These days it feels good to be black in America. But if you call yourself Christian, you should have been feeling good already. This struck me the other day, walking on Capitol Hill with a sense of pride, when I felt a sense of conviction come over me. I asked myself: Do I feel this good about what Jesus did for me on the cross when I walk down the street? Just like when I looked at people and wanted to say, "yeah that's right, I'm black," I should have that same confidence as a Christian and be able to say, "yes that's right, I am a child of the most high God."
Yes, if we look at all that we have endured over the years, the trials that we have overcome, the victories we have achieved, it is clear that God has been faithful and we have come a long way. And we should look at where God has brought us from; we should be proud of our legacy. But in the midst of it all, there are new challenges and new victories to achieve. So maybe the question we have to ask is: Where does God want us to go now? Is it politics or is it prophetic?
In this passage of scripture, God says:
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29)
But if you were to read verses 25-27, God says something else will happen before this outpouring: "I will repay you for the years the locust has eaten ... ," and God goes on to say, "and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you ... ." And this is what struck me -- in verse 26 God says, "never again will my people be shamed." God says, because of what I am going to do, "you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other," and then God says it again -- "never again will my people be shamed." Before God talks about pouring out his Spirit, he addresses the need for healing and overcoming shame.
Last week CNN did an interview with Maya Angelou. When they asked her about what it means to see the first African American elected as President of the United States, among the many comments she made, she said: "Now when I travel to other countries, I don't have to be ashamed when I take out my passport and people know I am an American. No longer do I have to be ashamed of how America has treated black people."
And I could understand that, because there have been times when I was ashamed of this nation's history of discrimination and racism. There have been times when dealing with politicians, I allowed the way they looked at me, and the assumptions they drew about me because of my skin color, to almost make me feel ashamed to be black.
But when I hear God say, "never again will my people be shamed," my thoughts are not of this nation's history but of the life I lived before I knew Jesus. I think about the experiences in my life that I was ashamed of. And when I think about some of the things I have done and some of the things the closest people in my family have done that would make me feel ashamed and have been the source of my pain, then I hear God saying: I will repay you for the years that the locust have eaten, I will work wonders for you, and never again will my people be shamed. That's when I find myself praising God for what he has done. That's when I am grateful that if anyone be in Christ, you are a new creation, old things have passed away, and the new has come!
What is it in your life to which God says: You no longer have to be ashamed? What are you holding on to from your past that gets in the way of God pouring out his Spirit? Who has hurt you so much that you find it hard to let go of the pain?
God says: I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten and work wonders in your life. If we look at where God has brought us from and the legacy of God's great works in our lives, it ought to give you a reason to praise him. The reason some of us often struggle to feel the presence and power of God's Spirit is that we are holding on to stuff that God wants us to give up. Sometimes it's hard to let go of the memories of past pain and bad experience even when holding on to the past is hurting us. But God says: Just trust me, you don't have to accept that anymore, you don't have to let those memories torment you. God says: Let me have it, let me give you something better, stop holding on to it, just open your hands and let it go.