The Well of History

I’m remembering an image that I’ve seen in churches. It’s a picture of one of Jesus’ first public appearances when he met a woman at a well. She was there for water to quench her thirst but ended up so intrigued by the conversation that she opened up to challenge him—and he responded so deeply that she went back to her people to tell everyone what she found. She came thirsting for water, but Jesus found her real thirst and filled it, so much so that her life was transformed. And here’s a key thing: she didn’t stay by the well; she returned home to use both the water and the message to bring refreshment to those she was most directly connected with. The well is where she found the water; her home was where she poured it out for others because she took it back to where she lived.

I think that story can apply to our celebrations of Black History Month. For Black history and Black accomplishments are the well for refreshing and renewal. Drink from history to be reinvigorated by those who used all that they had to achieve results that we still talk about. See the strength of human character. Learn of the deep commitments to accomplish great deeds. Watch what can be accomplished by people with passion, vision, creativity, and hope. Black History Month can be the needed uplift within a dreary winter.

But any visit to the museum of memory is just that: a visit, not a residence. The moments of today must be lived. Studying Black history speaks thusly: “Go where the doors open. If they are locked, beat them down and enter anyway. Make good trouble, and by doing so make history.” Black History Month satisfies that thirst for understanding, for meaning, for hope. And then Black history whispers, “so bring the water to others.”

There are times when renewal is needed, when refreshing is so deeply longed for that nothing else matters but that rest. And then—when rested, when refreshed, when renewed—it is time to bring to the community those works of hope and restoration.

By Stephen Matlock

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