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Take My Mattress!

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In his book titled Whispering the Lyrics, Dr. Tom Long takes us back almost 60 years to our nation’s struggle for racial equality:

“During the prime days of the struggle for racial integration in the South, black civil rights workers, ‘freedom riders’ they were called, would travel on buses from city to city, challenging segregationist laws. Sometimes they were greeted with violence; often they were arrested. 

“In one town, a bus was halted by the police and the passengers were booked and jailed. While they were there, the jailers did everything possible to make them miserable and to break their spirits. They tried to deprive them of sleep with noise and light during the nights. They intentionally over-salted their food to make it distasteful. They gradually took away their mattresses, one by one, hoping to create conflict over the remaining ones.

“Eventually the strategies seemed to be taking hold. Morale in the jail cells was beginning to sag. One of the jailed leaders, looking around one day at his dispirited fellow prisoners, began softly to sing a spiritual song. Slowly, others joined in until the whole group was singing at the top of their voices and the puzzled jailers felt the entire cell block vibrating with the sounds of a joyful gospel song. 

“When they went to see what was happening, the prisoners triumphantly pushed the remaining mattresses through the cell bars, saying, ‘You can take our mattresses, but you can’t take our souls.'”

Tom Long says, “It was the hymn singers who were in jail, but it was the jailers who were guilty. It was the prisoners who were suffering, but the jailers who were defeated. It was the prisoners who were in a position of weakness, but it was the broken and bigoted world of the jailers . . . that was perishing.” You might not realize it, but this is what is happening again today.

You can try with all your might, but you can’t stop God. Once God begins moving, the best you can do is get out of the way. No wonder the baby leaped in Mary’s womb. God was at work at the manger of Bethlehem. God was at work redeeming the world to himself when Jesus gave every drop of his blood on the cross. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are as busy today as ever, redeeming our world. 

The only question is: Are YOU shouting out: “You can take my mattress, but you can’t take my soul!”


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