Have you ever read any pieces by Martin Luther King, Jr.? If not, then I encourage you to find time to do so. Though he is famous for his public speaking, he was also a fantastic writer.
I was a freshman in college when I read his Letter from Birmingham Jail. There is a particular quote from that piece that has stuck with me all these years. King mentioned an oppressed and battered 72-year-old black women who rose up with dignity and, like the others she symbolized, refused to ride segregated buses. When asked about her weariness, the woman responded with what King described as “ungrammatical profundity:”
“My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.”
I realized then, and still believe now, that this is a snapshot of how we should live our lives. Doing what is right is often difficult. In fact, it will often leave us quite weary, but our souls will know peace once we’ve done it.
The woman quoted by King was facing a unique and very difficult challenge: Racial segregation in the South in the 1960s. Though we can all apply her words to our lives, I don’t want to minimize the significance of the struggle she faced. Many of us are not facing challenges as consequential as she was. However, we do face challenges where we must choose between doing what is right and doing what is easy.
When I see a homeless individual on the street, I can choose to turn away and keep moving or I can stop and buy lunch for the individual or perhaps make time in my schedule to volunteer at a homeless shelter. The former option won’t make me weary, but the latter options might. When I learn of a neighbor who has become a shut-in due to illness, I can forget about her or I can take her a meal and stay to visit for a while. The former option won’t make me weary, but the latter option might. When my daughter is vying for my attention, I can choose to use the TV as a babysitter or I can sit with her and read books or sing songs. The former option won’t make me weary, but the latter options might.
If I choose the latter options in these scenarios—the right options—then I may very well have tired soles by the end of the day. My soul, though, which ultimately matters more than my physical body, will be at rest.
Of course, this concept of doing what is right even if it isn’t easy didn’t originate with the woman quoted above. The concept is Biblical. The Bible instructs us to always work heartily (Colossians 3:23), to be diligent (Proverbs 12:24), and to look to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).
Do you strive to do what is right, even if it is difficult and makes you tired? How do you stay motivated to do this?