Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
This coming Monday marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. (which is actually tomorrow). I am still spellbound reading his sermons and writings. He was assassinated at just 39 years old, yet he wrote with such eloquence, sophistication, knowledge of classical literature and poetry, that you would have thought he had been preaching and writing five or six decades. His words still make my pulse rate jump. His vision of a just, inclusive Christ-like world inspires me. Where did he get this ability and power to say and write things that 53 years later make me say, “Yes! I want to be that kind of person. I want to live in that kind of world?” Where did that come from?
His dependence on God.
There is a scene in the movie Selma that captures the actual event surrounding the march from Selma to Montgomery. Alabama State troopers had already attacked peaceful marchers. The plan to continue with the march was risky. It could challenge King’s commitment to non-violent resistance. Marchers, tired of violent abuse by the police, could respond in kind. So the marchers arrive at the Pettus Bridge with troopers waiting in mass for them. King walks ahead of the marchers in this barren neutral zone and kneels. After a lengthy, lonely prayer he returns and tells everyone to go home. The march would not happen that day.
King’s supporters were furious with him. It appeared he was backing down. This would set back the cause. King couldn’t disagree with them. All he knew was in a difficult moment, when he turned to God, he felt God say, “Not now.”
The march, of course, would happen. And the protestors would arrive at Montgomery without any incidences of violence. As it turns out, the cause continued and no one was hurt.
This story parallels many insistences of King turning to God for guidance, strength, and help in moments of need. This may be his greatest legacy for us. We can’t all preach and write as he did. We don’t have national media putting a microphone in front of us. There are some things we don’t have and can’t do, but one thing we can all do is practice the same dependence on God as Martin Luther King Jr. When the going gets rough, no matter who is watching or not watching, will we get on our knees?