I stand at the banks of The Big Muddy.
The Mighty Mississippi.
And I can't quite absorb the laughing voices preparing to embark on a tourists' boat ride down the great river, renowned for its history and industry.
The other voices I hear are crying ones… terrified ones… dying ones. While freedom and victory slowly crawls into the cacophony, the history of the port at New Orleans weighs on me heavily… but not nearly as heavily as the chains binding chattel slaves from their ocean prison to their land prison all those years ago.
New Orleans grew to be the largest slave market by the 1800s, so great was the demand for cotton and sugar. Thousands didn't survive their unholy pilgrimage across the ocean; many arrived sick or wounded; and all arrived traumatized, beaten and dehumanized.
On this mud.
Some Christians dream of walking the Holy Land — to walk where Jesus walked.
To me, each spot of land on this earth is holy since Christ dwells everywhere.
Yet I find it hard to believe He dwelled here when humans chose death, depravity, colonization, slavery, pain and suffering over love, mutuality, justice and Christ-likeness. Yet He-the-Word was here.
And still is.
There is speculation about what all went on in and through The Underground Railroad. Some say the candles in windows/quilts on barns or African-American spirituals acting as codes/guides are myths, while others say they're true.
Regardless, I stand at the banks of this massive river, so quiet in its passage, and hum to the song inside:
Wade in the Water, wade in the water children.
Wade in the Water. God's gonna trouble the water.
While this song is believed to refer to the Ohio River north of the Mississippi, I can't help but apply the message to where I stand.
Civil war happened.
Oppressed voices rising up happened.
Breaking chains happened.
This Big Muddy has heard millions of agonized voices over the centuries.
And many jubilant ones.
I stand on holy ground, soft and squishy, where Jesus stood chained with the oppressed. I swallow hard because I don't know how to respond.
A legacy of slavery and freedom and slavery and freedom…
… does it end, Lord?
Will You trouble this water once more?
The Mississippi? The Ohio? The Great Lakes? The Ganges? The Nile? The Jordan?
Lac La Biche?
… will you trouble the waters once more?