Rosa Louise McCauley Parks. You’ve all heard of her and probably know her story well. She is this week’s REACH woman of courage.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks did something that was unheard of for her time. Let me recap: under certain laws, black and white people were segregated in virtually every aspect of daily life in the South, including public transportation. Bus and train companies did not provide separate vehicles for the different races but did enforce seating policies that allocated separate sections for blacks and whites. School bus transportation was unavailable in any form for black children in the South. Parks recalled going to elementary school in Pine Level where school buses took white students to their new school and black students had to walk: “I’d see the bus pass every day… But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world.”
One day as Rosa was riding the bus and it became full, she was told by the driver to give up her seat to a white passenger. She refused. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be on that bus? Can you imagine the thoughts racing through her mind at that moment as she decided to stand up for what was right, to go against the custom? I’m sure fear and worry were assaulting her thoughts as she tried to do right on that cold December day. She knew there would be consequences for her actions. Thankfully, she was not beaten because of what she chose to do, but she was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance.
That day Rosa decided she did have a choice to go against what was custom. That is what sticks out to me about her life. It makes me reflect on my own life and how often I go with the customs of our culture and society instead of standing up for what is right, or what I feel the Spirit leading me to do in a certain moment. In the same way that Rosa went against what was custom, as God’s children we are also called to live differently (be aliens and strangers) than the world does. Hebrews 11 is also known as the “hall of faith,” listing all sorts of individuals who did incredible things for God. This is how scripture describes them:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Peter also challenges us to live differently and to go against the customs of this world for God’s glory. He is quoted as saying,
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2
How is God calling you to be different than the world around you at this very moment? If you haven’t thought about it much, take some time to take your heart before the Lord and ask him how you can stand out for his glory. Maybe there is a person in class that continually sits by themselves because they are a little different…could God be asking you to be their friend? Maybe you get caught up in conversations where gossip is a prevalent part of things…could God be asking you to challenge those people to think about their words? Each of us is living a very unique life before God, but He is wanting to use you exactly where you are at. Are you willing to go against the norm, taking steps of faith, and expecting God to show up and do something? I hope you do.
– Amy Englund