On Monday, as part of our remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we created a video of members and friends of Central Union reading excerpts of a speech he gave to the Hawai’i state legislature in 1959 (you can watch the short video here). There is a particular quote that has stayed with me. The Rev. Dr. King said, “it would be a fact for me to say we have come a long, long way [in the area of race relations], but it wouldn’t be telling the truth. A fact is the absence of contradiction, but truth is the presence of coherence. Truth is the relatedness of facts. Now, it is a fact that we have come a long, long way, but in order to tell the truth, it is necessary to move on and say we have a long, long way to go. If we stop here, we would be victims of an illusion wrapped in superficiality. So, in order to tell the truth, it’s necessary to move on and say we have a long, long way to go.“
Years later, this idea of needing to simultaneously hold two truths would be given the name, The Stockdale Paradox. Admiral James Stockdale had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam for over seven years. When asked about how he survived such an ordeal the admiral said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end…[But] You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.“
Holding onto hope while facing the present reality of a situation is a challenging and crucial perspective. It is a spiritual skill we need to develop as we navigate the ongoing pandemic. It is how we move through difficult transitions. Fortunately, our faith reminds us that we are a people of memory and hope. The scriptures continually call us to remember the past, be mindful in the moment, and hold on to God’s promises for the future. May we again this day place our trust in the God who was, and is, and is to come. Amen.