Rosa Parks was a remarkable women, and yet at the same time nothing extraordinary. Rosa died this past week, aged 92, but it was events nearly 50 years ago which pushed her name into the American and international spotlight, when she failed to give up her seat – as the law required – to a white man and move to the back of the bus which was designated for black passengers. It was the end of a long working day such that her tiredness made her hold her ground. She was fined $10 for her efforts (with an additional $4 of court costs), which ultimately sparked a thirteen month boycott of the bus system by the black population of Montgomery Alabama, and stirred one young Baptist pastor into a cause which stirred a nation. That pastor’s name was Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
How did this happen? There is no doubt that Rosa Parks was a woman concerned about the racial segregation which placed such a heavy and dehumanising burden on black Americans. But her act was neither premeditated nor orchestrated. She had no ultimate purpose in her action. She could not have foreshadowed how her act would become a catalyst and symbol for change. She was tired. Tired from a day’s work, and likely tired from a system which imposed unjust burdens on her and people like her.
Although her act has been trumpeted for its significance, Rosa had no idea at the time that this simple choice could make such a profound difference. Her simple act of sitting in one place inspired a people to take a stand for equal rights for all. It is hard to imagine a more simple and mundane act, yet it catalysed a movement which embraced a nation. This is an example of a true act of faith: a mustard seed act which produced something way out of proportion. It could neither have been planned nor conspired to bring such an unexpected outcome. Such is the ways of the gospel which gave her strength.
To be a great people of faith is not to believe in magnificent and monumental moments, but to believe that God can use the ordinary and mundane choices of our lives and impregnate them with fruitfulness beyond measure. We are not called to search for the grandstanding and defining acts, but to let our simple choices be the defining moments of our lives: to live simply and humbly. It is these acts which God blesses.
May God bless us in the ordinary acts and choices, that we might be proven faithful at these points, and help us to leave the outcomes in His hands.
October 30, 2005