Voyage (n/v). The word connotes a sense of adventure and bravery, setting out across vast oceans to explore the great unknown. It also invokes the idea of conquest, of subjecting, raping, pillaging. It is a word ripe with meaning both beautiful and profane.
My ancestors are voyagers. I am a descendant of the people of Ireland who settled a vast green island and built a rich culture of music and storytelling. I am also a grandchild of the Vikings who sailed far across the seas to knock priests dead with axes so they could steal the chalices and icons of sacred monasteries. Sometimes my voyaging ancestors fulfilled the first instruction of God to mankind to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Other times, they “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:25).
I chose to call my 2 month journey “Europe Voyage” because it’s a time of exploration and examination of both the good and the bad of my European ethnic heritage. My people are from nations that have preserved and sustained Christian Protestantism as we see it today. They’ve given their lives to guard the sanctity of the gospel and they’ve bravely left homelands to bring the good news of Jesus across oceans. My people are also those who have thought of themselves as inherently superior and lorded it over “lesser peoples”, conquesting land that was not theirs to govern, enslaving and displacing people in their weakness, exploiting the land of its natural resources, setting up systems of power and control to maintain their dominance, and preaching a gospel so unlike the message of Christ.
As I journey, my aim is to hold these truths in tension, to face the reality both of the beautiful and the grotesque. With Truth in my heart, I seek to celebrate all the ways my ancestors and nations reflected the image of their Creator, and to lament all the ways they distorted that image. To accept who God made me to be as a white person, I must accept all of my lineage—the good and the bad. The reformation and the crusades, democracy and aristocracy, Luther and Hitler, Wilberforce and Henry VIII, orderly society and organized extermination, exploration and domination.
I must understand and accept all of this if I want to be a part of the healing work of Christ. Nations still writhe under the remnants of unjust colonial rule, constrained by lines that cut through ancient tribal territories and fuel continued infighting, caught up in broken economic systems that make the rich richer and make the poor die quicker. What can be done to stop this cycle of death and destruction?
Jesus came to make all things new, to wipe away every tear, to establish a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-5). He gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) which he entrusted to his church until his return. But before I can bring Christ’s much-needed healing to the world, I must be healed. The colonizer still lives in my flesh which I war against daily (Romans 7), yet Christ Jesus has come to transform me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).
With the hope of Christs’ finished work on the cross burning in my heart, I voyage.