I first want to say, I am grateful for Black History Month.
I also want to acknowledge the feelings I had when Black History month started. I felt awful.
I feel awful about everything that has happened that's not right. Everything I've ever done. Everything I've witnessed. Everything I've heard about in first-hand stories. In a world that has taught us to identify with success and to fear failure, it's very difficult to fearlessly engage with comprehensive failure. Especially when there is so little vision for what to do now.
What I've been encouraged to do I have attempted. I've listened to gain understanding. I've read books. I've listened to friends. I've grieved. I've wondered what is my part right now. What am I capable of? What do I need help with? Where will that help come from? What do I need to own? How do I do that in a way that's restorative? All questions, I'm glad I have explored. I have felt helped but eventually, I felt more overwhelmed than helped. What do you do when you're doing what is good to do and it just gets worse, more confusing, not better? I paused. I've wondered, am I really going to be one of those people who start out wanting things to change but isn't willing to discover and do what is needed?
If that wasn't bad enough, I added looking out at the culture. How impossible this seems with people canceling each other or ignoring each other. If I sound like a boiling tea kettle with the whistle going off you'd be hearing me correctly.
On February 4th, I listened to an App called Lectio 365. This has been a regular prayer practice for me since last fall. The theme this week is "blessed are the peacemakers." On occasion, they recognize a Christ-follower that has embodied the theme. They chose Rosa Parks and Psalm 62 because they match one another.
Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)
Let all that I am wait quietly before God. for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.
Mrs. Parks had a moment when she knew what to do, in a Christ-like way. She knew what she could do to move all people in their community towards reversing a broken promise. She wanted all citizens to experience living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. She knew what to do and she did it.
Later in the day, my friend Darlene told me about the video link that I had missed by listening to the App. In the text, they had embedded an interview from 1995 where Mrs. Parks shares what happened and why. Why was she willing? What created her willingness? It was humbling and reorienting to realize it was many things over many years.
While I listened to her patient and clear answers to the questions she was being asked, I was struck by her embodiment of peace and quiet joy. She had done something revolutionary and she carried that with humble strength. The kind that comes from doing something inspired and truly good. I could see in Rosa Parks something that I desired. I don't want to be so rattled by all of this forever.
Next, I could see the guided prayer was pointing me towards trusting God when I'm invited to do something unexpected simply because it's good and just. Do it with humility and with confidence in God.
The chaos I was feeling around our collective failure started to settle. The invitations became clear. Don't be afraid of the sadness, you know grieving leads to change. The only way out of the sadness is to move through the sadness with other people. There are people who know how to help. Watch and pray for those people. Don't be afraid that you don't know how to participate in bringing justice. God will help you know what to do and say at the right time and place. Think about all the people who are genuinely longing for this. The Lord must enjoy orchestrating all the good that has come, is coming.
To my friends of all colors that have shared your stories of discrimination and disrespect, I'm sad it has happened to you. I'm sad for what it has done to you. I'm sad people don't easily listen or wonder what it's been like to live in a world that still thinks and acts with disrespect and without trust. If I've been guilty of doing something that caused you to feel unloved, disrespected, or not trusted, please tell me about it so I can apologize and learn to do better. I'm also inspired by your relationships with God, your desire to forgive.
Isn't it beautiful that God used praying in community and listening to Mrs. Parks to give me words to name what I've been experiencing and the courage to share them? This gives me hope. With love, grace, and seeking the good of all, I have renewed faith we can work through this. Jesus knows the way.
I leave you with the link to Rosa Parks' interview and I encourage you to give Lectio 365 a try if you are looking for a community to pray with.