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How Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Abandoned the American Dream

By on Aug 27, 2013

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Today, August 27th is the eve of the infamous March On Washington during which Martin Luther King shared his “I Have A Dream” speech. The speech was the culmination of a tireless effort to spark social change for American citizens who were both disenfranchised and de-humanized. But what I find even more paramount is that in an effort to invoke the American Dream for so many others, Dr. King sacrificed his own.
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.


I’ve been reading the book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, and in this book, the author encourages readers to put themselves in radical situations in which only God can be magnified. It references the disciples who were ordinary men that relied completely on Jesus Christ to feed them, clothe them, protect them and guide them in the ways of the Gospel. They left their families, their possessions and their trades to follow Jesus, and in turn, subjected themselves to abuse, ridicule and fear… much like Dr. King.

Sometimes it’s hard to think of the disciples as actual living and breathing human beings because they lived so long ago. The bar in which they governed their lives seems so high and nearly unattainable. But when I look to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I can see discipleship through his peaceful demonstrations, his kindness and love toward his fellow man and his persistence and strength in the face of brutality and danger. But the most powerful act of his discipleship is that this ordinary man boldly risked his American Dream of personal success, earthly possessions, and family to spread and live the Gospel.

As I reflect on who I am in Christ, and how I live my life for Him, my shortcomings are magnified. Sure I can live without the possessions, I’ve done without the extravagant stuff many times before.  While career success is always a goal, It doesn’t define my personal success. And while I most certainly value my life, I would lay it down for my family. But when it comes to sacrificing my family, I’m more rational than radical, I’m more protective than peaceful, and I’m a disciple for all things…Nevels.

As I’ve progressed through the book and in my pondering on Dr. King, I continue to come back to the notion that Jesus requires 100% abandonment (which would include my beloved Phil, my Zo-zo and my J-Buddah) and I’m just not ready to let them go.

Can you see why?
(Photo credit: Sharyn Peavey Photography)
Yes, it’s true that at times my family can’t always calm my restless spirit. And when I’m feeling discouraged, disappointed or dissatisfied, no number of hugs, kisses and “I love yous” can steer me back onto the path of peace.  I certainly can’t do it, and so I know that it’s only the grace of God and the Holy Spirit that I’m able to see the other side of those dark places. Still, it is my flesh, my blood, my family that I cling to…
… knowing that they aren’t enough.
Today isn’t a day of answers, but more of a confession, I guess. I know that if God can take an ordinary man like Dr. King and make him a warrior for justice and peace, than he can do something incredible with this Momma. I do want a life of radical abandonment but I’m not ready to pay the full cost. I’m struggling to let go of my American Dream… my family.

Are you living a life of radical abandonment for God? Is your life inspired by God or by yourAmerican Dream? 

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