“Can I tell you a story?”
The students around me nodded their heads, gave me permission to hold church in the courtyard, under the shadow of their school. I began by recounting the back story of the civil rights movement. How Martin Luther King as a new pastor was contacted about joining a Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks had refused to move from her seat, and history was in motion. King told them he’d think about it. But forces were at work that would soon thrust him into the middle of the fray. The boycott meeting was held at his church, and he was elected president of the coalition. Fast forward, his home has been bombed, wife and small daughter inside. He rushes there to find a growing mob circling his house with knives, guns and other weapons, angry about the bombing and seeking revenge. After seeing to his family, he addresses the crowd from his smoldering front porch. “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword….we need to love our enemies.” King’s courage diverted bloodshed, and launched a movement.
The students stared in silence. Finally, a young lady said, “I have never heard that before.” I continued.
“Do you know how King could stand on the blown up remnants of his porch, and speak about the need for love?” None answered. “Because four nights before, he had heard two voices. One was an angry caller who threatened to do exactly what had happened that evening, and it scared King to death. But as he clasped his hands in prayer at his kitchen table, he heard another Voice. It “promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone.” That voice was Jesus. In that moment, King’s fear disappeared, and our nation is different today because one man decided to never again let fear bully him.”
After the students left, I began to think about how courage comes from the basis of an unshakable belief in God’s purposes. It’s an indomitable step toward uncertainty, chaos, or imminent danger. We admire it in people, and sometimes scratch our heads in awe when we see it expressed. We say things like, “I could never do that.” As though courage was super human. Besides, Super Man only flies in the movies.
But wait, we can learn something from Super Man.
A few years back I was asked to speak at a conference in Houston, loaded with a mixture of new Christians, and older more mature students. One afternoon of recreation, I sat down by a ropes course contraption called Super Man. The gist was that a student would be suspended perpendicular to the ground by a harness about ten feet up. The rope holding them was the same rope that a group of students held off to the side, sort of like they were getting ready for a tug of war. When the student in the harness said, “trusting,” those holding the rope would pull, and make “superman” go one notch higher. Each time “superman” would say, “trusting” the students would yank the rope again, and higher “superman” would rise. It was comical to watch a few of the more radical boys, who probably had the “warrior gene” yell, “trusting, trusting, trusting,” without a breath, until the students couldn’t pull anymore, and “superman” was at the very top. Then with their right hand, they pulled a lever, and they would free fall for about one second, and then fly through the air. Every student, warrior gene included, had a look of sheer terror in the free fall, but every one soon after would be shouting like a maniac for the thrill of flying! Their smiles revealed the reward!
Yet, not so for all students. Some would get into the harness, and you could tell right away, they were scared out of their minds. They would croak, nearly whisper, “trusting,” and up they would go one small notch, and then in panic pull the lever. Their ride turned into a pathetic creaking, groaning sway. They only had one shot! It was over, no thrill, no adrenaline, no flying sensation. Done.
One life we have here. Just once we will pass this way. We have a choice, “warrior gene” or not, to make it thrilling, or just a gentle sway in the breeze. To the extent we hear the Voice, and respond in faith, “trusting,” to that extent this life takes flight. Standing on the ruins of his porch that historic evening in Birmingham, Martin Luther King said, “trusting, trusting, trusting,” and decided that God was bigger than his fear.
How about you? “Trusting?”