When God Runs Late
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the synagogue leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the synagogue leader, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” – Mark 5:35-36 (NRSVUE)
You know how people say that freedom ain’t free? Well, apparently, freedom ain’t fast either. In a world that seems proud of its chains, it’s no wonder that freedom has to run through obstacle courses to reach her destinations.
I think often about those who had gathered at what is now named the Reedy Chapel AME Church in Galveston, Texas, on the morning of June 19, 1865, the date we mark as Juneteenth. I try to appreciate the energy of that sanctuary, full of proud yet tired Black folks who were still longing for a freedom they didn’t even know was already theirs. When General Gordon Granger stepped into the pulpit that day and read those world-shaking words, “all slaves are free,” I know the people celebrated. I know we’ve been celebrating ever since.
But my heart still aches, for them and for us, because I wish that the good news never ran late. Like Jairus the synagogue leader, as well as his family, so many have to swallow deep sorrow to make room for precarious joy, and no executive order or divine miracle can erase the trauma of the minutes and hours and days and weeks we spend waiting on lawmakers and waiting on God.
Still, what I must believe is that the clock will change and somehow time will be extended. The page of resentment, loss, and heartbreak will slowly but surely turn. And by remembering what it’s like to wait, we can work together to ensure that freedom moves faster.
God, when things get rough, we often want to say to You, “Never mind!” Delay feels the same as denial. Don’t leave us in limbo. Hear our longing, and keep us in our waiting.
Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart is a Black queer preacher, teacher, and agitator. She is an adjunct professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University and is the founder of Salt | Yeast | Light, where she develops spaces of theological candor, disruption, reflection, transformation, and public action.