History has the ability to haunt us. Be it our personal history, family history, or the history of our nation. Yet, the future has a way of bringing us hope, optimism, perseverance, and a bold joy that breaks down the structures of evil.
In recent weeks and months, we have all been reminded as a nation of the extended struggle we’ve had with racial injustice. Although we’ve made gigantic strides ahead throughout the last century, in recent months we’ve witnessed grave injustices in our law enforcement, the tragedy in Charleston, the hate crimes towards local churches and their congregants, and numerous other incidents. It seems that with each of these instances a corporate shudder strikes in us and is a reminder of our painful and shameful past; A past that some choose to use to fuel hatred and bitterness. But for most of us, this past is a very real bruise from which we’re trying to recover. (I think it would be wise to add here that no two of us have had the exact same experiences that would allow any other person to bring complete resolution or speak exactly where we all are. Only God has that capability.)
It seems that no matter how hard we try to outlive our past, with the grave infractions perpetrated by a very small percentage of our population, we are seemingly brought back to square one. I say “seems” because we are so susceptible to allowing the events of the past to dictate our lives. But that does not have to be the case.
In the hearing for the shooter in Charleston, Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old shooting victim Ethel Lance told the shooter, “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.” At the very core of Christ’s teaching is forgiveness, more than any other religious structures prior and since. Moses taught an eye for an eye, to enact an equitable justice for every wrong action. But Jesus taught forgive 7 times 70. Forgive when it doesn’t make sense. Forgive and then forgive some more. Have a bowl full of forgiveness prepped and ready for all the haters. And it’s clear that the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston showed the world how it’s supposed to be done.
Jesus knew that if we allowed our past situations to dictate our future, our future would suffer the slowest of death by harboring bitterness.That our bitterness would become a huge smudge on the inside of our eyeglasses. Jesus taught of how things are going to be in the future; of how things are in Heaven, of how we are to cooperate with God to bring Heaven here to earth.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of unity and justice, regardless our skin tone, was not only of a future that we are currently seeing come true. It was also the destination for God’s children. It’s the dream God has given us the invitation to participate in; the dream that we would not just follow our instincts in human reactions. But, that we would pull our influence from the future, from our God, who is at the end of all things coaching us towards love. Coaching us towards forgiveness, and imparting to us wisdom beyond our peers, beyond the media, and beyond what any single man could possibly change.
Although this kind of dialog is going on most of the time without words, it seems that it’s important that we not just let the voices of few get so amplified that we don’t appreciate the miraculous that is happening right before our eyes . The kind of love and community I see happening at the McCrorey YMCA. McCrorey is an intergenerational, culturally diverse community. We embody and stand for something that most of the world has not yet fully seen. And I’m so very proud of that.
Yet, I’m also aware that every day I carry the ability to be an agent of further reconciliation in our ever growing community. And I don’t take that lightly.
I believe as we practice loving each other and living in progressive, real time, love and forgiveness within our community, we are living from the future. Maybe not a future others have the privilege of seeing, or that will be headlined in the media. But I do know that our lives don’t have to be dictated by what the news says or what’s happening outside of our comminuty. Not only do we have the ability, we also have the responsibility to “be the change we wish to see”.
Someone must grab a firm hold on love and unity in this part of town, in this city, in this country, and in this broken world. Somebody’s got to be the example.
Why not us?!