Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor

Clint Smith, a black scholar and poet, was reflecting recently on the subject of societal change when he distinguished between “woke” and “waking.” “Woke” is a slang term used to describe a person with a new awareness of realities previously unnoticed, usually related to racial and social justice. In its past-tense form, the word suggests that there is a moment, an instant, an epiphany beyond which a person has arrived at a completely vigilant and illuminated perspective. Smith suggests that “waking” may be a more helpful framework in that it implies a slower, more plodding path of growth, learning, awareness, and understanding.

I instantly resonated with his insight—identifying immediately with his description of the “waking” process as a more realistic and helpful way to invite one another to new or broadened perspectives. It is certainly how I personally have come to new and more nuanced understandings of racial and social justice in the context of Christian faith—gradually, and in spurts. While sometimes there’s a sudden, saltatory “awakening” experience, such as many of us have known in these last two weeks, more often the path is plotted conversation by conversation, verse by verse, prayer by prayer, task by task.

Martin Luther, a paragon of Christian protest, also seemed to understand the slow path to awareness and wholeness: “This life is not righteousness,” he wrote, “but growth in righteousness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished, but it is going on; this is not the end, but it is the road.”

On Sunday evening I gathered on Main Plaza with many in the San Antonio religious community to pray for a just and peaceful way forward for our city and nation. I appreciated the prayer offered at that prayer vigil by Rabbi Mara Nathan, the head rabbi of our neighboring synagogue, Temple Beth-El. It is a prayer for going forward, for awakening, for seeking God’s guiding (and maybe goading) presence as we open our ears, eyes, and hearts to new ways of seeing the world and acting in it ever more faithfully as the people of God:

Make us committed enough to embark on the long-term, arduous journey that lies before us. Let this be the moment in our lifetime when we decide—every single one of us—to be dissatisfied enough, brave enough, and strong enough to make our world as God intended it to be, where all God’s creatures, no matter the color of our skin, are seen as having God’s holiness within us.

Grace and peace.