Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of participating in a small community forum. The crowd consisted of Whites and Blacks professionals in equal measure, with a focus on the Black community within the larger community. A SWOT was utilitized to identify the needs and resources. Nearly ninety percent of the crowd added something to the analysis. As the discussion about THREATS, the T in the SWOT came to an end, one of the youngest people, if not the youngest male in the room, made a comment I think everyone in the Black community should hear. In essesnce, he posited that our history is a strength but our history can also be a threat to our progress.
As a strength, we know from our history that the Bible played a significant part in our Civil Rights. Many passages in the “Good Book” provided words of hope and inspired songs during the justice movement. But a century before, the great freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman had relied on an awesome God—The Inspiration for that same book—to lead 300 enslaved people to freedom.
Did you get that? God used a tiny woman, who knew the Scriptures so well she could use them to close the mouths of her oppressors and lead her people to a land of promise. And God’s Word is still available to bring freedom to those who desire to follow Him.
That part of History is the better part. The part where we relied on an unseen God to work through unseen people.
Jesus had many who wanted to follow him. In Luke 9:61-62 of the Bible, it reads, “Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Tubman had a similar response to those who wanted to run back for this person or that reason. Did she not? I wonder where she garnered such insight? Actually, I do not. I know where the wisdom emanated from and how it freed many enslaved people. She had a relationship with God. She became a success for herself and her people.
Wouldn’t common sense tell us, that a relationship with God and time in His Word is the better part of history? However, a history that keeps us from edifying God, mad at the world, and relaxed on the morals He set in the Bible, will keep you angry, frustrated, and plain ole “stuck” in your current situation.
If that is in some way a part of how you are feeling today, then I say, tell that part of history and its historians goodbye.
Nothing is more important to God than your freedom. The freedom of your soul unentangled by the trappings of this world. God has it all laid out for you and I. But we have to trust the words in the Book. We have to believe we are seen by the unseen God and the historical record that proves it.
Because with God all things are new!
We either believe Him and His Word or we do not. It is simple. We either die with our broken, blood-stained history or we take the better part and find freedom.
I did not always understand this type of liberation. When I was beginning my career, I wanted to work in my college major and the financial industry. I wanted to work in investments. So I took my degree from a top school and came home expecting doors to fly open for me. They did not. At one financial institution I was mistaken for someone applying for a secretarial position, nothing wrong with that career choice, but that was not mine. I reasoned with the receptionist who eventually took my resume but who knows where it landed once I left. Back then I did not know to mail my resume in and shock them when I arrived for the interview. Young people have it so much better now.
While waiting for the job I wanted, I took others to pay the bills. I even invested in improving my skills and added technology certifications. Still nothing. The larger companies in the area, who I could name (but will not) and try to put to shame, did not even call me for a phone interview. And I guarantee you I had one of the best coverletters and resumes imaginable, but I was lacking experience in the financial sector as the years rolled by.
So I began to apply for higher level jobs in the areas I was gaining experience in, and I would move a little further in the intervieweing process but I never got the position. I remember a few times I would learn that the job was given to some “hot shot’s” wife or a person already handpicked for the position and the interview process was but a formality.
After a history of dismissals and denials, you can easily get discouraged. I did. I also felt stuck (in the wrong town), and underappreciated. I began to question my skills and even my worth.
It is natural to allow that type of temperament to take over your entire disposition and fill you with feelings of depression. And depression unchecked turns into bitterness. Unfortunately, it is way too simple to allow roots of bitterness to build a home in your soul. We have to fight to protect it. We must guard our hearts.
I can only imagine if I had carried those issues of my past into the next interview or my future relationships. I probably did on some levels.
The consequences would destroy my opportunities for a brighter future and engagments with people who do not look like me. Moreover, they would destroy me. And to some do-gooder I may have been justified. But there is no justice in victimization because there is nothing outward that can restore what is lost inwardly.
As a society, we cannot allow blame of any kind to dictate the story of our life. Hard times are but a stone to be stepped over, a rock to throw out of our way, a moment to humble ourselves and hear from God.
Take Thomas Edison, who made 1,000 failed attempts to invent the light bulb. If he had given up we would still be burning lamps to see at night.
When asked about how the lenghtly process, Edison is said to have replied: “I did not fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”
Did you see how he flipped the switch on failure? We can do that too. We can take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good. Edisons’ success lit up the world.
Consider another inventor, George Washington Carver, who discovered over 100 uses for the sweet potato and 3000 uses for the peanut. Before we could applaud him for making our food choices better, Carver was accepted to a Presbyterian school based on his academics. But when he showed up for enrollment the school denied him because they saw that he was Black. Sound familiar?
Carver did not become bitter and quit, though. Instead he applied to another school and went on to receive a stellar education and later founded a college primarily for Blacks—Tuskegee Institute. And when the cotton fields had destroyed much of the south’s land, it was Carver who confesses that he prayed to God, a very simple prayer: “Can you tell me about the peanut?” Carver says the Lord told him He would not tell him everything in his lifetime but said He would give him a handful. And God did.
The former enslaved man, botanist, and Christian, George Washington Carver credited all his success to God, whose benevolence granted us nature and science. Carver also named his laboratory, “God’s workshop.” He was a humble man, who took no credit via patent, because he wanted everyone to have access to his inventions.
That is the better part of history. Carver’s success changed the world and our food supply.
My story started to change when I forgave others and myself, when I traded my old perspective and old friends for God’s way of being and doing things. I surrendered to the wisdom in the Bible that emancipated the slaves and whose hymns lit the way to freedom and civil rights with hopeful lyrics. Moreover, when my body was failing, it was the God of the Bible who breathed life into me again.
Every story is different because we are all unique and special to God, but I guarantee you that if you want to succeed, you will have to follow Christ, and let go of the people, places, and things that keep you tethered to the worst parts of your past. That includes letting go of dead things and people with dead ideas.
Success in our communities and in our lives is predicated on keeping our focus on God and giving Jesus first place in our hearts. Period. That’s it.
Read the story of Paul and Silas’ miraculous break from prison in the 16th chapter of Acts in the Bible as a reference.
“They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 16:31-33 CSB)
Paul and Silas had success and they shared it with the jailer and his family. That single story influenced a new generation.
If you need a cure for your pain, if you need a light in the darkness, if you need a joy despite your disappointing circumstances, all those things are only a breath a way. Say, “Jesus, I need you. And I will never turn my back on you again.”
This is the better part of history. The Bible is our passage to freedom. It teaches us how to do life God’s way. If we trust and believe, God will show us the way, He will light our path, and He will bless us so that we can be a blessing to others.
Thank you for reading.
May God make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Real peace. Really,
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