Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:27-31)
There’s a story that I absolutely love about Thurman, that he tells about his grandmother — that his grandmother owned some land, and there was a white woman who was adjacent to the land and did not like the fact that this Black woman owned land. And so she decided he was gonna get back at Thurman’s grandmother and went to her chicken coop and got all the manure and dumped it on her land and upon her tomatoes and her greens and everything she was growing, to destroy it. But his grandmother, when she realized there was all this manure [that] just had destroyed everything, she would get up in the morning and take the manure and just mix it in with the soil as fertilizer. And so the woman would dump at night, and Thurman’s grandmother would get up in the morning and turn it over and mix it.
And so the woman next door eventually fell ill — and she wasn’t just mean to Black people, she was mean to everybody, so nobody came to see her when she became ill. But Thurman’s grandmother went next door and brought her some flowers. And knocked on the door, heard this frail voice, and she came and the woman was completely shocked that this Black woman, who she had been so cruel to, would come and see her. And she was so deeply moved by the kindness.
And Thurman’s grandmother places the flowers next to the woman, and the woman said, “These are the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. Where’d you get them?” Thurman’s grandmother said, “You helped me make them, because when you were dumping in my yard … I decided to plant some roses.” Ω
Reflect: Who dumps manure on your garden? Ask God to show you how hate might be transformed into love; hurt into healing; manure into roses; ask to be shown the next step. And if you need someone to help you in this work, ask God to show you who: then ask them.
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of intense reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent.
Otis Moss III tells this story about Thurman and his beloved grandmother in ‘The Sound of the Genuine: Traversing 2020 with ‘the Mystic of the Movement’ Howard Thurman.’ On Being with Krista Tippett. https://onbeing.org/programs/rev-otis-moss-iii-the-sound-of-the-genuine-traversing-2020-with-the-mystic-of-the-movement-howard-thurman/. #Lent2021. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent, Sanctuary, 2021. Image credit: Rachel Coyne on Unsplash.
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