Strength in Weakness: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last week’s Vintage welcomed back students after winter break with some Italian comfort food and thought-provoking discussion. In honor of his recent birthday, we read and discussed a passage from Martin Luther King Jr.’s autobiography. King is most often remembered as a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement who delivered the legendary “I have a dream” speech. However, at Vintage we learned about the more private and less known side of King, which revealed his struggles and weakness. In the particular passage we read, MLK Jr. experiences fear, despair, and self-doubt in the midst of pressure and threats from the Civil Rights movement. King even admits that at one point, he had decided that he would quietly back out of the protest. He describes that moment : “It seemed that all my fears had come down on me at once…And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. I was weak.”

It was in this moment of utter weakness that Martin Luther King Jr. found strength. He came to the point where he couldn’t face life alone, and it was then that the Lord spoke to him. In this amazing moment with God, King says that “He promised never to leave me alone. At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.” And it was true; King was ready to face anything. He pressed on in his fight for rights, despite the endless threats on him and his family.

All the students at Vintage, including myself, were moved by the story. We were especially struck by MLK Jr.’s vulnerability and honesty with his own self-doubt and fears. These are struggles that every individual experiences, no matter how outwardly strong and confident one might seem. Yet paradoxically, King was strengthened in his weakness because it was in that moment of despair that he came to the end of himself and looked to God for strength. It was the divine strength of God in him that allowed him to face the dangers and toils that lied ahead. This reading was a wonderful reminder to us of an important truth—that strength can only be found while relying on God rather than ourselves.

--Caroline Parsley, UVa '14

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