I think many of us these days vacillate between utter despair as we stumble to the coffee pot in the mornings carrying the weight of the world -- and stubborn hope, as more and more we find ourselves in huddles, rubbing shoulders with others who are heart broken too but determined to resist and to rise up in spite of fear. For it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the public discourse and the magnitude of justice issues today - whether it is education, equity and inclusion, immigration, mass incarceration, #metoo movements, gentrification, or climate change.
If ever there was a time for soul force, the time is now.
This is why I am excited as we begin a new conversation around Reesheda Graham-Washington and Shawn Casselberry’s new book, Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community & Change. Because transformation is what is needed today. Is it not? We want to be a part of a revolution, a reformation, a movement -- which is the kingdom of God -- that is bringing transformation, personally, collectively and societally.
What is soul force?
soul force (noun):
- a spiritual energy, a vital force conceived of as constituting, residing in, or emanating from the soul
- from the Hindi word satyagraha composed of two Sanskrit words: satya, meaning "truth and love," and agraha, meaning "firmness" or "force"
- method of nonviolent resistance inspired by the life of Jesus and developed and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King
“Soul force is where the Spirit of God and our human resilience meet. The Spirit doesn’t override our will, nor does it bypass our humanity. The Spirit works in concert and collaboration with our ingenuity, gifts and grit. Soul force is a power that emerges when we align with the Spirit of truth, love and liberation. Soul force is an awakening to the realization that we have a creative force within us, because we all bear the divine imprint of the Creator. But so rarely do we tap into this power.”
“Soul force is an inner alignment with truth, a fortified internal strength that creates the capacity for courage and change in the face of great adversity. It is a commitment to integrity, truth, love, nonviolence, and community that leads to personal and social transformation. Gandhi and King utilized soul force in their contexts to ignite movements for social change, and we can utilize it for movement in our lives too.” [excerpt from Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community & Change]
“The kingdom of God is within you.” - Luke 17:21
But how do we ignite our soul force within us? This essence of truth and love that shines brightly in the darkness? How do we tap into something extra inside, finding strength and resolve when others cower? How do we move from paralyzing despair to catalytic courage - to act in faith and hope despite our fears.
According to Reesheda and Shawn, the first movement or pivot is from fear to freedom. For fear can be an all-encompassing impediment to transformation. Fear cripples us and can keep us from taking risks. Soul force requires courage in the face of fear.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” - Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk To Freedom
The fears that hold us back are often lies that we have internalized from society, people, and wounds in our lives. Behind every fear is a lie that must be unmasked. And so what are your fears? And what are the lies that you believe?
As we look at what compels some to dig deep and find courage in the most difficult of circumstances, we can see the power of soul force. "For what compels a lowly shepherd boy with a slingshot to go up against a towering giant? What causes a privileged queen to risk her position and possibly her life, to advocate for her people? Or an unassuming Indian religious teacher to challenge the British Empire through nonviolent resistance? Or a Black Baptist preacher from the Deep South to show love in the face of racial hatred and bigotry?" [Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community & Change]
Soul force frees us from the lies that enslave us into the glorious freedom in Christ. This is the power of the gospel -- to break the chains of oppression and to set the prisoners free. This is the transformative power of love that frees the creative force of the Spirit within us so that we can experience movement within ourselves and within our communities.
Now is the time for courage. Now is the time for nonviolent resistance and enemy love. Now is the time to resist, create, forgive, advocate, and bear witness to love in the midst of division, violence, greed and power. Now is the time to draw upon the soul force within us to act in faith and love despite our fears. Now is the time.
by Jessica Ketola
Name the fears. Choose one fear. Peel back the layers as far as you can of how it came to be, how it still exists within you, and how it plays out in your life. How has it helped and/or harmed you? What would happen if you disengaged it?
Face the fears. What are some small ways you can live in the truth? How might you pivot toward courage and move from fear to freedom in your everyday life?
Find people to hold you accountable. Who are some people you know who are living freedom over fear? What do you witness in them? What might you embody in your own life as a result of what you learn from them?
Examine the rootedness of the fear. What people or places are you afraid of? How can you move into closer proximity to them in order to hear their stories? What about those people or places do you also see in yourself? Are there any commonalities? What do you share?
Taken from Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community and Change by Reedsheda Graham-Washington and Shawn Casselberry. © 2018 Herald Press