In the words of the late Dr. Elton Trueblood, every generation has the bittersweet task of “planting shade trees under which we know full well we shall never sit.” To plant them with joy or resentment is a choice. Pride, pain, regret, and bitterness at times prevent persons with a wealth of wisdom and experience from helping those who are coming after. If individuals are honest, it can be hurtful to realize and accept that some ceilings will not be broken during our lifetime…some bridges still won’t get crossed, some doors still will remain closed and some opportunities still may not happen. We are still blazing trails, as it were. We can, however, take the proverbial mallet in our hands, determine to join together, and beat upon ceilings, keep knocking on doors and keep pressing towards the mark. Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston declared, “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”
The people of God must decide that the hardships that at times must be endured will not embitter us but instead will embolden us to help bring about a change. Change is not something that happens quickly, easily or without struggle and sacrifice. The people in our text all, in one way or another, through faith fought to bring about change. Whether facing oppressive giants, or fighting to end unjust systems of slavery or fighting to save children, families or nations, by faith, they pressed on. James Russell Lowell, in the Boston Courier, December 11, 1845 penned these famous words: (the last stanza declares…)
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young man when he was gunned down. And while he saw several major victories evolve out of the blood splattered Civil Rights movement, seeing all of the fruit of his labor was not to be. He was prophetic when he declared that he had “been to the mountain top and seen the promised land.” He declared, “I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get there!” Dr. King had taken the “long view.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to take the long view to stand up against the atrocities of the Nazi regime as Hitler sought to annihilate the Jewish nation. Sometimes faith urges you, presses you, convicts you, compels you, empowers you to stand for what is right even against seemingly insurmountable odds. Faith will embolden you, strengthen you, press you, push you to go beyond the boundaries of yourself and with God’s help seek to do something greater that will impact the lives of those yet unborn. It takes the long view…
But in our own, individual lives where we might not be faced with standing up against a Hitler, or facing attack dogs and fire hoses - in our everyday lives, how is God challenging us to act out our faith? Could God be calling us to think outside of the box? Could God be calling us to volunteer in an inner-city school to give some broken, poverty stricken, almost hopeless child a hope for the future? Could God be calling us to write letters to our local representatives regarding unjust laws, demanding that they change their opposing stance? Could God be calling us to stand when others are sitting down, fallen asleep or have left the proverbial room?
Could God be calling us to help in our little corner of the world? Sometimes faith presses us to move from our comfort zones into places of discomfort and great possibility. Again, in our own, individual lives, sometimes faith is calling us to move from a place of complacency to becoming an active participant in the blessing and healing process.
God is calling us to take the long view…to plant seeds of faith, seeds of deliverance, seeds of hope, seeds of investments, seeds of righteous living, seeds of honor…to plant seeds that will help raise up a godly generation, a strong generation, a faith-filled generation. God wants to use us to break some glass ceilings, to push in some doors, to break down some barriers or at least do some serious damage to that which is blocking the way.
If all we do is sing, “We shall overcome,” link arms, place wreaths on some tombs and silently march in remembrance then we will have failed our predecessors. We must do more than live in a past time paradise. We must do more than sing loud hosannas and read poetry. We must speak truth to power… we must educate and register people to vote. We must stand against unjust laws and systems that crush the lives of children and youth through failed educational systems, “for profit” prison systems, gang riddled, drug infested neighborhoods and over crowded class rooms with frustrated, overworked and under-payed teachers!
We may not get everything accomplished, but we must keep “jumin at de sun!” We may not see all that we are hoping to come to pass, but we must do all we can, while we can to lay the ground work for a better day ahead.
All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us...
May we, like "these," be courageous and take the long view.
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,