(Originally posted 1/21/2014)
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was yesterday. I spent my day with my family. We had conflict about my sons and their gadgets, planned ministry events and stressed out over time and money and resources. My wife and I grieved over the hearts of our children, the areas we want to see them growing vs. the areas they’re not yet growing. We poured our hearts out to the Lord for our church – the things we believe God wants to see in our church vs. the things we are seeing. We encouraged one another about things God is doing and lives that are changing before our very eyes. I worked on a science fair project with my son as he collected information about Parkinson’s disease because he wants to change the world with his time. We typed, researched and scrambled to write out a bibliography according to MLA standards. Then, my wife and I entrusted our kids to a sitter we love so we could double-date with a couple we respect at a restaurant in the next town over. When the waiter came, he took our order, looked me in the eye, made small talk and gave us excellent service for which I tipped him well and thanked him verbally. After the relaxing dinner, we drove home, got the report of our kids’ behavior, finished watching a Redbox movie and went to sleep. These things we did and can do because a loving God saw fit to give people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to this world.
Because of men and women who have gone before me, our day and night was – remarkably normal.
Thanks to men like Dr. King, women like Rosa Parks and countless men and women (whose names we don’t know, stories we don’t know, injuries and stories we’ve never heard of), my day was very normal. I did not -as a black man in the South- wake up to the sound of my wife screaming that a cross had been burned on our lawn. I did not -as a black pastor- wake up to a phone call begging me to come with a shotgun to risk my life defending a man or woman from my congregation against a mob that threatened their home. Yesterday, I did not -as a black man with a white wife- fear for my life or the life of my wife or children or the likelihood that they would live out their days without me. Yesterday, I could grieve over the hearts of my children, not the bruises they got for daring to use a “whites only” water fountain at school. Yesterday, I could pour my heart out to the Lord for the health and strength of our church, not necessarily the tide of racist hatred that once swept over this nation unnoticed. Yesterday, I could encourage my wife about her plans to honor the Lord, not encourage her that at least today we didn’t have anyone yelling hateful comments at her. Yesterday, I could work on a science fair project with my boy, not wonder if he’d ever be able to get a decent education because of his beautifully blended skin tone. Yesterday, I could worry about MLA standards, not KKK standards being carried through my town. Yesterday, I left my kids with the sitter, worried that they might disobey her, rather than that she might have to give her life to protect them. Last night, at our date, I didn’t have to wonder if I would be served. Rather, I wondered how good the meal would be. Last night, I thanked the waiter for the kind of service he gave instead of thanking him for seeing me as human when he served us.
By God’s grace, expressed through the sacrificial actions and lives of many freedom fighters through the years, my life is very, very different than those lives of so many who have gone before me.
We have much to be thankful for. I have much to be thankful for. “MLK Day” is not just a day off for me. It’s a reminder: evil is real in this world, but God is stronger. It’s also a reminder that -while we rightfully celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy- we ought not forget the many other people who endured hostility and stood against it. We cannot forget that Dr. King did not stand alone. He had a family who bore the weight of his public leadership role and ultimately his death. He had friends who supported him, held him accountable and challenged him when he was straying. He had a God in heaven whom he loved and worshiped and whose Son was his glorious example.
Happy Tuesday, friends, yesterday was a special day – even in its normalcy.