Lord Make Me Brave by Melody Eliseo
Moving at a fast clip in out and between small clusters of students who were walking and talking their way to their next class, my upper torso leaned hard into the steady incline, and I felt the rhythmic slap of my book bag against my left hip. I glanced up quickly just to make sure of the next darting movement when I noticed a group of people standing around a tent up near the Jackson Library. Straightening for a better view I could make out large graphic colored posters that looked like bloody fetuses and babies still in the womb of their mother. These posters were surrounding the upper portion of the tent. I noticed that students were gathered around the tent talking. Quickly I glanced back down, uncomfortably wondering, “What is going on today?”
I figured this was some sort of protest by a student body group. Using my peripheral vision I quickly glanced right again at the pictures, obviously this was a protest against abortion. I was actually slightly shocked at the graphic pictures of dead and unborn babies. And I thought to myself, that this was the first protest against abortion I had ever seen at this large university. The same university I have attended for the last 5 years. The fact that this protest was happening in the year of 2015 is awesome, I thought to myself. Good for them, I’m proud of them for standing up for what’s right. I quickly passed the booth keeping my head down as I scurried past, rushing to get to class on time. This class was a rare one where the professor still took role.
As I entered the small class room, I dropped my book bag on the floor beside me, and slumped down tiredly into the chair. This class was, The Rhetoric of Social Movements. A class I chose primarily for my last Speaking Intensive marker, I needed for the final part of my degree. Just 5 classes left till I graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology.
As the other students straggled in, we all started mini conversations with each other, the kind that can be interrupted at any time, and still continue on after the interruption has passed. Little unimportant pieces of information that we humans are very comfortable with. Statements of commonality. There was laughter along with chatter; some voices echoing louder in the small room than others.
Sitting across the narrow aisle from me was a girl, her teeth were rotted black, her hair was greasy and covered with a dirty hat. In spite of this, she did not smell unclean, I had sat close enough to her every day to know that. After these many days in the semester she was still a mystery to me. For in spite of her blackened teeth and greasy hair, she was very bright, well spoken, and highly opinionated on all matters she felt were truths. She was the first to share her views on every subject, they were all basic party line liberal or democratic views. None of this really bothered me except maybe the teeth. I often wondered during class if she ever got toothaches.
There was something about her I loved, and something that made me very uncomfortable. She had a charm about her, the confident lack of concern in all the ways in which she was noticeably different from every other person in that whole college of 20,000 people. I couldn’t help but be impressed by that confidence. But she also made me very uncomfortable with her highly debatable, loud and often annoying opinions. Taking up valuable class time as she passionately reiterated, repetitious liberal party lines on all the main issues.
Me? I was quiet. I had sat there listening to her all semester. I had opinions of importance to say on all those subjects as well. Meaningful statements that would be well spoken, and well thought out points, a very different view from hers, yet worthy of conversation.
The professor was talking about the things a Social Movement would need to do in order to become effective enough to bring about true change. The type of things that would change the established set points in a society, change a culture, or even an entire world view about an issue. He was explaining that every successful social movement must have at least one person that is willing to speak up against the establishment. The establishment, an established standard of ethics, a monumental system. One that determines what is the standard of the day and punishes all those who cross it’s lines. In the first stage of a Social Movement, one or two people begin to vocalize how dissatisfied they are with it, no one has organized anything, but this massive movement will begin humbly with just one or two voicing their unhappiness. And by doing so they begin changing the perceptions of others around them, whom may even be placidly satisfied with the current system. But these people who are speaking out about their unhappiness with the current establishment will mark the humble beginnings, of every effective Social Movement that we have in place today. These people may also begin to write a few letters to the newspaper or begin to tell more and more groups of their dissatisfaction in the establishment.
Taking notes, I write down what the second step of every effective Social Movement is. This is when the social unrest from this person or a small group of people begins to rapidly grow. Others begin to gather with them, siding against the ruling establishment, with the realization that they are unhappy too, they hop on the bandwagon. Declaring and defining what will become the movements mantra. This is the time when the Social Movement begins to gain popularity, and a leader steps forth from the group. At this second stage they begin organizing protests and petitions, rally’s or marches. Passion rises, spirits become fevered, and the winds of change blow. This is when it becomes obvious to all those observing the group from afar, that this “thing” is not going to go away.
Out of the corner of my eye I see the girl with the teeth raise her hand, and then she asked the professor, “Is this what those idiots are doing over by the Jackson Library?” My ears perked up. Someone else asks what she was talking about. Loudly she states that, “Those people who are against abortion are so stupid somebody should take care of them”. Apparently she feels they should not be allowed to show those pictures of mutilated baby bodies, nor the metal scissor/bashing tools, which are used to kill the baby, when unbelievably, that tiny unborn human spirit refuses to die.
I sit there quietly, angry at her words. I am not a debater. I do not like conflict. I do not feel like being loud in public. I will let people finish their thoughts even when those thoughts offend every inch of my body. But today, with all this talk about singular people who believed passionately in something, and because of that passion they persuaded others to join their cause, which eventually birthed a Movement, and brought down a national, social or religious “set in stone” establishment. Leaving history to document the steps of their success. This whole concept is making me wonder if by being silent, I’m doing the right thing.
Being Pentecostal now is the rave. Everyone knows someone who is. And all other religions are incorporating aspects of Pentecostalism into their churches. When I was growing up, this was far from the case, it’s almost like it was in another life. I was the lone Pentecostal girl in a high school of 2,000. Everyone looked at you like you were crazy if they ever found out you went to a church that spoke in tongues. Honestly they acted as if you talked with the Devil every night instead of God. We have come a long way.
But on this day there I sat, while the girl with the teeth rambled on and on, about how those students against abortion needed to be shut up. “They shouldn’t be allowed to put up that tent on the school property.” I finally got aggravated enough to pop off with a little reminder about free speech. Which shocked her enough, to turn her around in her seat, and wide eyed she surely did observe my annoyance. I was not happy with her rant. She paused, a little surprised, and looked down. The professor used this pause to go on talking about how to start a successful Social Movement.
Something about that day stays with me. I had always thought before, that I would just mind my own business, love everybody and never change my belief about the Bible. Then, if or when, someone would ask me what I thought, I would share the word of God with them.
I have met all kinds of people during my years in college. I’ve had friends there, in which, the f word was positioned prominently in every other sentence. And many other kinds as well, those whom would talk openly about doing things that the Bible is explicitly against. I have been quiet, kind and considerate to all. But this class about The Rhetoric of Social Movements is making me realize that just being politely quiet, while others work diligently, passionately, to persuade the masses to the plight of their cause… might not be effective. I wondered as I sat there if maybe it is offensive to God that we are able to sit quietly, while the killings of baby humans are being so casually discussed. Or maybe it is offensive to him when we cry out love and mercy, when he says plainly something is an abomination to Him, in both the New Testament and the Old. Are we more merciful than Jesus? That is just hypocritical on every level. When we make excuses for people who sin without repentance, and the demand is made by them, that either we approve it, or be called a hater, is God offended by our silence then? These thoughts make me uncomfortable. And I feel like I already know the answer. Because now that I’m thinking about it, my mind has jumped ahead to the scripture, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” This scripture suddenly means more to me now. Could it be that while I’m trying so desperately not to offend others, now I am offensive to God?
As the professors voice drones on I have to ask myself, am I representing God well upon this earth? Am I using my voice, and my abilities to persuade others, convincing them with my passion, to stand on the Lord’s side with me, and be counted one by one? Does God’s opinion on these subject matters, have the good representation that it deserves? Am I using my voice to persuade people outside of the church walls, and out side of my comfort zone, of waiting to be asked?
God’s word says a lot of stuff that is rock solid. It has opinions on things, that it calls abominations. It names sin in every category, then defines it and subtitles it. My sins are not hidden from the scripture. Every time that Book is opened and spoken in my presence I reassess where I stand in its pages. We are told to proclaim it, that in it, are words of life. Yet if we stand for what it stands for, we are now called haters and that is scary, even to adults. No Christian wants to be called a hater. And so we stay silent on some issues that God is passionate about.
This class, and the girl with the teeth, are making me rethink my whole attitude. Maybe I will no longer care what folk say about me either. The more I read the word of God and pray, the bolder I get. It’s very easy when someone attacks us, insinuating that we are everything that is wrong in the world, and declaring us as haters, to just back up, and slink slowly down into our seat, and then tell God “I tried”. But I have to ask myself, if I quit reading those particular scriptures, does that make them any less true?
The Bible will stand even if I fall. Someone, somewhere will come out of a wilderness of people to proclaim the word of God is true. And God will save people because of the warning that person gives. Maybe that person will fast and pray and a revival will save a city or even a nation. A social movement could happen. I am beginning to believe maybe that person could be me. Being quiet isn’t persuading anyone. It makes us a no count when it comes to persuading people the Bible is true. This thought process bothers me. I think I will try harder be a good representative of Jesus. I will love all types of people even while I explain exactly what the Bible says about everything, even sin.
If I know there is danger ahead, a cliff that is hidden by trees, should I just warn no one about it? Would that be considered love? No, that would not be love! That is indifference! Indifference is the absolute opposite of love. Hatred is not the opposite of love, hatred is love spurned or turned. But indifference is the exact opposite of love. It is the ability to not concern ourselves at all with whether someone lives or dies in Christ.
I decide I will become different, as the professor moves to point 4 of how to begin a Social Movement. The girl with the teeth has taught me something. I will no longer sit still while an army of Bible Nay Sayers speak loudly, passionately and persuasively, taking all the floor time. The gift of persuasion was used quite effectively in the Garden of Eden and it certainly did change God’s plan for our future.
No, I will not be shamed nor silenced any more by people who claim, that just by voicing Biblical truths I am now a hater. My flesh may be afraid of what comes after I stand up for God’s word, but my spirit stirs strong with in me. And the Lord God Most High, has told me, that he shall give me the words to say when I need to say them. And in that moment when I speak, I will be a representation of Jesus upon this earth. And I shall become as bold as a lion for I will do it in Jesus name. I will speak the Word of God to ears that will listen! And as I sit here thinking all these things, my spirit is being stirred within me and there’s a feeling like a fire, that is shut up in my bones. It’s only then that I notice, that a small quiet voice deep inside my heart is praying, “Lord make me brave…”