“… even now, says our God, return to me with all your heart.” –Joel: 2:12
In my role, most days on campus are filled with emotion, passion, reflection, and prayer. My students, parents, and colleagues all find comfort in being vulnerable in their quest for justice and racial healing. They trust and confide in me and my work, and truly believe that someday “a change is gonna come.” We process, unpack, and deconstruct, all while stirring up “good trouble.”
Intent, impact, and the discernment of what’s best for us all are frequent vehicles of problem-solving in the work of equity, inclusion, and anti-racism, but what happens when that’s not enough to keep everyone safe? How do I extend grace to those who may want to stir up another kind of trouble, the kind that makes BIPOC and queer folks question every musing or second-guess every word of praise or compliment? We walk a tough line in these situations, but it is our faith that calls us to remember the good and cast away the temptations of the evil one.
On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded with a mark on our foreheads to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. That mark of ashes looks back at us every time we wash our hands and check that our hair isn’t standing on end when we look in a mirror, but it’s only there for one day. That mark then transforms into a flashpoint that keeps us in the spirit of Lent, where we pay special attention to our connection with God. It is this connection that helps us remember that our hearts belong to God and God alone, where the evil one has no claim and no entitlement. And when we remember that, we also call to mind that to presuppose goodwill is to renew that faith in God’s love for us, while also giving us the strength to greet our neighbors with love and compassion. These graces allow us to face those whom we may doubt, but presume their intentions are good. They are children of God, just like us, so we need not take the bait of the evil one: we pray for strength, stay strong in our commitment to doing justice, and do what we can.
In the spirit of Lent, I keep that memory of the ashes on my caramel-colored forehead, recognizing that God is always with me, and his son Jesus Christ is my friend. They are my companions when granting grace becomes difficult in my work, and when I need to reassure folks in my community that, indeed, “a change is gonna come” and we must be a part of it. It is one of the most important things that keeps me grounded in This Work, and I return to God in prayers of thanksgiving every day and with all my heart.
- What graces do you pray for to stay mindful in your work?
- How do those graces help you to do better each day and stay closer to God?
- When you feel things are becoming difficult, what is your reminder to return to God with all your heart?
Deena A. Sellers is the Director of Equity and Inclusion at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ. Deena believes that building relationships and providing spaces where all feel they belong is essential to a student’s educational experience. In addition to serving on Brophy’s administration, she also sits as a Freshman Advisor and liaison to the Brophy Black Family Alliance. She is a 2018 recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and an inaugural recipient of the St. Josephine Bakhita Award for Faith and Service, presented by the Office of Black Ministry and the Archdiocese of New York. Deena holds a BA in French and Secondary Education from Chestnut Hill College (PA), an MA in French Literature from Hunter College in the City University of New York, and is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education at the University of San Francisco (CA).