It Starts With A Yes: Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Dreamchasing, and You
As I write today, I am over the moon, high from excitement, and swelling with pride. The first African-American president of my country takes his public oath of office for his second term on the day of our National Observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday! This is no ordinary day in the United States. Today we made history, by inaugurating our first African-American president to a second term. What is most beautiful to me is the way in which President Barack Obama, in his life, character, and service, is a real reflection of what can happen when someone chases a dream.
It was some fifty years ago, in 1963, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a luminary in history and a visionary leader, stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital, and proclaimed that he had a dream. His dream was for the realization of a unified nation that would commit itself to the pursuit of freedom, justice, and equality for all people. As Dr. King stood addressing the gathering of some 200,000 Americans, he vividly and beautifully described his vision for a fairer and more perfect United States where all people were treated equally, with dignity, and respect, but the reality was that the times were not so beautiful. Racial discrimination and violence against African Americans was rampant. In fact, injustice was the order of the day. Yet and still, Dr. King spoke eloquently and prophetically about a day when his children would be judged, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This picturesque day he imagined would be the true evidence that freedom had been realized in America.
Dr. King’s words were not merely rhetoric, but gave voice to the motivation behind the Civil Rights Movement that affected real change in this country. Indeed, some victories were won because of Dr. King’s dreaming. Laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed, with other policy changes to follow that would make the U.S. a much better place for all its citizens and future generations. Indeed, I had access to a good education because of Dr. King’s dreaming. Americans today can reflect on how his vision for a better nation and online slots the sacrifices of all those who fought to make his vision a reality are the very things that ensured a promising future for them. We are the heirs of the promise. We are the ones who get to live the dream, at least in part.
What amazes me, however, about Dr. King, is that although he rose to prominence as a world leader and a champion for non-violence, freedom, and civil rights, he was really just an ordinary man who sensed the call of God upon his life. He only achieved what he did in his short 39 years on Earth because he had first responded to the summoning of God that he heard within himself. And this is the place where I find more inspiration than in any other chapter of Dr. King’s story. His great legacy began with a divine purpose to which he yielded his life, and in so doing helped to transform a nation. This is incredible news for us because it is the assurance of what can happen when we take time to listen and to respond to God’s call upon our own lives.
As I write these very words, I am standing at the beginning of my own journey in answering God’s call. I recently shared with my pastor and family that I recognized and heard God call me into ordained ministry and that I was ready to answer “yes” to God’s urging. In just a week’s time, I will stand before my home church with much trepidation and deliver my initial sermon. Though, I have no idea where this journey will take me, I am up for it. I only want to live a life that gives glory to God. I want to pursue the purpose God placed inside me. If that means preach, then I will preach! If that means sing, then I will sing! If that means write, pass me my pen! With God’s help I will move forward with the divine mission laid out for me.
I suppose that is why I wanted to write this post today. Dr. King’s vision and mission was his own. He lived it. He breathed it. He embodied it. But what about us? What risks will we take to pursue our dreams? In what moments will we quiet to hear the voice of God summoning us? Even Dr. King’s own dream has yet to be fully realized. We still fail at pursuing justice and freedom for all. We do not always uphold equality. There is much more to do. And just like in the day of Dr. King, God is still calling people. God is still equipping people. God is still sending people. Who will listen? Who will go?
Perhaps there are other concerns that are burning in your heart: overcoming poverty, tackling the AIDS epidemic, working to end terrorism and violence, pursuing gender justice, or ensuring environmental sustainability. I am not sure what purpose God has given you, but I am sure that God has given it. I cannot fathom where it will take you, but I know it starts with a “yes.” I challenge you to listen for God’s call deep inside your heart, hear the voice of the divine in the quiet moments of the day.
The truth is that the rest of us need what gifts and vision you have. Just as we needed Dr. King’s leadership, we also need yours. For we are all members of Christ’s body, each of us with unique and vital functions (1 Corinthians 12). Therefore, let us all be ever vigilant and committed to God’s call because when we do we help make our world better, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come. And these are not merely words I write, for just as in the case of the prophet Jeremiah, God had already planned our work for us.
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’” Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NIV)
We have been called, equipped, and commissioned by God for something great. This also means that God totally believes we can do it, and with God’s love and power we can and we will. No empty promises here. “He that hath begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (KJV)
So let’s go together boldly in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, working to fulfill our own purpose and mission. Like Jesus, we too, can transform the world. It starts with a yes.
Arionne Williams (African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church)