Did you ever think about what made the boogey man so scary, even though you had never seen him? Or why you ran from your own shadow – and it kept chasing you!!! Come on now – I know I wasn’t the only one. I know at least three who can testify – Charlotte, Audrey and LyRae (my sister and cousins) were running with me one night: the first time we were allowed to walk home in the dark by ourselves. Everything seemed larger than life. Every sound made us jump. We were terrified of our own shadows, something that had always been with us. It was because we feared the unknown. And then to make matters worse, we noticed a man following us. As he got closer, we began to run, and did not stop until we fell in the door screaming for help but laughing at the same time (because we were sooo happy to had made it safely). A few minutes later, my uncle walked in and wondered what was wrong with us running like that. Turns out he was the guy following us – not as a shadowy dark figure; but in the original Old English sense of the word shadow, sceadwian: to overshadow, protect, cover.
He was using a popular detective’s tactic also called shadowing which entails trailing another in secret; it was not to do us harm, but to make sure we made it home ok.
I guess you notice the obvious theme of shadows emerging. It seemed the only appropriate topic as many just observed Yom Kippur – one of the biggest shadows ever cast.
Yom Kippur is a day set aside by God in Leviticus 23:26 to atone for the sins of the past year. It is preceded by the ten days set aside as Days of Repentance called Days of Awe, (Yamim Noraim). It is when the Jews believe God writes our names in “books”, recording who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the next year. These books are written in on Rosh Hashanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter God’s decree. The actions that change the decree are “teshuvah, tefilah and tzedakah,” repentance, prayer, good deeds (usually, charity). On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed. This day is, essentially, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.
It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18). Some people wear a kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried.
If we look at the lives of the two mothers from the movie “Imitation of Life”, Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore) and Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) appear to be living Days of Awe. Lora, a struggling white widow with plans to become a Broadway actress, loses track of her young daughter Suzie at the beach in the first scene of the movie. Annie, a single colored mother, along with her daughter Sarah Jane, were homeless at the beach when she found Suzie. Grateful, Lora took them in.
The film progresses eleven years later to 1958, finding Lora as a highly regarded Broadway star living in a luxurious home in New York. Annie continues to live with her, serving all at once as nanny, housekeeper, confidant and best friend; but Lora’s tight focus on her career prevents her from spending time with her daughter Susie, who sees more of Annie than she does her own mother making the opening scene a hint of things to come in their relationship.
Annie and Sarah Jane have their own struggles, as the light-skinned Sarah Jane is in a constant state of turmoil over her identity and steadfastly wants to pass for white. Sarah Jane’s anger at being colored translates into animosity towards her long-suffering mother. She hates having to leave the all white class and attend the colored school when her mom revealed her true identity. To her, being colored drastically limited her future, and she was determined to have more. She left home & moved to Ca. Her mother went to see her one last time (Sara Jane asked never to come see her again). Broken-hearted, Annie agreed, but summed up their existence: she said she did not know why God made some white and some colored; why they were destined to serve – that‘s just the way it is. But is it? Does the color of your skin or your status really determine who you are destined to be in life?
On her death bed Annie asked Lora to make sure to find Sara Jane and give her a beautiful wedding dress. She said you should feel special when you die and when you get married. It’s like she lived an ‘Imitation of Life’, wearing the ceremonial kittel grave clothes daily. And she is not alone, sometimes life covers us with sin, debt, hatred, bitterness, envy, discontentment and the like – so much so, we forget we no longer have to live our Days in Awe. We don’t have to imagine a better way – we can experience it.
Colossians 2 (KJV) Says:
6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. 10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
We will continue this conversation next time…