Now That I’m Older: An MLK Reflection

“You’ll understand when you’re older,” feels like one of the most overstated, yet underestimated phrases of a young person’s time. I don’t dare to count how many times such a phrase, or one similar, was told to me as I was growing up. I remember that this phrase was used when I didn’t understand why I couldn’t participate in or have something my childish heart desired. I don’t, however, remember hearing it when my parents heavily encouraged me to study or read Black History and I begrudgingly complied. I’m thankful for their prudence in not using words of shame to force an understanding I simply would not grasp for several years, but now that I am older, I’m beginning to get it.

Today we celebrate what would’ve been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday. Today we honor a man who fought boldly for a deserved justice withheld from people of color. Today we remember the sacrifice Dr. King, and the many people that supported him, made in an effort to secure a long awaited freedom. Today I get it.

When Dr. King orated his infamous “I Have A Dream Speech,” my father was 7 years old. Too young to understand the full gravity of the time in which he lived, but old enough to be sincerely affected by his surroundings, my father experienced the regulation of integration firsthand. He was one of the little black boys that Dr. King hoped would be able to join hands with one of the little white boys and stand as brothers.

I re-watched Dr. King’s speech this morning. I sat at my kitchen table, at the house I can rightfully live in and cried. I sat, wiping my face, shortly after my white roommates had left for work and cried. My tears, I realized, were shed for several reasons. My watermarked cheeks were due to the passion in Dr. King’s voice. His diction was powerful, precise, and penetrating.  I shook my head because some of Dr. King’s dreams haven’t come true. Sometimes people choose to see my skin color only and ignore the content of my character. I continued to cry because some of Dr. King’s dreams have come true. I live with two white girls and not because I’m their maid! I wept because for the first time, I realized Dr. King wasn’t talking entirely about having dreams of freedom on earth. Due to his strong foundation as a believer in Christ, I believe the fullness of freedom Dr. King dreamt of is the fullness of freedom that awaits us in Heaven.
A fullness he is now joyfully experiencing…

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream

Maybe this is far too obvious. Probably. But I don’t think I had a category to understand this when I was younger. When I first learned about Dr. King, I was probably around the same age my father was when Dr. King first gave his speech. At 7, I didn’t have a space in my mind to contemplate injustice, death, or racism. Now, at 23, I’ve grown to understand these three evils; however, I’ve also grown in my understanding of the gospel and the hope I have in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

What Jesus did on the cross, mediating between God the Father and man, has secured a way to the Promised Land, full of freedom and love and a peace unimaginable. It is in this truth that I resolve to put my hope. In light of unwarranted gun violence, in light of hostile riots, in light of hateful speech, in light of gross misunderstanding, I wait for the freedom of Heaven. This truth holds for opposing situations as well. In light of integration, in light of protective laws, in light of upheld constitutional rights, in light of moves toward racial reconciliation, I long for the freedom of Heaven.

Dr. King, you paved the way. You paved the way for a movement that swept the nation and had a ripple effect. You lead by example and showed our country that boldness is nothing without love. You demonstrated the necessity of action and the grace needed to withstand stupidity. You taught the Word that reads “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24). At 7, I didn’t understand the gravity or importance of your movement, I didn’t understand how deeply your dependence upon the Lord was, I didn’t understand that the hope you inspired was the same hope you also clung to. I didn’t understand…

But now at 23, I do. At least, I’m beginning to. You fought fearlessly because you recognized that your identity was one of dignity. You marched mercifully because that’s exactly what your Savior did. Our country has come a long way since the 28th of August in 1963, and it has a long way to go. I hope, Dr. King, that as I grow older I can fearlessly participate in the fight you started, armed with the faith that kept you grounded.

 

Thank you.

Until Then: Some Thoughts from a Young Black Woman

Duck #89

“Come Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee…”
This song and these lyrics have been on my mind a lot recently. Today, in particular, they’ve been my prayer.  Before reading the rest of this post, I encourage you to listen to the song, maybe even look up the lyrics.

______________

Until Then: Some Thoughts from a Young Black Woman

What are you doing?
What are you doing?

What are you doing when you walk into a corner store?
What are you doing when your car comes to an unexpected halt?
What are you doing when you’re in the halls at school?
What are you doing in the pews at church?

Are you living in fear and acting out of it, or are you going about your day, unaware  of (maybe ignoring) certain realities?

What are you doing?
What are you doing?

What are you doing when the news says another husband and father has been killed?
What are you doing when inappropriate comments are made in jest?
What are you doing when you feel pulled between your ethnicity and your religious beliefs?
What are you doing when you think, “be polite and no one will assume the worst of you…”?

Do these questions resonate with you?

What are you doing?
What are you doing?
Are you looking for injustice or seeking justice?
Are you seeing what you want to see, or listening to the truth?
Are you loving your neighbor that doesn’t look, dress, or act anything like you? What about your neighbor that does?
Are you thinking before you speak, or are you joining the cacophony?
Are you asking the Lord for wisdom, peace, guidance, mercy, understanding, or do you not have time?

Have you thought about this?

You’re right. It’s not always about race, but race is an undeniable and inevitable factor. Black lives matter because all lives matter, but right now there is a community of people that do not feel included in the “all.” There is a community of people worried about getting pulled over or having car trouble. There is a community of people angry and confused and unsure of how to express their feelings constructively because they are tired. There is a community of people that needs Jesus, and not as a pithy phrase said by those that don’t really care. This community needs Jesus because it is in and through Him that true peace will come. But, to those of us that consider ourselves his followers,  are we not his hands and feet? This community that I am proud to be a part of and still learning how to care for is not big, or bad, or lazy, or insubordinate–as a whole–we are strong, beautiful, resilient, intelligent, and proud.  That’s what I was taught when I was growing up. We forget that at times, but can’t we all see why? Have you not at once forgotten your identity, where you came from, what the Lord has done for you?

If you are a white believer, what are you doing to encourage your black brothers and sisters in Christ? Your black brothers and sisters, period? And if you are a black believer, what are you doing to encourage your white brothers and sisters in Christ that are trying to understand? I know, I’m angry too, but responding out of such anger isn’t getting, nor will it get us anywhere. We know this.

Right now, being black in America (personally) feels both empowering and often terrifying. It’s beautiful, yet brokenness is in our midsts. I love being black. I love that I’m learning what that means to me. I hate that I’m ignorant of certain issues encumbering my own people and that I may even make excuses for that ignorance. But I hate even more that what I’ve seen in the media and what I’ve heard from certain people has been the epitome of negative: shame, fear, death…

We need to see each other.
We need to hear each other.
We must love each other.
Division is literally killing us.
All of us.

Things are far better than they once were, but that does not mean all of the mending has been done. We still have a long road to walk. But the Lord began a good work among the black community, years ago, and I’m confident that He will one day bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). One day, we will feast in the house of Zion, friends. We will sing with our hearts restored! All of us–Black, White, Latino, Asian…together!

But, I ask you, as I have recently and repeatedly been asking myself, what are you going to do until then?

We Will Feast

It’s official. I have been graduated from college for just over a year now. For this reason, I’ve decided to go back to counting my ducks in my original format. So, including all of my “Post Grad Ducks” this post makes “Duck #81” Wow!

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It’s been almost 2 days since I’ve returned from a three week vacation/work trip and I feel…wispy. I’m not sure how else to explain it other than that. Well, I guess saying that I’m homesick would work too. But the funny part about this feeling is that I’m unsure of where “home” is right now. My parents’ house has become just that, my parents’ house. My college town feels more and more like a memory. State College feels like the planting pot that won’t let me grow roots because I know I’m going to be transferred to the earth nearby in a short while.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this, this desire for permanence, for home. In fact, a friend of mine wrote a beautiful article about this topic that you can access here. The truth is, we all want a place to belong. We all want a place, a feeling, a group of people to call home. I really think that in this life we get glimpses and pieces and teasers of home. I think home sounds like the eruption of laughter that ensues when you catch up with dear friends. I’m sure home feels like the hug from a parent or sibling just because you’re happy to be together. I bet home looks like your favorite spot that makes you feel giddy whenever you’re there, whether that be a coffee shop, movie theatre, tree by a lake, or house near the beach. But what does home taste like? I mean, I bet it’s similar to Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies or Mom’s thanksgiving turkey; but in actuality, home tastes like something better. It has to. I bet the taste of home isn’t just a taste–it’s a feeling, a sound, a sight all wrapped up into one…

Sanda McCracken writes:

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

If you haven’t heard this song, I highly suggest you look up the lyrics and read them as you listen to it. It’s beautiful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these lyrics recently. As a believer, I can rest in the assurance of a glorious feast that awaits me. A feast with my Father in our Home; I’ll be joined by my brothers and sisters and there will be dancing and laughing and singing and rejoicing.

I can’t wait…

Up until recently, I thought I could wait for Heaven, for Home.  And I mean, physically I can wait, but I’m excited! Everything that is sad will become untrue! Lusting for approval from other people won’t be an issue. Rape and assault will cease. Tears will end. Orphanages won’t be necessary. Cancer will be eradicated. Death will be no more. To stand in victory with Christ will taste so sweet…and salty and savory and perfect.

It’s hard, though…to keep this in mind, I mean. We will feast. We’re not feasting yet, even though we’re so hungry, salivating for a love, a place, a Father that can satiate and satisfy our strongest of cravings. That’s why we need each other. We need to remind each other of what’s coming, of what we have left to do while we wait. We need to carry each other when we succumb to the cravings, and dance with each other when we get glimpses on earth of what is to come when we go Home. Let us use what awaits us to shape what is before us now.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory, beyond all comparison, we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen…”
-Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

[Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.]
❤ Amen

hello, sweet Home

Post Grad Duck #8

I started typing this blog post and made it to the second paragraph, but then realized I didn’t want to write about that subject anymore. So I deleted it and now here we are…

Last week, I was in Atlanta for the second time this summer. I was there because I had to attend the second training session for my new job as an RUF intern. It was a good week and a reunion of sorts. It was filled with really good moments, and I love when trips allow for those. It’s not the week as a whole that seems to be what’s most enjoyable, but rather the random moments that have been strung together to make up a week; they’re knitted together with lots of laughter and maybe even a few tears. But this post isn’t about my week or even several of its moments, per se. No, it’s about one night during the week. Thursday night. That was the night that some fellow interns and I went to go see The Oh Hellos in concert. The bar was crowded, the gang was a motley crew, and the music…the music was starkly captivating. I say this because I don’t know how else to do so.
If you’ve been to a few concerts, I’m sure you know what it’s like to witness a really good show. One where the band is in sync, the instruments are tight, the harmonies are perfectly blended, the audience is attentive, and everything in the atmosphere is so tangible that you can’t help but laugh. That’s how this concert was, for me at least. As soon as The Oh Hellos came out to greet their fans with some of their beloved songs, the stage lit up–both literally and figuratively.

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Their energy was contagious. Their movements were entertaining. Their voices were enchanting. I remember several times during the concert when I stopped singing along. I halted my swaying to the music, and chose to look around the crowded room. It wasn’t long before I realized how widely I was smiling. Shortly after did I realize that my vocal chords were releasing a cacophonous and joyous sound that got lost in the echo of the other fans’ euphoria. I was lost in the moment…

But then I had a thought. A pesky little thing. While I usually welcome most thoughts (because of how frequent they come) I wasn’t too fond of this one. It was: “I don’t want this to be over.” And just like that, I snapped back to reality. I realized that the moment of the concert was going to end and that the nirvana was going to wear off. Once this happens, there are 2 things to do: 1) Dismiss the thought with a slight scoff  2) Let the weight of your realization sink in, allotting room for more thoughts to ensue. Naturally, I chose the latter. It was then that I became keenly aware of everything around me. I became aware of the moment. It’s the same awareness that comes when you’re dreaming and then all of sudden realize that you’re dreaming. You’re paralyzed because you want to continue this dream cycle (unless you’re having a nightmare, of course), but know that as soon as you try to move you’re going to wake up.

So I resolved to look forward. Ahead of me was the band. Ahead of me were musicians wrapped up in the same moment as I, but unaware of its ending. Why? Because they were participating in the moment, they weren’t observing it as I was. They were involved, utilizing all they were to create something beautiful. And it really was beautiful.

Then, I had another thought. I thought about Heaven. I thought about how beautiful it will be to one day participate in such glory and perfection. I thought about how Heaven will probably feel a lot like the moment I observed at the concert, but it won’t ever be interrupted. I thought about how amazing it will be to be surrounded be numerous people singing and clapping and laughing and praising Jesus together. I thought about how it’s okay to hold onto the hope for such moments. I thought about going Home.

Here’s to hoping.
Here’s to participating.
Here’s to Home.

[Jesus, thank You for sweet moments.]
❤ Amen