I work with our church’s youth choir. They recently returned from a trip to New Orleans, LA where they stopped at several important places during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, including Atlanta, GA and Selma, AL. Our music director has a friend who lives in the Durham, NC area now that joined with Dr. King and the SCLC for protests and marches when he was a young college student during that time period. He was arrested during a march in Selma in 1965. Although not a high ranking member of the movement, through a series of events he ended up sharing a cell with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Because Dr. King and his close associates were fasting, the dish prepared by the African American cook for Dr. King was going to go to waste. Fager, hungry and not fasting, ended up eating the meal of collards and country hame. You can read more of the story on his blog: https://afriendlyletter.com/eating-dr-kings-dinner/#more-212.
I wanted to highlight a few parts of his story as part of my reflections. First, the idea of fasting as a way to get closer to God is so interesting to me. I know it is an ancient practice that has been around for a long time. I find it tricky, because it is really easy to focus on the fact that I am hungry and not care who is talking to me. However, after doing intermittent fasting for a while, I can say that you do find yourself a little sharper after a while. I have never done a long-term fast, but I imagine it could be very helpful if you are trying to hear from God. I also found myself struck by the sights and smells conjured by his description of the collards and ham. I grew up eating collards and ham. I happen to like them, prepared southern style especially. If you are unfamiliar with proper collard preparation, it involves lots of salt and fat of some sort. Probably removes whatever health benefits you receive from dark, leafy greens, but still great. I can assure you, though, that serving this simple, country dinner was a proud offering from this cook. I am sure that he added as much fatback and salt as he could. It was given from a place of respect and honor, likely the best he had. I know Fager enjoyed it and am sure Dr. King appreciated the spirit in which it was given. I believe that God feels the same way about our offerings. I think He appreciates our gifts and the spirit in which we give. I am reminded of the verse that tells us how God loves a cheerful giver. Giving cheerfully shows gratitude. Being grateful leads to a happier, more content life. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I want in my life - happiness, contentment, and pleasing God.