Author: Nicole Speer
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. ~Galatians 6:9
As summer approaches I find myself thinking about summers I spent as a child at my mother’s childhood home in a rural village in the Luxembourg Ardennes. These trips to visit my Luxembourgish family never felt as exotic as they sounded to others. My mother and grandmother were content to stay put once we arrived at my grandmother’s house so my explorations of Europe were largely limited to my grandmother’s garden, the cemeteries where we left flowers for my ancestors, and the small playground at the village school.
Thankfully, my step-grandfather and uncle periodically convinced my grandmother to let them take my brother and me to visit the many castles, village churches, and cathedrals across Luxembourg. These spaces served as an escape from an otherwise mundane summer vacation, and they still bring me peace and respite.
When our family visited Luxembourg a few summers ago, I wanted to share the experience of visiting these old cathedrals with my children, so we took the train to the Metz Cathedral in northern France. The Metz Cathedral houses the largest expanse of stained glass in the world, but what captured my interest was its construction, which began in the 1220s and took 300 years to complete.
As I sat inside the light-filled cathedral, I marveled at the fact that the building I was sitting in took 12 generations to build. Twelve generations! The people in the early 13th century who laid the framework for future generations did so knowing they would never see the fruits of their labors. More inspiring than 70,000ft2 of stained glass was the faith of the cathedral’s builders, who spent their lives working toward a vision they could only imagine.
As I have watched our country’s racism and injustice laid bare, the Metz Cathedral builders keep coming to my mind. As they were laying down layer after layer of bricks, did they struggle with the same frustration and powerlessness I feel when I see my fellow white people continuing to attack and murder Black Americans without consequence? As they approached the end of each day with so much work left undone, did they feel the same hopelessness and despair I feel when our racist President and his corrupt enablers repeatedly turn us against each other instead of bringing us together? As they looked upon their slow progress after a lifetime of work, did they also get angry and impatient with God?
We are the builders of justice in the 21st century and progress in building an anti-racist future for our country feels unbearably slow. When my faith is tested and I long for a future I may never see, I remember my partners in time: the people who worked for justice in generations past, those working alongside me now, and those whose work is still to come. In time, our persistence will prevail.
Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I’ve Been to the Mountaintop