Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
Ezekiel 37:4-6 (NIV)
“It’s the oldest thing we’ve ever done, you know? Breaking open bones. Digging for what’s left after death to find the meaning, the meat, the marrow, still hidden within. I don’t know what it was about us— what has always been —but something told us that surviving would come at the cost of cracking open the end and saying ‘not yet’.”
-Jamie Lee Finch
I got, I got, I got, I got
Loyalty, got royalty, Inside my DNA
Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace, Inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain and joy, Inside my DNA
I got hustle, though, ambition, flow, Inside my DNA
“DNA” by Kendrick Lamar
How do you find hope when people who look like you – Black, Brown, Transgender, “other” – are constantly vulnerable to systems of power that harm, abuse, and oppress? As a Black, queer, and transgender person, I know what it is like to struggle to find hope. I look around and see so much hate wielded at my body, my existence, and those whom I love. Even in the wake of a national movement of people screaming in the streets “Black Lives Matter,” still others question me as if my life doesn’t matter at all. So, in the time of Advent, in the time of waiting, in the time of wondering, in the time of invitation to closeness, I ask: Where do we find hope?
The obvious answer that so many give is Jesus. We are here waiting for our “King” to come to change this world and turn over the tables of the power system, finally putting the last first. And instead, our King comes to us in the form of a Brown baby, to a family in which their story, marriage, and pregnancy was outside the bounds of “acceptable.”
We must acknowledge that the question itself is covered by the dust of white supremacy, not allowing us ALL to breathe. Therefore, I seek liberation which declares that you are not free until I am truly free, and also, I am not free until you are truly free. Jesus’s life was a story of this exact liberation. But we must see the true Jesus to understand the message.
When I first heard Jamie Lee Finch’s quote, I thought of all of the times I have felt discriminated against, oppressed and harmed by the world around me. I got angry with the idea that people who look like me are constantly in need of finding the will to survive. This is not how it should be! But I realized that this is some of the dust I must shake off because I do not represent only myself. We are not just individuals in this world. I am not alone. As the passage in Ezekiel stated, “I will put breath in you, and you will come alive.” That breath out from underneath the dust of white supremacy – a big breath of living air – makes us collectively alive, not dead.
Jesus was like me, gathering people like me, and wanted to BE with people like me—a people seeking after freedom and liberation. This starts at the beginning in the very moment that the need to survive began. It moves toward the great Exodus from Egypt in which God brought the chosen people out from under the oppressive systems of Pharaoh into the desert. Onward to women like Rahab who sought to survive as a sex worker, saving her family through this, and getting her name into the genealogy of Jesus. To Mary, who had to run and hide as a refugee in a foreign land, ensuring the safe arrival of our King.
Where do the marginalized find hope? In the stories of those who have come before us. I carry the stories of freedom from the Bible, American slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, the Black Lives Matter Movement inside my very marrow.
I ache for the arrival of the Kingdom that Jesus is bringing, the great reversal. Until that day, I want to thrive. Sometimes I find hope merely in the ability to survive. Because at Advent, as I look to my ancestors to show me the way, I know that survival is holy.
Are you listening to those voices? Those who are willing to crack open their very bones to find hope in the marrow? We know hope. We know the way. It’s in our DNA.
Cameron Overton (he/him/his) is a social worker and the lay worship pastor of Zao MKE Church, a growing church plant in Milwaukee WI, with a diverse leadership team, majority queer, trans, and POC folks under the age of 40. As a young, Black, queer and trans person, Cameron’s ministry calling is to build the church into an intersectional and queer liberated space. He is also one of the founders of The Liberation Project, a new project exploring the Gospel of liberation.