Today I am grateful for Dr. Martin Luther King. Psalm 119 says “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path…”. I love that verse, but I am also aware that, yes, God’s word is a lamp for our feet, but more often than not, it only lights a few inches of path at a time! We still have to be willing to take that next step in the dark, trusting God will be there to light the way. Dr. King spent his ministry taking step after step in the dark. But he was grounded in the love of God and the promise of that love for ALL people, no exceptions. That grounding gave him the courage to speak out, to trust his instincts even when it seemed the world was against him.
There is a great story about the March on Washington and Dr. King’s speech. There had been so much that needed to be done to plan the events of the day, the Dr. King didn’t get around to writing his speech until the night before. He was given recommendations from civil rights leaders and church people and union leaders and community organizers about what should be in the speech, all of which he took with him to ponder as he wrote. When he rose to speak the next day, he started with the manuscript he had written, filled with all the ideas of all the different factions. But in the middle of his speech, the great singer and King supporter, Mahalia Jackson, shouted out to him, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin — tell ’em about the dream!” Dr. King heard those words from Mahalia Jackson, and put down his manuscript and spoke extemporaneously about his dream that one day people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He gave one of the most famous speeches ever given, a speech that was a key moment in the civl rights movement of our country.
What if Dr. King had not trusted his instincts ? What if he was too afraid to take that step out in the darkness and held firm to the plan and his manuscript, instead of speaking from the depth of his heart and soul about his hopes and dreams for his people and our country? Where would we be? Dr. King trusted in those few inches of lighted path that God provides, believing there will be enough light for the next step.
It can be scary to risk, and trust what is deepest in our hearts. I know in my life, I not only sometimes have had trouble trusting the light will be there, I’ve insisted on holding the lamp myself! But today I am grateful for the example of Dr. King — for his courage in the face of uncertainty; for holding firm to his convictions, putting the common good above his own well being, even in the face of death; for reminding me that I am because we are — my joy is tied to the joy of all my fellow humans. Thank you, Dr. King. Thank you.