There’s something about wanting something your whole life, “seeing” it though it has not yet appeared, that is life-giving and that seems to open the door to receive and retrieve the vision.
All my life I wanted to be a dancer; we couldn’t afford it, but I read everything I could about dancing and dancers, and as a teen, when I was able to pay for dance lessons myself, I became what I had seen. I did very well, even going so far as to be able to study on scholarship at the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Then, as a pastor, I always wanted our choir to do all kinds of music – so as to invite children from the neighborhood could see and hear all that was available for them to wish for. We did Gospel music very well, but I wanted to expose the children in our community to more. I was able to get members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to play for us for one of our concerts and I for the first and only time in my life had a complete orchestral score from which to direct. I had “seen” that, from the time when I was little. We sang music from the most classical to the most soul-stirring Gospel, and the children were there, sitting in the front. Our choir was invited to be the featured choir for “The Lion King” promo and was also invited to sing in concert with country singer Lyle Lovett. We laughed. Country music? And yet, it was what I had “seen” and what I had seen came to fruition.
So I was weeping when Sheryl Lee Ralph received an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in “Abbott Elementary.” She had “seen” where she wanted to be and her vision guided her and landed her in a role that earned her a cherished award. I listened yesterday to actress Jenifer Lewis, who grew up in abject poverty, talk about how she had “seen” herself being famous, in spite of not only living in poverty but struggling with bipolar disease. She never stopped “seeing” what she wanted to be, and it came to be. And I recall Viola Davis who, likewise began to see herself doing great things with her life despite being desperately poor – after, she says, she “wrote a love letter” to herself.
All of that made me think of my mother, who, for as long as I could remember, wanted a house with a “pass hall.” The house we grew up in was a bungalow; you walked from the front porch right into the living room, and my mother hated it. It seemed that there wasn’t a week that went by without her saying she wanted a house with a pass hall.
And then, after all those years of saying her vision out loud, it happened. Our family was able to move to a home that had a pass hall. We would walk into that house and on the left side was the living room; on the right was a study that became my dad’s office. The pass hall took us past the stairs and into the kitchen, where we walked through and turned left to get into the dining room. I remember the walk-through, but what I remember more is the tears that I saw in my mother’s eyes as she walked into that pass hall. It had happened. The vision had come to be.
She died a year later, but she died having seen her vision come to pass, and what this remembrance says, or is a reminder of, is that having a vision, being able to “see” what you want and what God has for you, is a driver of hope and faith. Surely our ancestors saw themselves out of slavery, into schools on the highest levels, doing what the system they would never do. Surely the vision stayed with them, in spite of the way they were treated and in spite of the roadblocks to freedom, justice, and dignity that were put in their way.
When you’re able to “see” what your spirit is feeding you, you have a power within that the world cannot touch; it did not give the vision and therefore, it cannot take it away. It just grows inside of your spirit, like a fetus, continuing until there is nothing left for it to do than to be born.
If we, even in this most difficult time, keep the vision of justice and freedom and dignity for all, in spite of those whose only desire is to preserve the system as it has always been, we will see victories, our “pass halls,” so to speak. We are not powerless as long as we have the capacity to see what the world cannot see and what the world thinks is crazy for us to think about. Our lives and our hopes and what God has in store for us do not die until we do. Our task is to live on purpose and not give in to despair and hopelessness and know, not just believe, but know that the vision is truly “for an appointed time.” We are strengthened by knowing that the vision, that which we “see,” is on its way.