Rosa Parks died last night at the age of 92. She has been known as the Mother of the Civil Rights movement since the day in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus. Her choice on that day ignited a series of events that eventually led to the Supreme Court’s ruling that segregation on transportation was unconstitutional.
The significant words here are her choice on that day. That day she was offered an opportunity…an opportunity to live the way she had always lived or to make a different choice. I would make the argument that this opportunity was part of God’s plan for her life and that day, she had the choice to seize her divine moment or to let it pass her by. Clearly, God’s will was going to be accomplished with or without Mrs. Parks….that’s what makes Him God. But that day, she had the privilege, the assignment perhaps, to join God in His work here on earth. When the bus driver demanded that she give up her seat, she listened to that voice inside her that said “This is wrong!” and she said “No, I won’t get up.”
How often are we given opportunities to join God in His work here on earth and we let those opportunities pass us by? I am reading a book right now called Seizing Your Divine Moment: Dare to Live a Life of Adventure by Erwin McManus. He suggests that many of us are so paralyzed by the fear of doing something wrong, that we never do anything at all. We sit and wait for God to draw us a road map of His plan for our life instead of just jumping in and doing the next right thing. As Christians, we talk a lot about trying to figure out God’s will for our life, as if we are going to receive a FedEx package in the mail with a step by step plan. We say to ourselves that we are willing to fulfill God’s plan for our life, but we just need a few more details, please. McManus suggests that the Christian life has become so much about “avoiding evil that we have become virtually blind to the endless opportunities for doing good. We have defined holiness through what we separate ourselves from rather than what we give ourselves to.” He goes on to say that he is “convinced that the great tragedy is not the sins that we commit, but the life that we fail to live.” These are the times when we had the power to do good, but we chose instead to do nothing…”to not get involved,…to remain neutral, to be a nonparticipant.”
I know that I have been guilty of this more times than I would like to remember. I may not have had the opportunity to single-handedly launch the Civil Rights movement, but God has laid on my heart a person who could use a word of encouragement from me. Or maybe He gave me a great idea for a change that needed to be made…a way that “somebody” could make a positive difference. And these “callings” I chose to ignore because I was too busy or too lazy or too fearful. There have been many times that I have chosen to not get involved because it wasn’t convenient. I love what McManus says; “The important moments rarely come at a convenient time. Sometimes you wish that God would check your calendar first.” My favorite response to God is “maybe tomorrow” (have I mentioned my issues with procrastination?)
But here is the flip side, look what happens when we say YES to God! Rosa Parks’ choice on that day impacted the world in a powerful way; she closed her eyes for the final time last night knowing that she had REALLY lived. Have you seen recent pictures of her? She was radiantly beautiful…the kind of beauty that shines from the inside out. Her life became an adventure on that day; often hard, often scary, but an adventure that made a difference. For the 50 years that followed her choice in 1955, her life was impacted…the world was impacted… by her saying YES to God. My guess is that it wasn’t terribly convenient for her to go to jail that night, and history tells us that she suffered a great deal of hardship in the months following her choice. But I have to think it was worth it to her when she arrived in her Heavenly Father’s arms last night and heard “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I shared with you that I had personally experienced regret for divine moments that I let pass me by. But I have also experienced the joy that comes from saying YES to God…from seizing those divine moments. The good news is that God, surprisingly, doesn’t give up on us. Each time we say Yes, each time we are obedient to that tug on our heart that tells us the next right thing to do, He rewards us with more of His presence. And as we are transformed by His presence in our lives, He calls us out to the next adventure. I believe that is the abundant life that Jesus is offering to us.
Prayer and the Bible,” she recalls, “became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength.” These are Mrs. Parks’ words of testimony in her book Quiet Strength.
When I grow up, I want to be just like Rosa Parks.