"She runs a bit, hesitates, stops,
and, all while dreaming, shakes her head
for or against.
Then she dances a few steps
that she invents and forgets,
no doubt finding out that life
moves on too fast."
-Rainer Maria Wilke
"Child in Red"
Okay. Let's get stupidly vulnerable here for a minute.
I struggle... A LOT... with the way I see myself. Specifically when it comes to body image. It is a battle I have been fighting ever since I can remember. And it is a battle that at many times, I have lost.
I'm kind of obsessive when it comes to working out... in the sense that I can run an entire half-marathon on an elliptical machine, given that I have an hour and forty-five minutes to spend at the gym. It's a good thing that I enjoy it and it isn't just some sort of strange masochistic habit (although, I'm sure some would argue on that...), but the thing is, I know that I care way too much about it. I have pretty much always known that I have. I just choose to ignore it most of the time.
Just as I choose to ignore the entire issue most of the time... at least outwardly. Inwardly, it eats me up at every single moment. If my clothes don't fit quite right, it ruins my entire day. I notice myself telling myself negative and hateful statements in my head non-stop, and I convince myself that I deserve them and that they will stop if I start "doing better".
So maybe it is masochism. In a round about way.
But here's the deal, in caring way too much about this, my own body image has become my idol. I serve it without question and think about it constantly. I will make any time that I possibly can to get to the gym to "work off" whatever I just "did to myself" that day. (And yes, this is frightening to hear myself acknowledge out loud...) But recently, with all the Call+Response stuff going on, along with my 10 hour work days, and the weather getting colder, I haven't been able to go to the gym nearly as much. If at all. And I have noticed myself slipping, slowly, back into that self-hating routine.
But something happened last night. Something changed. And I am still trying to put my finger on what exactly it was. Earlier in the day, I had been sort of secretly lamenting doing so much with this project and not being able to work out. I could feel my body shifting and changing and was not happy. I felt as though I needed to get control in order to make myself feel worth something. But there was (and is) absolutely no time. So what was I supposed to do?
I was at the Radical Living Marcy House with Alissa working on C+R plans, when Jeremy called with the news that the link for purchasing tickets had gone live. After jumping up and down in excitement, I saw that Courtney had posted a new video about our time in Thailand on Facebook. This video is honestly one of the most personally moving things I have ever seen. It means so much to me. And it meant even more at that moment as we began to see the first stages of the fruition of our work. Through streaming tears, I watched those girl's faces flash across my screen, and all I could think of after the events of the evening and the events of the past week was that their rescue is coming. With every single step made in advancing the awareness of this horror of sex trafficking... their rescue comes closer and closer and closer.
Only in retrospect did I realize that in that moment, I completely forgot to hate myself. I could not remember how to only care to a fault about my own selfish desire, like I always have.
Is my own body really what I am going to make my life about?
As all of this was happening, I wrote Ashley:
"The link for C+R just went live (http://www.tribecacinemas.com/calendar/Call__Response_Screening_Guide.html) at the same time Courtney posted her video that she made about Thailand (it's now reposted on my profile). I can't explain this feeling right now. I balled like a baby at the convergence of these two events I can't stop crying. Those girls in that film.. my girls... this is their rescue. I'm claiming it...They're fate DOES NOT lie in trafficking. They will be happy, and healthy, and innocent. They will be free.
This is what I want to spend and spill my life on for the rest of my life.
I don't care what it takes, I don't care what it requires of me, I don't care what I lose. All I care about is setting captives free. This feeling is unlike any other I have ever had before. And I wish I could share it with everyone in the world right now.
I love you, best friend.
Everything is so so right."
Everything has a purpose. And last night I remembered mine. Food was made to be eaten, and life was made to be embraced. I was made to set captives free and dance with abandon while doing so.
A heart that has not fully embraced itself for all that it is, all that it will be, and even all that it will not, can never known the exhiliration found in that abandonment.
Because it can never know the freedom found in surrender.
I surrender, for I am not my own. And I was made for Something More.
Help me, Jesus. Teach me how to love myself like You love me. My body is not my own. Release me from it. Set me free.
"...You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.
Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find. something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who 'has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; and too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Walleye gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?". Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists. There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.
Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in pubic. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."
I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face Jeering, and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers? If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr."
These words comfort me.
His free expression of disappointment in the church, but acknowledgement that that disappointment found it's root in love.
God Almighty, make us creative extremists for love once again.
You know, I think about "my girls" a lot. The sweet sweet little girls from the village I lived in this summer. I remember their faces, their names, their eyes. They loved me and accepted me more powerfully than I have ever known, and that love and acceptance has been one of the greatest sources of healing for the deeply wounded places of my heart. More than they will ever know. In many ways, those sweet girls rescued me and during my time in Thailand, and the call the Holy Spirit placed on my heart to repay the favour has been loud and clear.
There is a distinction to be made between when something is on your mind, and when it is on your heart. My girls are always on my mind. But today, they were on my heart. Heavily. Maybe it's because of all the talk of trafficking that I have been around recently. Promoting the Call + Response screening in New York City. Recently coming on board to develop Nomi. Contacting anyone and everyone to see if we can network Prang and Servant works to Nomi Network to get them the help they so desperately need.
This past week has been an intense time of diving in and scraping around to the very bottom of what I desire to see, what I burn for, and what I am capable of. And it truly is more than I ever thought I would actually see come to fruition. From the instant I met Alissa and she told me about the drawing board parameters of Nomi, I knew it was a purposed connection. It is no mistake when another person who a week ago was a complete stranger is repeating back to me exact phrases that the Holy Spirit gave to me months ago.
I thought I was moving to New York to study these things, get to know this world, and set out on my own with guns blazing against the powers of the empire that be to start this battle against human trafficking. The plan was to attend FIT for the next four years and gradually ease into something, that I was praying would take shape and form, impatiently knowing that "these things take time".
There I was, having prepared myself to not be able to bring this direction and immediate message of hope to these women. There I had been... screaming and crying at my Warrior God, my Saving Lord, because I didnt want to wait. I couldnt stand the thought of these girls... my precious girls... growing up... facing one more day without hope. One more day without another option of a way out. One more day bringing them one step closer and closer to the bars. One more day making them more and more susceptable to being trafficked into the horrors of the sex trade. I had literally cried aloud for justice and called to him through tears to save them, and I began to formulate my plan of action, as the sense of urgency in my heart grew. The best thing I could do was give myself a timeline, as I was convinced it would be longer than what I desire. I grudgingly resided myself to wait and wait and wait... I braced myself with patience and began to wade through deep frusteration with timing that did not mesh with the dire sense of urgency in my soul.
Oh, how little I knew! Oh how small my vision! My Jesus had other plans. He was already doing it here! He has been harvesting it for a year! And He was bringing me to the "it" that I didn't even know existed! Because it is what I have prayed for. EXACTLY what I have prayed for!
This is so much faster than I ever thought it would be, and now that the initial whirlwind has started to settle, the magnitude and weights of the reality of this situation has slowly started to hit me.
He has suprised me! He has overwhelmed me! He has pushed through and rushed past my own expectations and limitations of what He is capable of doing and He is on His way to save them NOW! He is urgently, expectantly on the move! And their freedom is so close that even I can feel it!
Today, I was unexpectedly overcome with a foretaste of freedom for those captives nearest and dearest to my heart, and the realization that He has placed me here, not for the purpose of preparation... But for action.
He brought me so he could send me.
Hold on, please, my sweethearts. I am coming. Just a little bit longer and I will be there. Your rescue is on it's way.
Hold on, please, my precious ones. He is coming! Just a little while longer and He will be there! Your Rescue is on It's way!
Is not to just become okay with it. That does not make it go away.
You have to actually invade and fight back the darkness, in order to set the captives free.
You cannot simply walk away and pretend that it isn't there.
While that option may make you feel a lot better at the moment, the slaves still stay as they are.
Do not mistake my joyous waves For drowning I hope to escape I have come to occupy this sea Completely willingly I ran into its wild waters Hoping to be swept away Hoping it would pull me under To that secret resting place One that I admit I've never known But through this love has grown And caused me to forget my own ability to swim
I will not float above, for life begins when I am plunged below As I abandon everything I thought myself so wise to know
This flood, this flood, this raptured flow Take me, toss me, to and fro This flood, this flood, this vision swells Oh Heaven, move us, make us tell!
The dead and desert thirst For what the blossom holds, Tucked safe inside The glory of the coming kingdom Longs to bloom, instead of hide
I will not float above, for life begins when I am plunged below As I abandon everything I thought myself so wise to know
This flood, this flood, this raptured flow Take me, toss me, to and fro This flood, this flood, this vision swells Oh heaven, move us, make us tell!
Return again, oh ransomed one Shout with joy and come away To Zion, as it welcomes you For salvation is here to stay
My calm exterior does not mirror correctly in the least what's inside my spirit these days. Sometimes I worry that my speech will only ever be my speech... There is a new language emerging: a brand new type of typical And though it sounds more radical than the former, the danger still remains the same Spoken too much, it just lays lame It serves for too little action It is an empty rhetoric that watches time just tick... and tick... and tick... and shhh... Just listen.... As we speak of revolution! Oh, but good little boys and girls will do their best to keep away! Held at arms length, power stays When we don't do the things we claim As we continue to simply say that we want to see these things Want to want to want to want to But never want to follow through You know, the ones that are actually do... are not spending nearly as much time talking about it They're too busy being honest.
So I'm approaching a divide, it seems. And, in truth, it scares the hell out of me. The things I asked for now are being brought unto fruition With the one last final step being entirely my mission. Well, obviously.
But I just cant live like this anymore! Every single time that I get closer to sincerity, Is every single time I get so tired of listening to me!
My deepest desire is for everything to be simple. And I abandon lofty notions of comfort and wealth. Forfeiting your rights is supposed to attract attention. Because it is never done. It isn't even safe to mention.
I feel like I don't have the strength. And you know, I don't. It's true. At my root, I find I'm too afraid to call upon the total strength Of the One who does. Because I know what when I do, nothing will be like it once was. And I fear it.
I don't know how to live, Oh, I don't know how to live! I've got no more strength to grasp this thing and no more room to give To excuses
I don't know where the answers are I don't know where to seek at all This muffled message, calling, waving, whispering inside my soul...