I have loved reading “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” with my son this year (well, we usually read the board book version “Dream Big, Little One”). The artist and author Vashti Harrison says that she was “inspired to share the stories of Black women in particular, whose stories have been doubly neglected throughout history.” She moves us to think about Sojourner Truth, for example, not just in formal fixed terms as a “historical figure” celebrated for her work in women’s rights activist and as an abolitionist, but as a human being full of passion, struggle, and beauty—someone like us who did not know what the future would hold, and who was making difficult decisions every day to the best of her ability for the sake of those she loved. Vashti Harrison highlights the way Sojourner Truth was able to escape slavery with her infant, but was separated from her 5 year old son who had been illegally sold to someone in Alabama, and then how she became the first woman “to successfully sue to win her child back.”
Today’s prayer is from that episode in Sojourner Truth’s life, when she is struggling to have her family reunited. The prayer is recorded in The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth published in 1850. The prayer amplifies her distress, and it tells a very human story of suffering, longing, and relationship with God. I think we have all prayed prayers like these, where in conversation with God we admit the frustration of our situation saying “God, I have told you again and again.” I love the way that she bargains with God saying, “‘If you (God) were in trouble’ I’d help you, please help me.” I also love that this is ultimately an answered prayer: she is admittedly after unjust suffering and struggle, reunited with her son.
Let us pray:
O God, you know how much I am distressed,
for I have told you again and again.
Now, God, help me get my son.
If you were in trouble, as I am,
and I could help you, as you can me,
think I wouldn’t do it?
Yes, God, you know I would do it.
—Sojourner Truth, 1797–1883
Worship at Kenilworth Union Church
Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. Mid-Day Prayer, Live in the Sanctuary or Livestream
Sundays at 8:30 a.m. Outdoor Worship, Meet in the Garden
Sundays at 10 a.m. Summer Worship, Livestream
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