- Carissa Woodwyk
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
It's a song many of us sang throughout our childhood. The words come easily, the tune, naturally. We sang it. We believed it. We believed that Jesus loved everyone. But, did we learn to love everyone? Did we practice loving everyone? Do we? Now?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 84 this year. Many Americans and non-Americans remember his “I Have a Dream” speech. These words come easily. Yet, the courage and acceptance that is needed to live out his anthem, doesn't always come naturally.
When I read his speech through more grown up eyes and ears and mind and heart, the phrases and words stand out to me in different ways, new ways, simpler ways.
This is a speech about a person's dignity, not just about a person's skin color.
This is a speech about a person's well being, not just about sharing a meal together or holding hands.
This is a speech about a person's soul, not just about fighting for equal rights.
This is a speech about having the opportunity to bring forth life...in us, in a nation.
This is a speech about what God dreams for his world.
Dr. King's speech was profound and stunning and inspiring and dramatic in its day, but there's something even more profound and stunning and inspiring and dramatic in his speech for us, today.
We live in a time where seemingly there is more fear and insecurity and shame and pride and anger and despair and suffering than ever. “Slavery” was supposed to have ended in 1965, right?So why do so many people today still feel enslaved, held back, unseen, dismissed, discriminated against, judged? For some, yes, their reach for freedom is thwarted by institutional power and policies, but really, when it comes down to it, aren't these feelings perpetuated, knowingly and unknowingly, by people – their words, their jokes, their smirks, their bumper stickers, their t-shirt logos, their Facebook posts, their sermons, their handbook rules?
Our values, our beliefs, our faith...they pour out of us, sometimes without even a thought or intent. We live in a nation that is “for” freedom and justice. Yet, our actions often times send the opposite message. We want people to value what we value, believe what we believe, be what we want them to be. Life would sure feel easier if they did. But, that's not real life. We aren't all alike. We all step into this world from different places, stories that have shaped us and made us who we are today. There are so many categories we put people in, are put in. They keep us separate, distant, disconnected. Boxes and categories and labels don't produce freedom. They don't sustain justice. They don't create together-ness. They don't promote equality.
So, we have a choice. We have a responsibility. We have an opportunity...to love...everyone.
May we feel a sense of “urgency” in our own homes, in our own towns, in our own country, to create in our own small ways, an environment, a space where people feel welcome, seen, heard, accepted, free...free to walk with dignity and goodness.
May we “refuse to believe” that bitterness or hatred or violence is a means to a just end.
May we face the injustice and unrighteousness and wickedness with “soul force.”
May we have the “discipline” to fight for people's well being and humanity.
May we come to believe that “...their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And...that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
May we, “not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
May we, “...be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together knowing that we will be free one day."
Because, “...if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”
No matter what skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, income or weight...“all men and woman are created equal.”
Jesus loves all the children of the world.
Note: Words and phrases in quotations come directly from Dr. King's speech.
Carissa Woodwyk is a writer, speaker, marriage and family therapist, advocate for the human heart. She is also the co-author of Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child's Lifestory. She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI. Be sure to check out her blog and chat with her on facebook.