MLK: Next Right Thing
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
This past year my husband and I have been remembering the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr in Memphis, April 4, 2018, and the events leading up to it and afterwards. We were both senior medical students in Memphis during those troubled times when the world seemed to be falling apart. King left us so many legacies.
Today I am thinking most about how he started out in the civil rights movement becoming a leader in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott which began in December1955 after Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting in the front of a bus and lasted for 385 days. King was 26, the new pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, the capital of Alabama. He supposedly was selected by the African American community to lead the bus boycott because he was new and had not been intimidated by the white community nor had he aligned himself with the various factions in the black community. During the boycott, King was arrested and his home was bombed. King’s articulate and nonviolent leadership brought him into national prominence.
King also wrote in his book, Stride Toward Freedom, about a spiritual experience as he sat one midnight at his kitchen table after another bomb threat. As he was ready to give up, he felt a divine inner presence that took away his fears and uncertainly, ready to face whatever came that sustained him for the rest of his life. I think this is one of the experiences he is speaking about when he refers to “going to the mountain and hearing the truth.”
King did not decide to go to Montgomery to lead a bus boycott or become the leader of the civil rights movement. He most probably went to be a good minister like his father and have a family, but a situation arose, he was chosen, and he stepped in. Certainly, his family background of three generations of ministers and all his training as a minister allowed him to be that leader, but that had not been his goal.
I see this as a message to all of us that we may be trained to be one thing, but we may be called to do something else that we never realized that we had been trained to do all along. Each of us, like Martin, will be called at some time to speak our truth. We most probably will not think we are prepared. We may be given a job because we are young or old and inexperienced, or no one else wants the job. Every biblical story of leadership speaks to this kind of call.
Tonight, I am also remembering the young high school students who are today leading a fight for gun control after an attack at their school.
My experience is that this is one of the ways God works, and the lives of King, Moses, Abraham, the disciples, David, Mary, Joseph, Paul, Esther, St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Ignatius, Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, and these students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida exemplify it.
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