The back porch has become my spiritual and intellectual home during these days of isolation. On the intellectual side I am writing a comparison of two figures of the Civil War/Reconstruction era that I believe represent the conflicting images of what America is and what it should be. I want to understand fully the lives of these two men so it have taken more time than usual. It seemed appropriate to pause and reflect why I have created this project for myself. Where does that desire originate? With that question in mind, I wrote the following devotion.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
I am named after both my grandmothers. Ruth is my middle name and belonged to my paternal grandmother. She was a business woman, selling Spencer corsets door-to-door , during the 50’s and 60’s in Memphis, Tennessee. Ruth Gregory Bailey always wore her product, and her hard middle and straight back were signs of her character. A lasting image for me is coming into the kitchen in the morning and finding her reading her Bible at the kitchen table. A devout Baptist, she was an active member of Calvary Baptist Church for the almost 70 years it was located at Euclid and Lamar, a block from her house. Walking to church with her, sitting at her side in her Sunday School class , and witnessing the regard her fellow members had for her, planted seeds of faith in her oldest granddaughter. Many years later, I would dedicate my dissertation to the woman who taught me to “hunger and thirst after righteousness.”
I fall way short of righteousness, but I still hunger for it. I take hope from Maya Angelou’s words. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better!” COVID times have highlighted several areas of our common life where we should “do better”.
The disproportionate impact of the COVID virus on Black people, the murder of George Floyd and many other examples of mistreatment, the persistent academic achievement gaps and the wealth gaps for Black Americans, have all come to a dramatic climax. During this time of isolation with less distractions, we have an opportunity to know better so we can do better.
I have turned to Micah once again to provide some guidance. He defines the righteousness my grandmother exemplified for me. Justice, mercy, love, and kindness should be our goals right now and the substance of our contemplation. I pray for the courage to develop these qualities in my own life and to encourage others to do the same.
We hear Your call to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with You. Please show us where the seeds of justice need to be planted. Help us to show mercy and love to everyone, not just people who look like us. Forgive us for all the times we haven’t followed your call. Remind us of your awesome Presence in our lives, humble us, and stay close to us. There is work to do and you have called us.
Amen and Amen