Settling into the three-day weekend for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, I listened again to his “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington.
I heard something in the Baptist preacher’s historic words that I hadn’t noticed before. It was a reference to “the fierce urgency of now.”
The Rev. Dr. King delivered that address on August 28, 1963. He talked about his dream for racial justice, freedom and brotherhood. He urged people to return to the slums of the north and the racist hostility of the South and continue to work for change that surely would come.
He would be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.
Scripture is clear that every man’s days are numbered. Limited. Finite. (Job 14:5)
From the day we are born, the clock is ticking. Only God knows how much time each soul is granted. We know that He has given us today.
I celebrated another birthday just days before the MLK holiday. King’s speech awakened me to “the fierce urgency of now.” I asked myself: What are you doing with your now?
Now never seemed very urgent before. I may have been wasting now waiting “until.” Until retirement. Until our children are settled. Until there’s less work. Until there’s more money or a more convenient, cheaper season. Until, until, until.
What are you waiting for? Now is the time. Yesterday is a memory. Tomorrow is not promised. Just as the Christian’s eternal future depends on our response to Jesus here and now, King dreamed a future rooted in acting “now.”
Jesus had roughly 33 years of now. He knew He was on the clock. He lived with intention, and so should we.
On His way to the cross, Jesus touched people’s lives in impactful ways. He healed a woman in bed with a fever (Matthew 8:14-15), called attention to a poor widow’s small but sacrificial offering (Luke 21:1-4), blessed children (Luke 19:14-15) People are the reason Jesus came to Earth. He invested His life in people, gave them time, love and compassion, presenting Himself as the bridge to restored relationship with God the Father.
My heart, perhaps yours too, can be selfish when it comes to personal time-sharing. The culture encourages “Me Time.”
- Seated across a dinner table, phone screens are more interesting than eye-contact conversation.
- If someone has a need, and we have prior plans, it’s a struggle to put aside our plans for their need.
- The phone rings for the third time from that same lonely person and we’re tempted to let it go to voicemail
While it’s easy to presume we’ll have more time for them, we can’t be sure.
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
We all could live to be fat, happy and full of years. That doesn’t lessen “the fierce urgency of now.” There’s no guarantee today’s opportunities will come around again. While it’s still called today, may God help us to give the hurting people around us the very best of ourselves: our time, our hope, our full attention and genuine caring. For night’s coming. (John 9:4)
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)