“the struggle in the twenty-eight-year-old James Baldwin between the instinct that said, ‘I have escaped my heritage; I can be free of it now;’ and the instinct that told him he must journey to the very depths of the sorrow of his people before he could ‘climb the mountain’ and be free.”
David Leeming, James Baldwin A Biography
James Baldwin’s inner struggle to be free from yesteryear’s sorrows, resonates with me as I reflect on 2017. This year I came face-to-face with the demons of violence, grief, betrayal, deception and loneliness, and I discovered the face of God and my inner strength to survive.
¤ I witnessed the wreckage of gun violence in my own family. I also witnessed the breath of God, revive, strengthen, fortify and preserve my little brother’s life. I witnessed a miracle!
¤ I met the obstacles of grief that intended to paralyze and highjack my relationships and future. Instead, I found God in empathetic companions, willing to walk with me through the depths of despair and grief.
¤ I felt the sting of betrayal in church leadership that birthed my voice to speak truth to power.
¤ I dwelt with deception but only for a little while before the truth broke through the darkness. The light shattered the lies of deception. What was intended to destroy me, God used to free me and heal me.
¤ I discovered that loneliness is the deep void within me that yearns for constant fulfilment. If I allow it, loneliness will take me by the hand and lead me to find empty fulfilment in that which will only suffocate me. Through Julian of Norwich, I discovered that the longing of loneliness can only be fulfilled with a longing for God.
Each of these demons, kindled my anger! And, anger became the fire and fuel for my passion to survive. Not an anger or survival that seeks revenge or breeds malice, but an anger and survival that refuses to be knocked down by my experiences. Anger picked me up, dusted me off, and sent me on my way—stronger, wiser and more vulnerable than the yesteryears.
2017 will enable me to walk taller, longer and bolder with God, myself and others. That is, 2017 gave me the gift of empathy!