The gift of agitation

I wanted to give a quick reflection over an image I stumbled across. I was reading Tom Berlin’s book, Reckless Love. Berlin remembers visiting the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglas. A part of their tour included a video on Douglas’ life. In his later years, Douglas was asked by a young black man for some advice. Douglas repeated one word: “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.”

As Berlin was guided around the Douglas home, they were shown a washroom Douglas had added. Their guide picked up a tool. Berlin describes the scene:

“It looked like a plunger, but had a conical end made of metal rather than rubber. ‘Does anyone know what this is?’ she asked. ‘An agitator,’ called out a member of our group. ‘That is right!’ she said happily. ‘This is what you used to make sure your clothes come out clean and fresh. You use this to agitate the water and the laundry so that the soap can clean the fabric.'” (Reckless Love, Tom Berlin: 71,72). 

Think about a modern washing machine. Do you know the middle spindle in top-loading machines? That’s an agitator. It’s job is to agitate the water so the soap can do the work of cleaning the stains.

This notion of an agitation works too to help us think about our conversations around race in our country. It’s hard to have these conversations at times, maybe even a bit agitating. But when done with love, care and peace, people who agitate the waters help us remove the stains of racism that have long plagued our country. They help us have meaningful conversations that help us see where we have missed the mark. My encouragement to us is to view this season as a time of being cleansed, purified and made more holy in the eyes of God.




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