The Edge of the Mountaintop: Reflection on King’s Final Speech

Is it possible that part of the reason why God does not reveal all that you are asking for is because you may not be able to handle all that comes with what you are asking for?

Today, on the birthday of the Preacher, the Doctor, the man—Martin Luther King, Jr.—I urge you to listen to the full speech of his final public delivery, called “The Mountaintop.” As King weaves political and spiritual truths throughout his sermon, and takes brief pauses between cheers and “Amens,” I actually don’t think King would have delivered his speech any other way, even if he were there all by himself. I believe in his spirit, King knew that major social shifts for his people were about to occur. He knew he was on the verge of getting his prayers answered: the lifting of overt discrimination as an accepted way of life. Yes, his speech is one of hope for a people.

But as we have the privilege to look back through modern technologies like YouTube, I think the reason I’ve always felt a closeness to this speech is because in some ways it was very telling about where King saw himself as it related to that great day. It is clear to me that he was almost certain that while his prayers would be answered, he would not get to see it.


This past Sunday was my first session with my “transformation coach.” She asked me a question that I am still gnawing on, but that was also a breath of fresh air. My homework assignment was to reflect on this:

What would life be like if I lived it in the fullness of me?

A woman of great professional and academic feat, I knew she chose her words very carefully, for she did not say what would life be like if I lived TO the fullness of me, but rather IN the fullness of me. Reflecting on King’s speech today allowed to better process part of my response (the other parts still have not been revealed to me yet). Brutally honest, I have often seen myself as continually reaching for fullness, without accepting or acknowledging the fullness within. Even us service-minded folks can fall in the space of focusing and acting from our deficiencies, instead of really delivering from the full arsenal we already posses and the power of those giftings.  The reason why that is is probably an individual answer.

But part of my personal truth could be seen through the shoes of King. The shoes that show us bittersweet endings. The shoes that result in both trials and triumphs. The shoes that once worn, can not be taken off or returned. Shoes without an exit.  Yes, I am confessing that while I have had glimpses of what living in my fullness would entail, some of those revelations scare me. And staring at the edge of the mountaintop is often easier than reaching it.

Fear, however, is the opposite of love, and a friend to no one other than selfishness. It would have been selfish for King to not pursue justice, even though he knew he was watched.  It would have been selfish to cease speaking in public, even though any of his mistresses could have called him out at any given speech.  It would have been selfish to not march, even though his family longed for him to stay at home. Selfishness does not always have to look crazy, conceited, or even self-centered. But selfishness—in the true sense of only protecting self-interest—can interrupt God’s design for our lives, and even the life of others. Any one decision of fear, can slow down the progress of millions and even generations.  Sometimes we chose to wear the shoes.  Sometimes we are too far in the movement or struggles that we realize the shoes we accidentally put on, were made for us from the start.  But fulness is not achieved by taking them off or refusing to walk.


Sometimes thinking “I’m just one person” is why we turn down the mountain top experience before we even dare to climb.  While many celebrate King, some critics use “he was just a man,” to either explain why they don’t celebrate him or why he had so many shortcomings.  Interesting.  We like to minimize people by saying “Oh, he was just a man; She was just a girl,” but who else on this place we call Earth would be tasked to bring about change? Giraffes!!!???  WE must dare to look at ourselves (or each other) as not “just” any one thing, but persons of multiple gifts, multiple talents, multiple visions, and multiple assignments all possible if we dare to accept EVERYTHING that comes with a mountaintop experience. Even rumors.  Even flaws.  Even mistakes.  Even death.

Now please do not mistaken what I’m saying: not all revelations include travesty and sorrow. But to live out a revelation, a vision, one must drop down fear. Fear of judgment of others. Fear of non-acceptance. Fear of being labeled. Fear of being criticized. Fear of losing once loyal friends. Fear of losing your title, promotion, or position. The passion of whatever that THING is must not be left at the edge of the mountaintop because of fear. For when you fear nothing, you cross over gloriously.

Happy 86th birthday, Martin. you were a man. And you reached the mountaintop.


Full speech here







About boldandfab

Where Being A Witness Meets Chic Sophistication! Where Every Word Has Profound Meaning. It's all us...ALL REAL! B & F.
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