I've wrestled with the content of this post for a while. I feel woefully inadequate to even share. I've contemplated deleting everything and holding back. But this is bigger than my reservations, fears, and feelings.
Pause from reading for a moment. I feel compelled to ask you to pray a simple prayer before continuing: "Lord be present in my heart. Give me the strength to trust you."
I believe the legacy of black men and women must be a legacy of forgiveness. Legacy functions in the past, present and future.
/ˈleɡəsē/ - "anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor."
Some synonyms for legacy include inheritance, heritage and gift. I want to address how these three things define us.
What is our inheritance?
This is the hardest to address but most important. For many of us, and understandably so, it feels like we have inherited pain, prejudice against us and little to no worth. As a people, we have endured great sorrow. A sorrow that many people want to ignore and write off as complaint and grumbling.
So what is my inheritance? What have I been given?
I'm reminded of the parable of the prodigal son(Luke 15:11-32). The story starts with the issue of inheritance. The younger of two sons wants it now no matter the cost and pain. Surely he receives money, livestock, etc. in the exchange but what he ultimately receives is forgiveness from the Father.
We too have received this forgiveness from God on the cross. So if we agree that we have been forgiven we have to acknowledge that our duty is to forgive others as we have been forgiven.
The diaspora that makes up Black people has been systematically oppressed for more than 400 years. African nationals, Afro-cubans, Haitians, African-Americans, Jamaicans and many more. Still, our present legacy must be forgiveness. It's a choice each of us must make. Will you love and forgive or will you distort who God has made you to be?
For some of us, what I'm asking is: Will you continue to hate white people or will you make the necessary sacrifice and pursue forgiveness?
I do not say that lightly or flippantly. God wants all of us. So if a part of our hearts hate his children we are misrepresenting Him.
What is our heritage?
What, who and where do we come from? Thanks be to God that the answer is Him. But make no mistake, He has called others to be a part of this great story. No matter your specific ethnicity, you come from royalty. This is not to the detriment of your nationality, it is actually a benefit.
Every country, people group, neighborhood and home has a dark spot.
Romans 3:23 "for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
When we spend our resources on figuring out who has done the most hurt to whom we waste our talents. However, I am not suggesting anyone gets a free pass. We all need to be leading in repentance.
I could list tons of people who have made my legacy a possibility. But if I don't understand that the richest part of my heritage comes from God then I'll never understand why the people he has used are important. What's the point of knowing Fred Shuttlesworth, Medgar Evers, Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman, Solomon Northup, Frederick Douglass, The Little Rock 9 or anyone else if I don't know the God they served?
So what is our gift?
This is the most gratifying part of
all of this for me to share. I know so many of us see ourselves as burdens and not gifts. We wade in our flaws when we are meant to walk on water. I hope your heart hears me when I say this: God wants to use you as a gift to the lost, widowed, hungry, lonely, deaf, blind, paralyzed, depressed, anxious and the leper.
So what is our gift? Our gift is suffering.
Romans 8:17 "Now if we are children, we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with the Messiah —if, in fact, we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
But suffering isn't the only gift we have to offer. We are a persevering people. As much as Maya Angelou spoke for herself she was speaking about us as a whole. We rise. Even when we are hated. Even when we are beaten. Even when we are seen as monsters. Even when, even when, even when.
Jesus rose and persevered death itself. Who are we not to rise?