It was a standing-room only crowd at North Carolina State University. Students and members of the public packed an auditorium on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s holiday for a chance to see and hear his youngest daughter speak. Flanked by heavy security, she took the stage and looked out. She was a powerful presence and the moment was palpable. As a journalist, I’d covered many celebrities, dignitaries and motivational speakers, but this was different. She looked out into the crowd of eager eyes and ears that were thirsty for a word delivered with the same zeal and passion her father had possessed. She began to share how she never got the chance to know her father as her older siblings had. She called him a prophet who was shot down in his prime, murdered. She also called him an empty vessel.
My interpretation of what she meant was that an assassin’s bullet had no victory over a life that was already poured out. She reminded the room of all the plans, purposes, ideas and creativity that lie dormant in cemeteries, unfulfilled and asleep with the vessels who were supposed to live them out. Sooner or later, any number of things can lead us to the grave. Before we get there, let’s commit to living a life that’s poured out.
Finish what you started in me, God. (Psalm 138:8 MSG)
Years later, I would have the good fortune of interviewing Dr. King’s youngest daughter while on assignment in Washington, D.C. She was there for the unveiling of her father’s memorial. Her speech all those years ago at NCSU still resonates with me. This notion that her father’s assassination would’ve been a greater tragedy had he left this earth selfishly holding onto all that God had called him to give. Surely, we can’t take our purpose to heaven no more than we can take our favorite handbag or pair of shoes. We accumulate possessions—even people—but what are we leaving behind?
Consider Dr. King and all that he accomplished on the stage and for his soul. We often forget, his book of life closed at the tender age of 39. Think about that. Imagine you’re just 39, leading a movement with global and historical implications that he couldn’t even fathom at the time. He’s a young husband and a father with words so anointed that they convince people to risk their lives and families for freedom. What if he had waited for the perfect conditions? What if he doled out love when it was convenient? What if he preached against hate only when he was confident and comfortable? What if he had waited for a more seasoned age to wage war against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world (Ephesians 6:12)?
Leave nothing unsaid and nothing undone on your life’s journey. Just like me that day in that crowded auditorium, you are on assignment. Just like Dr. King, choose to be poured out. Let not one drop of your faith, purpose, love, light and ideas go with you to the grave. The more you pour out, the more God pours in (Philippians 4:19). The more Dr. King gave, the more power the movement gained. His was not just a dream, it was a reality made possible by his willingness to be poured out. Captives were set free because one man chose to pour out. After all, the whole point of overflow or a cup running over is that it’s spilling out over its brim.