Just as surely as we can be formed in our relationship with God through scripture, we can be formed and in-formed through relationships with others. And not just those relationships where we are in regular conversation with someone. Sometimes our formation can happen through the gift of literature or other forms of media.
Over this past week and particularly past 24 hours, many have reflected on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King jr.'s historical "I Have a Dream" speech. This speech helped to re-shape us as a nation and continues to hold up that dream as we see the ways in which this vision of equality and justice still needs to find its form among us.
For my generation and those that follow, this speech is just a part of our history and not a part of our own experience in quite the same way. Its interesting, but what role might it have in our own formation?
I remember distinctly the time when the reality of racism was vividly displayed to me. I remember how it began that awareness and different perspective on what many endure as their reality. It was 1974 and as a nine year old, I was allowed to watch a miniseries called "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman" starring Cicely Tyson and based on the book by Ernest Gaines (it was released a full 3 years before Roots). The story follows Jane from the days as a slave on a plantation in the rural south through the Civil Rights movement.
It was seeing the brutality of slavery that not only gave me bad dreams but awakened this suburban white girl to the reality of prejudice and injustice. While the number of African Americans in my community was very low, it opened my eyes beyond myself and this community to the wider world. The harsh and unjust treatment of others was a wake up call to what some are capable of and that we can not just watch in horror, but are called to speak out in compassion and justice.
I can't say that I went out to change the world after watching this miniseries, but I can say that I was changed and formed by it. I know that just watching a television series is nothing like living amidst the still present reality of racism. I hold no illusions that this moment can give me any more than a glimpse of what many continue to deal with day in and day out. I just know that a nine year old girl began to see things differently and that it continues to haunt me.
Dr. King's speech in its power and eloquence is more than a historical event. His words hold up the reality of our world over against the vision of what this world could be. These dreams are more than fleeting thoughts, but rather ones that need to be continually held up as our goals and purpose as a people.
As people of God, we are given the vision of Christ. Through the Creator, we see the world as God has made it, as we have taken advantage of it and taken it for granted. Through the Savior, the dream of resurrection, of new life out of death and sin, is lifted up. In Christ, we see how the hope of change can become reality. And through the Holy Spirit, we are equipped to bring that dream to bear upon reality.
Dreams can form us if we let them. Dreams can direct us if we are open to them. Dreams can challenge, poke and prod if we feel them. Dreams can offer hope over and against the harshness of life.
What dream(s) have formed you? What gives shape and meaning to your life? What has or continues to direct you towards that dream?