her. You don’t deserve her.” but I needed the money and I didn’t want to make things awkward. So I said goodbye to the painting. I think about her and the woman that purchased her often. I find myself hoping she passes it everyday and is slowly convicted.
How often do those of us on the margins find ourselves in this place? We are alone even in the presence of others. We make allowances that hurt us for the sake of others comfort? We give up pieces of ourselves that we desperately want to hold onto.
I wish I had told that woman No. I wish I had said Yes but… “You need to understand what this painting represents. When you look at it, I need you to know you are complicit. Do you still want her?”
Learning to navigate spaces where our very skin color, the language we speak, and the people we come from subjects us to these inevitable wounds is a daily practice in survival and boundary-setting. We can not always exit those spaces. By virtue of choice or circumstance, we end up there and it becomes about being able to breath, grow, and flourish despite the limitations of that space.
When we feel like we are alone, isolated by our identity, we must find ways to say,
“I need you to understand… I need you to know…”
Being the only one like us means taking control to ensure the spaces we are a part of, for as long as we need or want to be there, are as safe as possible. It is about being clear about what we are and are not willing to accept into our life.
Learn from Jesus, a man alone in his divinity. Jesus knew how to prioritize his needs, sometimes over those of others, and he knew when to lean into a community and when to step away.
Creator, help me to take courage from the example of Jesus. Remind me daily that, though I may be alone or isolated in my identities, like Christ, I have the authority to name my boundaries and to retreat when needed. Protect me from the toxicity of racism and white supremacy. Thank you for reminding me that I have the fortitude to break free - even in the midst of these spaces. Amen.