Rough Side of the Mountain

Focus Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-6

For some of God’s people in the modern day, the legacy of slavery represents a form of postexilic turmoil for which we have to prepare, cleanse, and equip ourselves through fasting and prayer. And similar to our Hebrew counterparts, many people from diverse backgrounds are on a journey from bondage to freedom. For people in the present day, this trek involves climbing toward liberty up the rough side of a proverbial mountain. The travelers sometimes grow weary, wandering for generations, getting distracted, finding it hard to stay the course, a task that sometimes required listening to their inner voices to the exclusion of other voices. An observer standing at the summit and looking down might be able to detect three distinct groups of climbers, with isolated stragglers along the way.

The first group seems to have the hang of it. They were the overachievers, the elite. They were the ones who had fully assimilated and were having boulders moved out of their way by the powers that be. This first group consists of the determined ones who have learned to walk the walk and talk the talk and reap the benefits the former captors had to offer them. Some of the people in this first group have even earned positions as pacesetters and opinion leaders. They are graced with gifts and privileges those a little farther down the mountain do not have. Many of them, however, have never bothered to look back to check on the progress of those who trek behind them.

Then there’s the second group. This group moves along not as quickly or confidently as the first group, but they proceed nonetheless. They are in the middle – you know the norm. They are the average, the routine, and the “nothing special” people, who struggle every day just to make ends meet. And in most cases, their ends actually meet more often than not. People in this second group tend to listen carefully to instructions and to follow them as best as they can. They get up every morning and put on their work clothes and move with relative comfort along the path. They believe that if you put one foot in front of the other day in and day out, you’re bound to get to where you need to be? Right? Right?

Then there’s the third group. They want to reach freedom just as much as the others, but they struggle hard every step of the way. They enjoyed none of the privileges and advantages the others seem to have. They walk on the wrong side of the road sometimes. They bump into each other. They never seem to have the right equipment. And they never seem to get their footing just right. Hateful people often set up stumbling blocks and challenges to impede their progress. And some of the haters even question their right to be on the road to freedom in the first place. But in spite of it all, many of the strugglers creep along, taking one step forward and four steps back! Frustrated and often angry, many members of this third group find themselves stopped dead in their tracks from time to time. Faced with the choice to fight hidden powers, flee to another mountain, or freeze, they perceived they had no other alternative except to freeze. A lot of them have lost their expectations of ever reaching freedom – that is, they have no expectations at all really, except to exist until they stop existing.

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