Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live during a different time. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have been born somewhere else. When I was in Africa and upon my return, I thought a lot about why it is that I was born here in the United States, brought up in a privileged environment and a little girl I met in Ndola, Zambia was born there with so little. Or, even 25 years later, I think about a girl I knew in grade school named Sonja. Sonja's father abused her in ways that are unspeakable and she wore this abuse all over her body. I saw whip marks on her neck and ears and face. But she had a broad, sweet smile that I can still see if I close my eyes. Why was Sonja born in her place at her time? And why was I born in my place in that same time?
Psalm 139 says: "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." This phrase is easy to pass by, to ignore, to not let sink in. It is one line in a long Psalm that includes all kinds of amazing statements. But this one is stunning and moves me to assessment and action. Days were ordained for me (and you). Days were "conferred by holy order" to me. In advance. Before. Even before my days began, they were conferred, ordained, decreed. And, not only the number of days I have, but also the particular days at this particular time in history. These are the days for which I was made. I was not made for any other time, any other place, or any other actual days. I am most able to serve and glorify God right where He has placed me.
Martin Luther King, Jr. explained it this way:
"[I]f I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" -- I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.
"But I wouldn't stop there. I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I"m named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg.
"But I wouldn't stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
"But I wouldn't stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, 'If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.' Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion is all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars . . .'"
--from I See The Promised Land, MLK Jr.
I don't know why God made me for these particular days in this particular time and place. I know only that He did. And make no mistake: He made you for exactly where and when you are. So when it is dark in my time and my place, I will be the light as a star is in the dark night. And when it is light, I will not be afraid of the darkness. I will, as Jesus commanded, go into the darkness and shine the light. (Matt. 5:16) I was made to illuminate the exact darkness that I find around me.