Proverbs 20:27 refers to our spirit as the “candle of the Lord” that searches the deepest parts of who we are. Those words remind me of the parts of ourselves that we may attempt to conceal from others, our underlying motives and thoughts, and truths we fail to acknowledge. Then, I wonder about the condition of the hearts of people who cause so much suffering in our society today, and in the past among my enslaved ancestors who struggled all their lives to access what God already had given them – freedom.
My great-great-grandmother was born into slavery. Her parents ran away from their slave master’s plantation, and lived in the forest, where my great-great-grandmother was born. When they were found by their slaveholder my great-great-grandmother was about nine years old. Her father was shot on site in front of her and her mother to make an example of him, so they would remember to never attempt to be free again. And from what I’ve been told, my great-great-grandmother never cried again from the time of her father’s murder until her death. At nine years old, I guess she had no more tears to shed, as she’d probably already endured the worst of the worst.
In some ways it feels a little uncomfortable that this scripture brings back thoughts of my great-great-grandmother’s sufferings. Maybe I reflect on her when I read this scripture because it leads me to wonder how much darkness had to exist in the minds and hearts of the slave owners, lawmakers and citizens of that time for them to support the cruelty and dehumanization of slavery – for so long. It was as if they snuffed out the candle of their conscience to prevent it from drawing attention to those areas of their hearts that needed change.
Back then, slavery was the new normal. It was legal, lucrative and well supported. And if the institution of slavery was any indication of the condition of the hearts of humanity at that time, it shows how depraved a society can become when its will overrides the will of God.
We’ve come a long way as a society and nation, but we have not arrived. Slavery and injustice, in various forms and to a lesser extent, still exist. The names, players, rules and their broad appeal have changed, but the roots remain: greed – the love of money and it’s wares – and a mindset of supremacy.
The good thing is: slavery is now illegal! We’ve made some headway in civil rights, and that’s a good start for progressive change. So on behalf of my great-great-grandmother and all the ancestors who endured so much hardship, I’m thankful for “better.” I’m also thankful that God continues to illuminate the inner recesses of our hearts and nudge us to be who He created us to be, and who we pledge to be: “one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”