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January 18, 2016

The King House

kingThe limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.
(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

 

One night during the Montgomery bus boycott, Dr. King received a late phone call just as he was dozing off to sleep. All he heard on the other line was name-calling, threats to his family, and hateful speech. This was not the first time he awoke to such calls, but this time he got up, paced the floor, and eventually gave up trying to go back to sleep. So, he warmed a pot of coffee.

Then and there he confessed to God that he could not see himself continuing his fight. He felt “all of [his] fears coming down upon him”, and he just knew it was time to give up. However, sitting there with his head in his hands, Dr. King experienced something new. According to his recollection, he suddenly felt a divine presence like never before, as if God were sitting right next to him, promising him that he was not alone in this fight, and he never would be.

A couple of nights later, those earlier threats of violence were made into a reality; the King house was bombed. Crowds in their neighborhood came forth with outrage, demanding immediate retaliation. They were on the verge of riot.

Remarkably, despite the damage to his home and the danger to his family, responded with a new-found calm. He instructed the crowds to go home, be with their families, and further their cause the next day by continuing their nonviolent protests.

It is difficult for me to imagine the challenges of pursuing a calling that could lead to arrests, endanger one’s family, and eventually get you assassinated. It’s one thing to risk your financial future in order to start an organization that hopefully changes relationships throughout the world, but that is embarrassingly minor compared to Dr. King’s calling.

Upon reflection, his calm in that chaos meant one of two things: either he didn’t really care much about himself or his family, or just the opposite—he cared so much for them that he had to risk everything in order to make possible a different reality, a different future for himself, his family, and all of us.

RIP, Dr. King

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