Flawed, Faithful Clay

The recent birthday celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. calls us as a community of believers to affirm the truth: “Justice may sometimes sleep, but it never dies.” In our lifetime, we have see his dream of justice for all suffer with some moments of insomnia, but each time the dream has awakened in time to live through the night.

Had he lived, he would have been 86 years old this year. In his 39 years on this earth, he reshaped the world for the better although he did not live to see his dream fully realized. A citizen, minister and civil rights leader, he rejected violence in all forms. Through his strategy of non-violence, he helped initiate a new understanding for peace and social injustice in the turbulent ‘60s. In the process he earned the Nobel Peace Prize and was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year for 1963.

In the last few years, like many other famous people who have died, we have heard about Dr. King’s “feet of clay.” The recent movie, Selma, portrays this in a powerful scene where Coretta Scott King confronts her husband over FBI-manufactured evidence of his adultery and forces him to admit that there were, indeed, other women in his life, although King claims to love only Coretta.

Whatever we believe about his life, it seems clear to me that while it may not be appropriate for us to emulate his life, or for that matter the life of any other human being, it does seem fitting for us to recognize that even with his flawed humanity, Dr. King made a positive impact on his world and the kingdom of God.

The beautiful honesty of the Bible on more than one occasion speaks of the shortcomings of its heroes. Its David was a murderer and an adulterer and one of history’s lousiest parents. Still on his good days, his achievements were so grand that God called him a man after his heart.

This is not to say we should be like David or even like Martin Luther King. But it does say something about God’s ability and willingness to mold even flawed clay. Thanks be to God!

A Simple Prayer for the New Year

The day I am writing this (January 2), my calendar tells me that on this day in 1968, Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant operation. The thought of a heart transplant feeds my thoughts for this New Year and the hopes and dreams that “spring eternal” as we resolute our way into 2015.

So, would you like to have a new heart? Not a physical one (unless, of course, your health demands it), but a spiritual one. One that is able to choose hope over fear and love over anger. I suspect after a year like 2014, most of us would agree that a little more hope and a lot less anger would be a good start for the New Year.

Frederick Buechner describes anger this way: “Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

So, what bit of anger are you holding onto? Or perhaps closer to the truth, what bit of anger is holding onto you? What piece of the truth did not get told, what confrontation was unfair, or what frustration festered into fear that exploded in anger? Well, whatever its source, I would plead that you set among your resolutions, hopes and dreams for the New Year, a determined desire to rid your life of all and every form of destructive anger.

Now I am the first to admit that the “what” is easier than the “how” on this “rid yourself of anger” New Year’s goal. Most of us, with a little bit of reflective energy, can locate the eye of anger’s storm. It, however, takes pure, passionate, persevering patience to stay the course in moving from the source to the cure of our anger.

But mark it well, my friends, it will NOT go away on its own. Much to the chagrin of those who thoughtlessly say, “time will heal all things,” the fact is, it doesn’t. Until you and I identify our anger and offer it to God in a prayer of cleansing confession, we will not “get over it.” It will cling to us like glue and suffocate any plans we have for hope and healing in the New Year.

So, why not start today? The old proverb was right: “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” Begin today moving from anger and sorrow. It starts with a simple prayer that invites God to transform your aches into opportunities, your regrets into possibilities, your anger into peace. Thanks be to God!