“I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you
through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” II Timothy 1:7
I’ve been thinking of this text this week as I’ve watched the events unfold in Baltimore. Last week I watched a video of Bishop Herz-Lane, our bishop, and religious leaders of other denominations and faith in Baltimore gather on church steps. They peacefully read a statement, and invited the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities to follow their worship services on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with a gathering outside their doors in peaceful, prayerful solidarity with those seeking justice and change.
Then Monday the city exploded.
There are certainly charlatans and opportunists in the midst. And certainly setting fires, looting, and throwing bricks to injure, maim, and kill others is illegal, dangerous, and unacceptable. But there are others who are not opportunists or pretenders but brothers and sisters who, denied educational and job opportunities and caught in a web of violence and hopelessness, this week got tired of feeling powerless and hopeless and exploded.
If we’ve never felt powerless to change our circumstances, we might find that hard to understand. Langston Hughes wrote about it in his poem, “A Dream Deferred” written in 1951. Tragically 64 years later it is still relevant:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Explosions feel powerful but reveal weakness.
I think of when my children were 2 and 4 and 2-year-old Per would “torment” Kai. Kai had taken to striking back and I had been trying to teach him about true power. One day when they were both strapped in their car seats, Kai said to me, “Look, Mom, I’m being powerful.” He was sitting on his hands.
God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. It might seem mighty powerless to sit on one’s hands. But when we’re exploding in anger and pain, think about how much power it takes to control one’s self and to continue in the midst to act in love. Now that’s power and power strong enough to change systems and bring into being dreams long deferred.