In an attempt to bridge both Christian mysticism with social action, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a remarkable sermon on the 9th of April 1967 titled, The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life at the New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois USA. A powerful message that would eventually mark his legacy after his death a year after. Though he was not aware he was near the end of his life, the voice that brought freedom to the African-American community spoke again with authority. Although he only spoke within the mystical vision of John in the book of Revelation 21:1 &16, his voice still rings in the memory of those who heard them. It is from this text that he brought out the three dimensions of any complete life to which he fitly gave the words of the text: length, breadth, and height.
Length of life, according to King, “is the inward concern for one’s own welfare.” This is an unease that compels an individual to achieve his or her own goals and ambitions. This dimension demands an examination of one’s self in relation to purpose, lifespan, and self-actualization. Living within the epistemological length of life allows us to love ourselves and appreciate our unique gifts and calling in life, regardless of its flaws. At core, it is a deep acceptance of one’s inherent capacities, albeit undermined. King reasons, saying, “And you know what loving yourself also means? It means that you’ve got to accept yourself”. Loving thyself fundamentally is rooted in Martin Luther King’s understanding of the length of life, which seeks, as a matter of fact, to promote self-acceptance, despite the “haunting emotional conflicts”. Grounded in self-awareness, length of life ensures a deep understanding of and critical reflection on the self, which allows us to discover purpose and invest all the energy we have in our systems.
However, a mastered length of life looks beyond self-influence to embrace the welfare of others, which is the second dimension of a complete life, called the breadth of life. According to Martin Luther King, Breadth of life honors “the outward concerns for the welfare of others.” He warns that we have to participate beyond our self-interests to a complete life that involves engaging in other forms and contexts of social change. It commands an integrative practice for a complete life, which models a trans-disciplinary leadership. Such life of active compassion, engages with helpless ‘others’ and the society in order to benefit the self, by constantly asking itself, “What will happen to humanity if I don’t help?” This is a demonstrationof the virtue of compassionate action, without which there is systemic collapse, and loss of integrity with the self.
And lastly, the Height of life. This is a hunger for the “upward reach for God”. This transition allows for a moral and spiritual inventory upon the self to “reach up, way up for the God of the universe, whose purpose changeth not,” says King. A meaningful, complete life must put to account the creative breadth of God, which is ever living and ever saving. The height of life is a state in our journey that allows us to know God for ourselves as we fruitfully answer the question of purpose. It is the ultimate dimension of life without which the other two dimensions are inconsequential. Living life on the first dimension only allows us to access affluence, but really how much stuff can we gather? Some have the potential for leadership, however, journeying through life’s length without a height of purpose. The height of life helps us to understand leadership in the context of a relationship experience with God so that we can live the most fulfilled lives that really count. A life that is lived within the height of God’s grace is one that truly touches lives and will be remembered for decades to come. It is a life that ultimately brings glory to God.
It is on this grounds that I hope that this article empowers you to live the complete life. Hence, allowing the sections of your life to maximize life at its three levels. Sections separated into length, breadth, and height that will inspire and lead others to live the complete life as they journey from a weakspot to hotshots.
I will start by asking then, where is your life at the present? Are you at the first, second or the third dimension of a complete life? Greatness is indeed achieved when we are able to exhaust the three. It is important more than anything else, to move closer to the third dimension as we age, so that when our time on earth is up, as it surely will soon, we would have truly lived a complete and meaningful life. A life that seats on the hotspot of grace.
Live the complete life!