God’s truth is marching on

My parents and I permanently moved to Florida from Puerto Rico the summer before my 3rd grade year of school.  I don’t have a particularly good recollection of that year or any early schooling, but there are certain moments in that year that stand out in my mind.  It’s funny the things we remember.  It must have been January/February, but at some point during the third grade we talked about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had never heard of him.  I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t old enough, and this was something that was introduced to third graders and older, or who knows why. Whatever the reason, hearing about the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King was seared into my brain.  I remember being beside myself.  I could not believe that this had happened. That people treated other people poorly for any reason, but especially because of the color of their skin.  It was unheard of and I was appalled. It made no sense and caused a stirring in me. I simultaneously developed great admiration for Dr. King. I remember 8-year-old me going to the library to check out books on Martin Luther King, Jr. I had fallen in love with this man.  It wasn’t until recently that I’ve made the connection to these memories -that a strong sense of justice and fairness was woven into the fabric of who I am while I was formed.

Over the years I’ve experienced, witnessed and heard many things that show that Dr. King’s dream has not come fully true. I still know of towns (and have lived in some of them) throughout the South where races simply do not interact, where businesses and schools are essentially segregated, and all the less explicit racism – institutional and otherwise.

I’ve seen the film Selma twice already.  Regardless of whatever factual problems it may or many not have, I think it contains a truth that goes beyond facts. I highly recommend this movie. It is emotional and inspirational. There are so many things within it that could inspire numerous blog posts — much food for thought.  I think the biggest praise I have for this film is that it portrays its characters as humans – imperfect beings. Especially Dr. King is seen as someone who grew weary, who doubted, who had struggles in his own personal life and family.  This did not make me think any less of Dr. King, and anyone who’s studied King wouldn’t be surprised. For me it was comforting and encouraging.  It reminded me that God uses imperfect beings – people who don’t get everything right, but people who are willing to sacrifice. God uses people who are willing to be courageous and stand for truth, even when it’s hard; even when it would be personally easier to give up or remain quiet.

Another thing that resonated with me in a way that never had before was that Dr. King was in his late 20s when he began to lead the SCLC movement . Glory, the movie’s award winning song at one point says that “[to accomplish this] it takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy.” All of us together, not competing with each other or devaluing the other. It made me think of the things that separate us that are not race related- barriers, no less. Dr. King speaks of this and so much more to me. A courageous, unexpected leader who believed in the unbelievable.

Whether it’s black, brown, gay, straight, male, female, young, old, or any ‘other’ that causes us to make distinctions of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ ‘they’ and ‘we,’ we must stop believing the lies that anyone or group is somehow superior or better to others; stop building walls.

Eight-year-old Esther is still in me, stirred up and longing for genuine equality. I dream Dr. King’s dream still, and am thankful that God can use even imperfect me in small and powerful ways. God can and does use imperfect you. Believe the unbelievable. Fight for what is right. Don’t allow yourself to be silenced. Take courage. Practice peace.

Dr. King is still one of my heroes. Would that we all live lives that are willing to sacrifice for what is right and true.

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Called to be courageous

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua  1:9

My Mom has recited this verse of Scripture to me during stressful situations over the years, but like a normal daughter, I haven’t paid all that much attention to the wisdom of Mom.  I have experienced my fair measure of fear throughout the years – more than is normal or healthy.  During some of my teenage years a lot of my thoughts were consumed by fear and worry, as I suffered from anxiety.  Although I have, thanks be to God, overcome a lot of that, I would be dishonest if I said that I did not fear, even today.  Fear is something that humans hold in common.  We fear being alone, being judged, not being good enough, and we fear failure, losing loved ones, and all sorts of other general and more specific fears.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about fear:  it’s not whether you have it or not, but whether you let it paralyze you or not.  For example, the death-fear of failure will result in nothing new or worthwhile.   Recently I heard Pastor Bill Hybels, of the well-known Willow Creek Community Church, speak on how during every new and big endeavor presented to him he is literally brought to his knees in fear – fear of repercussions, of what people would say, of what would happen if it failed, etc. – and that he recites Joshua 1:9 as a prayer.  Perhaps it’s because misery loves company, but I loved hearing him say that.  One of today’s most most successful leaders’ knees shake too!  This means that courage really is doing something that frightens you, it’s not about doing scary things that don’t frighten you.

So, what’s my point?  Just like God commanded Joshua to be courageous, we too are called to be courageous.  Our faith calls us to be courageous.  In the midst of fear and doubts, of challenging, desperate-looking situations, God calls us to be strong and courageous.   We’re actually not called to be comfortable, we’re called to be uncomfortable, mostly because courage is never comfortable.  Thankfully, there’s the second part of the verse:  for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  God does not call us to confront scary life alone, but promises to be present in the midst of it; and as with Joshua, and as seen throughout the rest of scripture, God also provides other tangible people to be present with us during parts of our most frightening times.  This is one of the things I love most about God – God is present (whether we realize it or not) with us, especially in our most difficult moments.  Go figure – Mom was right!

I don’t know what this call to be courageous looks like for you right now.  For me, it’s looking like a lot of things – it’s looking like leading in a brand new setting, and allowing myself to dream dreams and cast visions;  it looks like being patient, listening, and being vulnerable, to name a few.  It looks like me being on my knees praying for courage, trusting that God will come through on his promise.  What does it look like for you?  I’ll leave you with a song…

          Oh, my God, He will not delay
          My refuge and strength always
          I will not fear, His promise is true
         My God will come through always, always

 

Esther