“White trash.” That’s what she said. That’s what my friend heard.
A close friend told me about a recent conversation with her friend during which her friend called herself “white trash.” They were planning a graduation party for their children, and the friend said no one would come “because I am nothing but white trash.” Shocked speechless, my friend fumbled around for a brief moment for an appropriate response. The woman who spoke those words appeared to be a woman of means and success, not the picture of what that class slur might mean to the world.
For two weeks now I have pondered what she said with a heavy heart, knowing full well that she is one among many who think poorly of themselves. I have wanted to run to her and tell her what I say in the final paragraphs of this blog, but, alas, she is half a country away; at least my friend was able to speak with her and love on her.
As a former home health nurse, I saw what some might call “white trash.” As we drove down a certain road in our home town just last week, I told Robert about a patient I visited in a house on that road 35 years ago. The place no longer stands as it was probably condemned, but the scene is seared into my brain. I knocked on the door of this shabby, unkempt, unloved abode, and heard a drunken “Come in.” With little trepidation, the boldness of my youth and my home health nurse profession pushed me through that door to find this skeletal-like human form sitting on a chair in the middle of squalor and warming herself beside the open door of an oven, the only heat in the house. She had long, thin, straggly gray hair, was barely dressed, and wobbled as she sat there in her alcoholic state. Running around yapping incessantly was an emaciated, nasty chihuahua with a baseball-sized tumor hanging from its abdomen and almost dragging the floor.
Thankfully, I had seen enough by this time to not run back out the door and throw up. Thankfully, this was before I was pregnant with my first child, and, thankfully, I had enough Jesus in me to stay the course, to see her as He would see her, and to care for her like the baby she once was to some young mom. That’s how I try to see some hardened criminal, some ruthless dictator, or even some person I am tempted to just not love. They were once somebody’s little baby! What went horribly wrong? For that matter, what would compel someone to call themselves “white trash” or any other derogatory term?
Well, the answer to these questions fills many a psychology, medical, or theological text book. They would say the answers are many. The bottom line – we live in a fallen world – full of sin and sickness. I do not know why this woman called herself such, but either she was sinned against terribly, she has unconfessed sin, or she has an illness – bottom line.
My point today is she is NOT “white trash” nor should anyone else be called some sort of class slur or demeaning term and NOT because they are somebody’s baby, BUT because every single person born on this planet from the beginning of time bears the image of God. Because we are His image bearers, every one of us has worth, value, and dignity – every single one of us!! This does not mean every one of us are His children. Often, we hear, “We are all God’s children.” No, no, we aren’t. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…” ONLY those who call on the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior are His children. There is a huge difference between being an image bearer and one who has the life of God in him or her.
Nevertheless, my patient bore the image of God. This friend bears the image of God. Whether we are yellow, black, red, or white, we bear the image of God, and, as Elizabeth Elliot would say in her deep, rich voice, “You are loved with an everlasting love.”