Birmingham is woven into my heart. As an intercessor, I’ve learned that when you pray for someone or something regularly, especially if it’s a God-given prayer assignment, that person or thing become woven into your heart. I love this city. I have since I was a little girl. Now, as someone who prays regularly for Birmingham, I feel as if this city is becoming a part of me, and for some reason, the Lord wants me to understand its past in order to shape how I pray for its present and future.
I’ll never forget the first time I connected with the well-known and terrible past. I was on stranger to it. You can’t grow up in the metro-B’ham area and not hear about its dark past. But it was just historical facts I heard about, and knew people had strong feelings about those events and mindsets. Until the day our church had a prayer summit that started in Kelly Ingram Park, which is across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Civil Rights’ Museum. As we walked from statue to statue, depicting scenes from the marches and demonstrations, my heart was convicted and broken. I wept and prayed, and left there changed. Not just more aware, but something more. The past was no longer just a historical fact for me; it was now a part of my reality.
Today, I had another one of those moments. My 3 children and I went to the Children’s Theater to see a play called, “The Watsons go to Birmingham”. It’s about an African-American family from Flint, Michigan, who happen to be visiting family in Birmingham when the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing happened.
When it got to that part, I started getting emotional. In one scene, they bring out four little girls’ dresses and lay them one by one in the outstretched arms of one of the characters. I could not stop crying, and had to fight to keep from sobbing out loud. Of course it was somber and moving, but it got to me on a much deeper level.
Live theatrical performances always move me. I love a good play or musical more than any other form of entertainment, I think. But again, this was different. It wasn’t because of a superb performance or a strong message. Because it was for a theater full of children, they watered it down so that the issue of racism was almost missed, besides a short conversation between two of the characters after the bombing scene. And it ended so oddly that it took me a moment to realize it was the closing scene.
I’ve been trying all day to define what got to me so profoundly. Maybe a part of it is that just like those statues at Kelly Ingram Park made historical facts become a reality to me, seeing those 4 dresses in the play made the murder of those little girls a reality to me. I identified with the loss, the tragedy and trauma, the shock and the outrage of that violent act like never before. Once again, I find myself forever impacted and changed in some way, and I’m not quite sure what to do with it, yet.