Playdates with God: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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Today we celebrate Jeffrey’s 16th birthday and the house is humming in expectation of a bunch of teenage boys. It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived here; that my baby is sweet sixteen. This morning, I’m remembering Dr. King and also so many happy walks with my boys. It’s true what they say about time accelerating as the years go on. Here’s a story from a few years ago. May you remember well today.

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He was a visionary, I say. He wasn’t a perfect man, but the world changed because of him. We need more people like him. Visionaries.

We are driving to church and I am telling them about the march the following day. A worship service is scheduled in the morning and following it, the people are marching. They are marching to the Capitol for a celebration. Commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At church, our pastor reads us the story of Samuel—how God speaks to him when he is just a boy. And she mentions Dr. King and says that if God puts a dream in your heart…you must be listening to hear his voice. And she tells a story that I have never heard about the fears Dr. King faced and how he heard God’s voice.

And I am stuck on this: Then the Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

The Lord came. And stood there.

So I tell the boys we need to go. We need to go and march to the Capitol.

Only, I forget that I’ve scheduled two meetings at just the wrong times and there’s no way we’ll make it. So, instead, we march down to the creek and I climb up on the bridge, much to the horror of my children, and I read the last part of the speech from my iPhone—that part that gives me goose bumps—I call it out over moving water, preach it to the gaping windows of my neighbor’s houses.

I have a dream, I say. That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream, I say. That one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

And I’m standing high and looking down and my boy looks up at me, alarmed. He realizes I’m going to see this thing through. And I am not whispering.

He looks around.

Mom, come down from there, he says.

But I keep on.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

And my neighbor comes outside with her dog. She’s still in her pajamas. It’s the same woman who saw me sitting in my van in the middle of the street at 8:00am. Because Jeffrey wanted me to drive him down to see if the creek is frozen.

But I go on.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

My boy is looking up at me and I can see it. I can see when the shift happens.

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day…

He is looking up and I see him realize. That God came. And He stood beside Martin.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual…

And when I finish, he helps me down. He takes my arm and his fingers linger on mine for a moment.

We read that essay in English Lit. When we were studying persuasive essays, he says.

And I know that this is his way of saying it’s pretty cool.

Well, I say. It’s very passionate.

And, he says. Very persuasive.

Indeed.

And he’s smiling, and I’m thinking, oh yes…the world needs more visionaries.

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

Comments

  1. says

    I love the courage in this story – the ability to push through the awkward and fear of what other think to do the thing God puts on our heart.

    • says

      It always feels like I never do enough, can’t make it clear to them how people have suffered down through the years. They are so far removed from it, Melody. I wish I could press it into their hearts, truly make them understand. But God knows. And each of us in His time, right? But I keep trying. Always, always trying.

  2. says

    I love that you kept going, despite your son’s embarassment!

    And I love that he was listening enough to appreciate what you were saying and doing.

    Thank you, Laura, for sharing this beautiful story!

    • says

      Thanks, Joe. Sometimes it takes more courage to stand up to those closest to us, doesn’t it? I was so grateful it worked out for the good on this day. Blessings to you, Joe.

  3. says

    I wonder if your boys know how blessed they are to have a mother like you. I suspect they do. But if not, one day, they will. I’m blessed to know you through this place, through your words. Have a wonder-filled week, Laura.

    • says

      June, that is the kindest thing to say. I suspect they probably are aware that I’m not much like their friends’ mothers. But whether they see that as a good thing? I’m not so sure :). I hope you are right: one day…

      Much love to you, my friend.

  4. says

    Laura, thank you for showing us all how to have courage, yes, even when it may embarrass our children. For they will learn to be brave and hold onto their dreams as we show them the way. Thank you for sharing this today!

    • says

      I wish … I wish I could take back all the pain and injustice that inspired that speech. I know so many of us wish that. Maybe these small acts of courage might be tiny building blocks to prevent such ugliness from happening again. Just little things. That’s how love changes a world. Thanks for your kind words, Joanne.

  5. Jan says

    I remember the day and the man. It seems like only yesterday when he spoke these words Although we have made strides toward the dream…prejudice and hate continue. May God continue to use you and your words to help throttle the devil and evil in this world. Happy birthday to Jeffrey. Sixteen is a magical time. Blessings and joy to you all!

    • says

      Thank you, Jan, for that blessing. Yes, unfortunately we’ve been made all too aware lately that the dream remains out of reach. But, yes, lets keep dreaming together. xoxo

  6. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    This is a beautiful story, Laura, of not letting the dream die. Dr. King passed the torch, and you are lighting yours at his flame, and most important, at His! You are refusing to let it die. You repeated the dream with piower to your boys (or whoever else happened to listen!), and you do so again now. I think dreams are given to be shared and not hidden under bushels. Light always dispels darkness.
    And turning a corner, a very happy birthday to Jeffrey. Oh to be sweet sixteen again (or maybe do boys call it sensational sixteen? 🙂
    Love
    Lynn

  7. says

    “Free at last!” Yes and amen. I love this story of you and your boy and Martin Luther King’s words. Powerful stuff, all three. Thanks for sharing this glimpse of freedom, Laura.

  8. says

    I LOVE this speech! We just read it, listened to it, and analyzed it my American Lit class. My students.. they didn’t get it quite like I had hoped, they didn’t feel the emotion I felt, but I know they will. I know they will look back and remember the power of those words, the way that words can change.
    We talked about the change his life made on the world and the difference that words, powerful passionate words make on life.. and we talked about the WORD made flesh which dwelt among us.
    I always come back to John 1. In the beginning God.. In principio Deus… He made, He created, chaos obeyed His Words. And we, the image of Him remade to mirror hope, we disrupt the stillness with words, trying to create hope as we remember His promises.
    We become change makers that infuse destiny into our speeches and listen again to the genius that graces us once in a while to inspire and make a difference. That is why we remember, even if we question the purpose behind the history we don’t understand. Because ultimately, life matters, we need to live and choose to dream, to be visionaries willing to pull down the strongholds if only to reshape the view of one.

    I love that you resonated the passion to your kids.
    And Happy Birthday to your son! 🙂
    Blessings,
    Dawn

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