The observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day dominates the start of every new year. Across the nation, many children and adults of all nationalities, cultures and beliefs reflect on Dr. King’s words and legacy. I, too, have been thinking about his words; more specifically, his written piece “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in which he shares his nonviolent approach to change.
In his letter, which he actually wrote in his jail cell, he lists the four steps of a nonviolent campaign. They are:
1. Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist (data collection, fact-finding, analysis, interviews, document/policy review, etc.);
2. Negotiation (dialogue with power-holders, letters/statement of facts and recommendations, meetings with officials, etc.);
3. Self-purification (preparation of body, mind and spirit to receive divine inspiration); and
4. Direct action (marches, sit-ins, petitions, calls/letters to officials, strikes, boycotts, etc.).
Even though I am not a civil/human rights activist or a strategist, I am a leader. I am the leader of my own destiny, and quite honestly, this leader needs to make some positive, forward-moving, nonviolent changes in 2014. So I sat down at the beginning of the year with King’s Birmingham letter and some vague goals for the year. Applying his four step approach to change, I started with a review of 2013 and quickly discovered it had been an ugly year of personal injustices. I acknowledged wrongs in how I treated some people (reinforcing stereotypes; holding people to typecast) and in how I treated myself (succumbing to jealousy, anger and uncertainty which led to negative, hateful thoughts and feelings). I wrongfully bought into fear (which caused sleeplessness and worry) and focused too much on the future causing me to skip over the present. There were so many injustices coming to mind that I had to shut off the review for fear it would bog me down and keep me stuck in the past, in regret.
I moved on to negotiation and in this step I found I could stomach the results a little better although it too was no ant-free picnic. For I found that I did not always sit at the negotiation table (God’s throne) in full honesty. Instead of telling myself I could do all things through Christ, I leaned on my own limited understanding and only put some of my desires and goals on the table. Also, I didn’t always go to the Ultimate Power Broker with a pure heart. At times, I approached him with a heart full of defeat, ingratitude, doubt and anger. Lots of anger. But thank God He was always pure and honest and willing to meet with me at any time.
Knowing this made me feel lighter in spirit, allowing me to continue stepping through Dr. King’s approach to nonviolent change. Next step, self purification. Like most Christians, I prayed and focused on the Word. Like most spiritual beings, I meditated, recited affirmations, even fasted a time or two. These self cleansing acts always made me feel closer to God. I always felt like I received “a Word from the Lord” even when the word came through other people, songs, readings, Smartphone texts, etc. I always felt great after engaging in whatever self purification step I took, but I struggled with the tie-in to the fourth and final step…direct action.
The point of self purification is to cleanse oneself of ego, fear, greed, and other human conditions so that we can hear from God on what action to take, right? Well, my self purification steps led to a lot of disappointments, a lot of setbacks, a lot of lows; all of this as a result of the direction I had received and taken from God! When I mentioned this disconnect to a dear friend, she reminded me that 2013 was supposed to be a year of challenge, a year of endings, and a year of positioning; that I was right in line with a lot of other people who had suffered in 2013 so that we could experience new beginnings and an enhanced level of spiritual maturity in 2014. Then she quoted that old familiar saying, “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning light.” (I have such smart friends!)
Thus encouraged and fortified, I sat back with my thoughts and paper and realized that direct action is not always direct. Sometimes God leads us down a crooked path to “mature” something within us (faith, hope, courage, etc.) or to setup the next stage of learning. Sometimes God feeds us one puzzle piece at a time and whereas he is fully aware of the big picture, we aren’t; however, it is our job to trust anyway. It is our job to maintain our spiritual practice and do what he tells us to do even if the results are disappointing (to us, at least).
This was not an easy four steps to roll through. No wonder King and others had a time of it. But I can say that guided by this change exercise and a year in review, I feel good about setting the following goals for 2014:
٠Remove all limits from God,
٠Stay in the present as much as possible,
٠Engage in prayer, meditation, intuitive listening, fasting, journaling, walks in nature and internal cleansing regardless of what my physical world projects,
٠Do what God tells me to do regardless if it makes me look stupid, sound stupid, fall flat, etc.
٠Have fun, play, be joyful and always express gratitude!
Whew! Now I’m ready for the new year. How about you? Are you ready for a year of turnarounds and manifestations? Check in with me periodically and let me know what you’re experiencing in 2014, and I’ll do the same. It’s going to be a GREAT year!
Oh, and one final note…Happy birthday to my friends Joycelyn, Meryl, Willie, Pari, Ingrid, and Maxine who are blessed to share a birthday week with the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What an amazing reflection. I can sure relate and know that 2014 is going to be a year of turnaround.
Amen and hallelujah to that!
Wonderful post. 2013 has been full of challenges and setbacks and it was refreshing, comforting, and encouraging to read your wise words of continued faith.
Yeah, I plan to hang in there until my last breath. I am reminded of the old saying, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” I just hope and pray that we don’t experience another 2013. Whew! That was a tough one. Happy travels and let’s schedule a Skyp in February.
PS: I’m working on that Marc referral…
I have never thought of Dr. Kings writings as a means to personal reflection rather than community activism. It’s inspiring to see them applied in such a manner. I’m believing with you for awesome turn around in 2014!
Then we stand in agreement…2014 is THE year!
Wow, Ann, I like your approach to 2014 expectations……and past observations of 2013…..I look forward to us connecting more in 2014.
Me too! We made it happen once last year; we at least need to strive for two personal appearances in 2014 (smile!). In the meantime, sending you love and more love.