By Mary E. Miller
SUGGESTED SCRIPTURE READINGS:
Psalm 18:1-19, Isaiah 60:1-7, Matthew 3:13-17, John 1:29-42
As a young, black child growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, I basked in the love and protection of my family. Life seemed so simple, uncomplicated, and free. Everything was good. Everything was promising. My innocence was my liberation.
As I grew older, my knowledge and experiences broadened. I became more aware of the segregation that existed around me. I was aware of it but did not truly understand the oppression it perpetuated for me and my people. I knew that my people and white people, by law, used separate facilities and did not have the same rights or guarantees in life. My innocence was being challenged. My self-esteem became a little shaken.
Seeking answers to this challenge, I leaned heavily on the background and security of my family. I was reminded of the pride and discipline instilled in me by my mother and my maternal grandfather. I reveled in the family stories of endurance in the face of adversity, especially racism. I began to understand that this endurance was founded on a strong sense of pride, dignity, and self-worth. My heritage was my liberation.
As I continued to mature, I realized that the stamina of my heritage was rooted in a strong faith in God through Jesus Christ. I was taught to understand Jesus to be a liberating Savior. I was taught Christ's words of liberation for my people. Through Christ, I was a worthy child of God. My Christian inheritance was my liberation.
As a young adult, I was confident in my liberation, but I did not truly experience liberation until I faced a personally threatening situation. In the summer of 1969, I was confronted by a carload of white, teenaged boys as I crossed the street. They called me n― and tauntingly suggested that I get out of the street, out of their way, “or else.”
I stared at the young men. I was incensed by their ignorance and disrespect. Here I was, a black woman with a rich heritage, educated and productive, being treated less than an animal. In protest, I refused to cower to their threats and continued crossing the street. I said a silent prayer, expressing my trust in God's purpose and promise and my need for deliverance. I would not let hate reign.
The car stopped a fraction of an inch from my body. There was total silence as I continued to walk. There were no words or looks of hate as I glanced once more at my tormentors. I felt that the Lord had answered my prayer, had spared my life, and had esteemed my people through me in the presence of these misguided young people. I realized the truth of Christ for myself that day; and I shared that truth, indirectly, with those young men. The truth of Christ was my liberation.
True liberation comes from Christ's action in our lives through faith. Our liberation through Christ allows us to proudly and freely maintain and share our innocence, our cultural heritage, and our Christian inheritance. The truth of Christ is our liberation in all things.
From “My Liberation” by Mary E. Miller. Published in Alive Now, January/February 1996, Vol. 26, No. 1. Copyright © 1995 by The Upper Room.
Photograph by Joshua J. Cotten / Unsplash