This morning, Wilma Nevers, the Director of Tyndale’s Family Life Centre, will speak on “Perspectives and Peace”. She writes, “…we all have individual stories and perspectives of our stories (My Story / Your Story). We also have collective stories (Our Story) and we have God’s story of us (HIS story) and in focusing on HIS story, His perspectives of us, we will find peace.”
Wilma is a graduate of Tyndale University where she completed a MDiv counselling degree. Wilma is a Registered Psychotherapist, Registered Marriage & Family Therapist, Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor with the AAMFT.
Wilma loves the Lord and as a “preacher’s kid”, has been involved in ministry leadership for many years. Additionally, she enjoys being with her family and friends, walking, gardening, writing, music and photography.
Wilma is the proud mother of 2 adult sons and recently a daughter-in-law.
My story, your story, her story, history. It’s a culmination of my story, your story, her story. History is a backdrop to my story, your story, her story. History was formed when my story and your story and her story became history, and clearly shows that my story, your story, her story, history, never dies. What repeats itself in my story, your story, her story, history, black history.
This poem is in acknowledgment of Black History Month, many stories and versions of stories, creating a mixed understanding of our roots and where we are as a people.
My understanding is that Black History Month began in 1976 in the US, to focus on the accomplishments of black people, and started in Canada in 1995. As a black woman, I’m sometimes conflicted about the original intent of the month of celebration. I do appreciate the acknowledgement of my people and our accomplishments. And I’m saddened, that often that appreciation is relegated to one month of the year. My preference would be that the personhood, instead of the accomplishments of blacks, be celebrated and appreciated all the time. And even as I say this, it hurts my heart. At the same time, I must say, in many ways, we have moved beyond the original intent of the celebrations. We have come a long way. But as you know, we still have a long way to go.
People of colour and our indigenous people are still suffering at the hands of racism, including systemic racism, here in Canada. I acknowledge, I appreciate, and I respect, that Tyndale provides this platform and encourages us to use it to talk about racial issues. This gives me hope for future change, and for further change.
I want to share a little of my story as a woman of colour, with the hope that it reminds us to stay curious and open as we hear the stories of others, and also to remind us that labels do not always fit or reflect the details and nuances of who each of us is.
I was born in a rural community in Jamaica. Four to five generations ago, that entire community was part of a large plantation owned by British slave masters. As a child, I walked and played among the ruins of the big house where the plantation owners lived. It was perched on top of a hill overlooking the fields and the poor accommodations of the slaves below. In my lifetime, relics of tools used by slaves were uncovered. My family home is part of that large plantation. The plantation owners were my father’s paternal fore parents. In a not so distant community, the fore parents of my paternal grandmother worked as slaves. So my story is a combination of his story and her story, opposing stories that continue to morph throughout the generations, forming who I have become, and who my offspring will be. His story, God’s story of me.
The dominant narrative that each of us holds about the issues of family and race and culture will be determined by our experiences of them, and how we manage those impacts. Racial, cultural, familial issues are just part of the many issues we collectively face. Our story. For many of us, our dominant story now, is tied to the year long COVID–19 and its numerous related insecurities, and fears, and unknowns, changes and challenges, that take centre stage, directly or indirectly, in our everyday lives. And we have multiple and varying experiences of it. COVID–19 stretching us out of our comfort zone, isolating us from co-workers, from families, from friends, or, on the other hand, many of us have too many family, family members around.
Today, I invite you to think about perspective and peace. As you may notice, from the onset, I have been looking at different pieces of my own stories and some views that have emerged.
As a marriage and family therapist, one of the first things I do in therapy is to look at family history, as that invariably provides much information about the current understanding and experiences of a client. This is important because the stories we hear about ourselves as children always affect how we see ourselves as adults. Sometimes there are positive stories that we embrace, and we grow. Sometimes they are horrible stories that constantly weigh us down and negatively impact all areas of our lives. And sometimes we’re able to wrestle with and change them into new positive stories that fit our preferred views of ourselves.
The messaging of the past has significant impact, and how we interpret the present, and how we prepare for the future. And we may ask, what does all this have to do with us today?
I invite you to think through the following. In the midst of our story, our story of not knowing, our story of constant change, which has been influenced by COVID–19. And our racial issues, among other things, what is your personal story? What are the things you focus on? What and who inform your perspectives of the past, the present, and the future? As a person of faith, what is God saying to you, as you walk through these difficult times? What is His story of you? So what is God saying to you, in this pandemic, about this pandemic? about who He is, and who you are? About His plans for you? How do you experience His promises to you? And in this age of racial tension, what is God saying to you about racism, about anti-racism? About who people are in His sight? And what do we all need to hear from God?
Let’s focus for a while on His story. God’s story. One of my favourite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future, and a hope. That’s His perspective. I strive to hold on to, about my life. Whether it’s about race, or career, or family, or pandemic, or anything else, and when I can hold on to that, it gives me peace. So what specific issues are you facing, that you would like to hear God’s story about? We can be assured that his plans are still good, to give us a future, and a hope, in spite of what we’re facing. God’s story continues, Philippians 4:6–7, says, Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ .“ Psalm 55:22 says, ”Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will not permit the Godly to slip and fall.“ In John 14:27 Jesus says, ”I am leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart, and the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.“ In Matthew 6:25, Jesus says ”That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life.“ Matthew 6:34, ”so don’t worry about tomorrow.“ God made our bodies to respond to the positive things He tells us, to the instructions He has given us. Psalm 139:14 says, ”I praise you because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made."
There have been numerous studies and articles about how the body responds to thinking about and meditating on positive, good, healthy things. For example, the body produces an increase in serotonin, which helps to improve mood, and helps us to function better and enhances our well being when we focus on positive, healthy things. We also know from Hebrews 4 verse 9 that the Word of God is alive and powerful, it is sharper than the sharpest, two edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joints and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. When we know our innermost thoughts and desires, we have an opportunity to relate the stories of ourselves. We can now view these stories in light of what God says, so we can have a better and a new perspective on who we really are. So we can become at peace with His peace.
Getting to know God’s story for our lives requires investment of time. It may seem at the most difficult, difficult time to do it. Yet, it might be the most necessary time for us to get a new perspective, or to be reminded of a perspective we already know, that will lead us to peace in the midst of potential or actual chaos.
As we wrap up this time together, I encourage you, fight for your well being, wrestle with things that get in the way of life’s most precious moments. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Then, a God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8–9. I encourage you to invest in choosing a perspective that will bring you peace.
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