“Let your light shine…” Matthew 5:16
I have been feeling anxious leading up to President-elect Trump’s inauguration. I don’t think any of us really know what to expect or what the next several years will look like. However, I’m so glad that the week started with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I found inspiration and wisdom over the long weekend. Though there’s a lot I have no control over, there’s also a lot I can influence. I want to share five of my takeaways with you, as well as questions I plan to ask myself to stay focused on what’s important.
1. Remember that you are light.
I attended a wonderful free event put on by the City of New Orleans called New Orleans Together. I wanted to attend because one of my favorite artists, India Arie, was performing. (Shout out to my soul sister Sarah Jean for introducing me to the amazing-ness of India Arie almost 10 years ago!) India sang her beautiful song “I am Light”. It reminds me of when Jesus calls us to be light for the world during his Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Each of us is responsible for the light in ourselves. Don’t hide it under a bushel! No. Let it shine, shine, shine. When I feel upset, frustrated, or confused I’m going to ask myself, “What would light do?” and then ask God for the courage to go do it.
2. Remember that whether we seek unity or division is our choice.
The New Orleans Together event I attended this weekend was a celebration of the actions our community has taken to foster racial reconciliation and equity. There were musical performances, speeches, and videos showing the work of some community groups throughout the year. At the end of the night Mayor Mitch Landrieu pointed out the contrast between the fight that played out across our nation throughout a divisive election. and New Orleans where we’ve been working on unity, reconciliation, and equity. When we heal ourselves, we’re able to be a light for other cities. Mayor Landrieu’s speech was a good reminder that we can choose to sow division or we can choose to work toward unity. Just because others are making the choice to divide and to belittle doesn’t mean we all have to. As Michelle Obama said so eloquently, “When they go low, we go high.” Amen to that. Am I spending my time, my words, my energy on what divides or on what unites?
3. Remember not to be silent in the face of oppression.
I saw this quote from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” posted by several people on social media over the weekend: “I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”
I must continue to struggle through the tension between seeking unity (see 2nd takeaway!) while not shying away from the disruption that must necessarily come from demanding justice from those who are threatened by a more equitable power dynamic. I want to be an ally and to seek justice even if it draws criticism, makes me unpopular among “friends,” or requires great sacrifice. Glennon Doyle Melton, whose brave book Love Warrior I just read and loved, posted on Instagram last week “The answer to whether we’d have marched in the Civil Rights Era is whether we’re marching in this Civil Rights Era.” Am I marching?
4. Remember to serve one another.
Another of my favorite MLK quotes is “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” In God’s kingdom, being great isn’t about having power over people, being rich, or everyone knowing your name. Being great is humbling yourself to serve others. In his Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to serve your neighbor. It looks like going radically out of your way to help someone in need, even if that someone is different than you. It looks like using your own hands to clean their wounds, your own comforts to comfort them, and your own money to provide shelter and care for them. The more I learn about love, the more I feel sure that love, service, and sacrifice are the same thing. What have I sacrificed for others lately?
5. Remember to keep dreaming.
I lead a monthly women’s group for young professionals, and we’re currently reading Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. In our reading this week I learned the very hopeful news that hope is a skill that can be learned! Brené has found through her research that hope is “a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.” Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated hope in his famous “I have a dream” speech. He had the audacity to set a big vision and then he worked tirelessly in pursuit of it. Having a dream that’s so radically different from the current reality takes incredible courage. But this one dream has and will continue to be an inspiration for generations. What is my dream for my life, for my community, for my future children and what am I doing to make it a reality?
I hope these insights are helpful to you like they’ve been for me! Thanks for reading, and feel free to share any comments below. Peace and love!