By Joy Moton
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the church, home and resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was so inspired by the atmosphere of his church. The very fact that I was sitting in the same building that a civil rights leader grew up and thrived in was amazing. It was so beautiful to hear a reenactment of one of his most famous speeches and look around to see Caucasians sitting in the room cherishing the moment. I mean, could you imagine hearing about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others used the very room you’re sitting in to risk their lives by planning to obtain the freedoms we have today? Could you imagine seeing a person of a different ethnicity praying and crying in the very sanctuary he preached so hard from?
The most intriguing thing for me was having the ability to witness the normality of a legend. To us, he is THE Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To his family, he was simply M.L — a boy that lived in a yellow two story house and played basketball a few feet from a fire station.
He grew up in the church just like I did. He went to school just like I do. And to my astonishment, he made mistakes just like I do.
I had a hard time coming to terms with the mistakes of such a legend. Martin Luther King? An unfaithful husband? It broke my heart. I felt despair for a few moments. How could he? How DARE he! After Coretta stood by his side all that time?! I couldn’t understand how someone I saw as so legendary and influential was apparently flawed. But you know what? I thought about the other side of the story, and I found joy in it.
Lets just face it, we all have dirt. We all have a past and secrets that, if revealed, would leave us devastated. But here comes the joyful part — God knows EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about EVERY SINGLE THING that we’ve done, and He still cherishes us. We often just passively acknowledge this fact like it’s nothing, and we get used to the notion that God loves us unconditionally — but just think for a moment about what it’d be like if it weren’t this way…
I saw Martin Luther King Jr. as a significant role model in my life until I found out he messed up in his marriage. My feelings towards him changed instantly, and I almost wanted to leave his historic facilities. But when I thought about how God sees us when we sin, I found that while He is heartbroken by the sin, His feelings don’t change about the person. While I hated King’s mess up because I thought it was a total jerk move, the only reason God hates our mess ups is because they hurt us.
My feelings transformed into a sense of gratitude and joy. I am so grateful that God isn’t anything like us. I realized that this man could still be an influence on my life because of three simple things I learned while visiting his hometown.
1. Martin Luther King was an ordinary young man that achieved many great accomplishments through hard work and perseverance. This proves that we are ALL ordinary, and any ordinary person can work hard to succeed in extraordinary things.
2. God knows about all of our mess ups and still loves us unconditionally (But don’t twist this fact to keep messing up!)
3. Despite the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. messed up in his past, God allowed him to have a spectacular future — and we’re entitled to the same gift.
I won’t let my knowledge of MLK Jr.’s mistake taint my view of him because he didn’t let it define who he was as a person. I don’t know specifics, but I do know that he did magnificent things through the work of God. This indeed inspires me because I realize that we all have messed up (Romans 3:23-“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”) However, I no longer have an excuse to use my mistakes as a cancellation for the things I plan to do with my life, and neither do you.