I hope to travel to India in late March for SBC and AJC’s wedding and during my checkup last week, I got all the shots. The required shots. The just-in-case shots. The shots that have nothing to do with travel to South Asia. At the risk of sounding like a certain favorite lyricist unpacking the word “shot” I’m reminded that God connects things for us in unexpected and holy ways.
Example: something random happens on a Tuesday in January and on a Friday in February it suddenly makes sense. It requires alone time to notice these connections. If every minute is fulled, we miss them.
So I was so happy to hear Eminem sing Lose Yourself at the Super Bowl because it is one of the greatest songs of all time and – 20 years later – it still moves me. It will always move me.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
I put it on repeat in my car and opened the moonroof and turned it up and didn’t care when people stared at the white lady driving a ten year old CRV as I drove around last week. And while the lyrics swirled in my head and reinforced my opinion that Eminem is a lyrical genius, I was also thinking about our local countdown to the National White Privilege Conference which starts 15 days from today. And I was thinking about the fact that I can afford to buy tickets to travel to India. And that I have excellent health insurance that even pays for extraordinary innoculations.
This is the definition of privilege: When you get more than one shot in life.
I went to high school with a guy who was given a red Porsche on his sixteenth birthday and even I – a person who didn’t know him well enough to say “hi” in the cafeteria – could have told you that this was a terrible idea. He totalled the car less than a month later, and nobody was surprised when his parents replaced the obliterated Porsche with another one.
I remember times when I’ve failed at something: a test, a job. I remember changing my college major more than once. I remember forgetting to change the oil in my beat up car to the point that the engine seized on an interstate highway driving to Boston. What happened? I got a re-take on the test or a different job. I got to take extra classes to finalize a new major. I even got another car and while it was no Porsche, it was a car and my parents bought it for me and drove it up to Maryland from North Carolina where the other car had died.
I have had countless shots at success, prosperity, and education. Imagine – if we possibly can – what it’s like to have one, single, desperate shot.
Before Miranda told us about Alexander Hamilton’s one shot, Marshall Mathers wrote about it with such clarity that I could feel the sweaty hands and smell the vomit on his sweater. I don’t know who reads this blog, but I’m guessing that nobody reading this right now has ever had one sole shot at success. We have most likely had countless shots.
Desperate people do desperate things. Imagine the despair if there is just one opportunity to rise out of poverty or capitivity or misery and there is a possibility that it could slip away.
I believe that we need to go there – at least in our heads – if we hope to follow Jesus the One who has come to lift us out of death in all its forms. Jesus saw those who were desperate. My hope is that I might see the desperate too so that I might also do the work of Jesus.
Image of Marshall Mathers (Eminem) the writer and rapper of Lose Yourself.
I have had many shots because my parents took that ONE shot and came from Arkansas to California during the Dust Bowl Era to start over. If they had stayed in the Ozarks, with their minimum to no education, would I be who I am today? I stand on their shoulders and their risk.
So wonderful. This is completely a home run: no, a grand slam. In a week I’ll start leading a five-week study/support group at First Congo Cambridge called Telling Our White Stories, and this is now part of the curriculum. Thanks so much.