Apathy is my giant.

“For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong…” Isaiah 61:8

Studying justice and injustice is generally exhausting; it drains me emotionally. I am thankful justice ultimately belongs to God, that He sustains me as I seek to serve Him in this, and that He is my source of emotional and physical strength.

As I am meandering through the process of finishing school, I still don’t have clear direction on the specifics of how I will be doing justice in a greater capacity once I graduate. My mind goes in so many directions: will I be freelance writing for different relief groups? Will I be working full time in a communications department for an organization that does justice globally (or locally)? I simply do not know. Here is what I do know:

I wrestle with how our culture so often ignores (and often even promotes) injustice. Apathy toward injustice is the giant I feel I am facing in the calling of God’s will on my life. I’m not making a blanket statement saying our entire society is apathetic toward injustice, please don’t get me wrong. I know many, many people work hard every day and give their lives to different causes that better the whole of humanity and promote the Kingdom. What I struggle with is a very specific group of individuals in our society – both inside and outside of the Church.

Ken Wytsma of Antioch Church said something similar to the following at the Justice Conference last weekend:

What stops us from doing what we ought to do is guilt, for we are so overwhelmed by the golden rule that it paralyzes us into apathy. Therefore, most of us slip into something more along the lines of a “silver rule” which says, “Do not unto others what you do not want done to yourself.” The silver rule removes our responsibility to do unto others and allows us to passively live a “good life.” We then begin to accept that we cannot change the world and decide to instead do nothing…we must begin to understand that we cannot fully fix the world, but that we can do things to change it.

Those swimming in the eddies of apathy are the individuals I want to speak to. These are the individuals I believe have much purpose and ability to do great things. My question is, how might I strike the core of their hearts and give them courage and promote a desire to act on behalf of the oppressed?

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burdened.

My friend murdered his roommate last weekend.

In the eyes of society he will always have “murderer” listed after his name – almost like a title. “So and so, the murderer.” This title will forever linger. For this my heart is full of sorrow.

For the first time I feel true compassion toward someone who has committed such a vile and evil act. Never would I have expected this of him, that he would harm a person and leave that person on the ground, gasping at precious air for his own life. Never would I have imagined a rage to come from within him so deep that he could do such a thing. I’m appalled and yet deeply sad in ways I can barely articulate. There is not a word strong enough to wrap up in a neat descriptive package for you to understand. Grief has closed the depths of my mind so that my heart might begin to understand something greater.

Out of this circumstance God has burdened me with knowledge of His compassion toward us in our great state of depravity. To think that the Creator of the universe knows intimately our awful state and yet still loves us to such great heights that He might send Redemption…Oh how I marvel. And oh how I mourn. The Lord’s is a heavy burden to try and comprehend, for I am merely human. I am created, not Creator. I alone cannot bear even a fragment of His work. And yet He has given me strength to understand – scarcely – His definition of compassion on us.

I challenge you to shift your paradigm – even slightly – to think from this place. We are depraved. We have either found redemption or have the opportunity to find redemption in the blood of Christ. The victim desperately needs to be rescued, but what of the perpetrator of evil? Does not their soul need saving? Does he not breathe as I? Does he not need food as I? Does he, deep in his soul, not crave mercy and love as I? Does he not need grace as I?

I believe he does.

flurry

something’s amiss
it’s simply out of order
even my fingers lay
listless on the keys
if they were to move
I worry they may be
brittle and crumble
for what’s amiss
is deep in my soul
and that soul is
deeply connected
to every word that
escapes me no matter
the form, whether
spoken or written
or typed or sang
or whispered –
even thought of
I often feel lost in
who I want to be or who
I think I’m meant to be
and when lost I tend
to drift along hoping
for a flurry of the soul
for here I am
bewildered and left
to fend questions I
do not have answers to
and lost I find I’m
asked to hold a brave face
to appear indifferent
for emotion mixed with
confusion is surely
an uncommon taboo
and why oh why would
you possibly feel lost
in a world where you are
fortunate to have
access to anything simply
to make your dreams
come alive
and yet…
and yet I’m often lost
in who I want to be or who
I think I’m meant to be
and for now I’m out to see
if there’s anything alive
inside of me and I will
drift along until I find
a flurry in my soul
that speaks deep truth
and love and justice
and mercy and understanding
and all of those things
our souls seem to gravitate
toward for somewhere
we must know truth
for it is built into the
unswerving beat of our hearts.

When I started school last fall I had just a smidgen of direction. I wondered how long it would take before things began narrowing into what I really felt like God wanted me to do with such a fancy little piece of paper. I’m sure as heck not doing it for the “oohs” and “ahhs” (or even the “what the heck does that degree even mean?”). I’m doing it because I’m passionate about justice. I’m passionate about doing justice through communication. I’m passionate about doing justice through my love of writing. That, I believe, is God’s beautiful gift to me.

Of course through this season of discovering this passion of mine I feel a little part of me has died. Amidst the research I’ve been doing about injustice, the stories I’ve heard, the documentaries I’ve watched, and even reading some parts of the bible I’ve found my outlook on this world has dimmed. Honestly? It’s probably for the best.

…But I miss the part of me that was unwaveringly optimistic. I miss the part of me that would wake up and never lack hope or faith in what this world could be (but never will be). That part of me, however, has been replaced with a firm belief that eventually, justice will be had. Eventually my life will have fulfilled a purpose greater than I can imagine – not because I want to be great, but because I want injustice to cease. I want justice for the woman who’s been raped and birthed a child that will every.damn.day remind her of a horror she lives. I want justice for her child who will quite possibly be neglected and unloved for the sheer fact that he or she exists. I want justice for the little girl and woman that’s beaten and drugged and “broken in” to become a prostitute and trafficked around the globe without even a glimmer of hope. I want justice for the slave. I want justice for the oppressed. These people have names and faces and horrific stories…somehow, some way, we must hear them and allow them resonate in our souls that we may do something to help.

No, I cannot fix everything. No, I may not be able to fix anything. Ever. That I understand. I cry for that. However, I will do what I can do and that is write, speak, educate, empower. I know now after a few months of even deeper searching and research that my field has narrowed – even slightly – to women. I don’t know what that means. God does. I can rest in that. I also know that doing justice permeates the whole of my life. It is finishing a degree. It is writing. It is this silly, unknown little blog. It is the book I am writing. It is the research that I pour over and cry about. It is the daily goings on. It is drawing near to God.

A note of thanks to my big sister – the one that’s known me the most consistently for the longest period of time in one particular place. Thank you for helping me see my soul and my heart in a beautiful, God-ordained way that I might have otherwise passed by. You are a gem (more than the server at the bar who poured us delicious beers…so much more). Love.

The Spirit of Life

I have been processing and contemplating numerous things these past few weeks. Jesus-Love. Dangerous living. Sacrifice. Right and wrong religion. Justice. Love. Heartache. Social norms and expectations. Coffee. (OK, maybe not coffee, but because I’m sipping coffee at this moment, I figured I’d throw it in there.)

Since my announcement to close the doors on my company I’ve felt free. Free to pursue what I feel is the absolute passion that lies in the deepest part of my soul. My direction and efforts no longer feel like a means to an end. I haven’t been able to fall asleep at night because my mind is racing excitedly about the adventure that lies ahead. I think about advocacy, and justice, and Jesus, and love, and what in the world should love look like? What does God want those things to look like (in my life, in the church)? Who is the real Jesus? I’m talking about the one in the bible, not the one the recent culture of the American “church” has made Him out to be (because for the most part we’ve done a terrible job at knowing Him and following His example).

Last week I listened to this sermon (entitled: Love as Dogma, November 22, 2009 – um, as well as the week prior by Ed Underwood, amazing), and I simply burned with passion. Tears flowed uncontrollably out of my eyes because we, the church, have lost sight of the beauty of Jesus and His humble example for us. We don’t know who He is anymore. We don’t know how to follow Him anymore because tradition and our own desires and comfort have gotten in the way. That breaks my heart; I walk around with a nearly consuming sadness inside of me because of that. Really, there are no words to describe it to you properly. I challenge you to take the time and listen to that message.

“Love as Dogma” was yet another defining moment in my pursuit of justice and how I will be able to make an impact in this world for the glory of God. I realized that my life may not consist of being a full time missionary overseas. I still envision my life being dangerous. I still envision going to the places that nobody else wants to go. I still long to meet and love on and provide for those that most everybody else has forgotten about. I want to ask the hard questions in search for the difficult answers. And most importantly, I want to carry their voices to the place that they are scarcely heard: to the United States. That is my passion. I beg you to seek for yours if you haven’t found it already.

My heart longs for us to take Jesus for who He actually is and to live love and justice. I want us to question why it is we go to church every day in order that we may actually be the buzz word of our generation: authentic. I want us to question the hurt in this world and to not be overwhelmed at the answer: that we are a part of the problem, and that we can also be a part of the solution. I want us to not be overwhelmed and to simply realize that we, each and every one of us, are created to do something related to biblical justice: whether it is in our immediate sphere of influence and our community, or if it is a radical life comparable to of one of the greats that went before us (Locke, Gandhi, Mandela…).

Let us take courage. Let us ask the hard questions. Let us follow our passions with great fervor. Let us live like we believe our convictions, and let us live that in real love, in Jesus-love.

Exhale of Joy

Do you ever wake up from a night of silent, dreamless sleep, and there’s nothing you can do except smile as you prepare for the day? You feel an overwhelming sense of peace, a rightness in the world that scarcely makes itself known, a silent rhythm of perseverance.

I had that morning. It lingers. I am exhaling joy.

Granted, there is a story behind this that begs telling.

Justice has been served. In a world teeming with corruption and malice where horrific acts take place more often than we care to ponder; one case of injustice will be set right, at least in the eyes of the law. Words can scarcely make an appeal to my elation. A little girl and her brother will (hopefully) never again be molested. They now have the chance to heal, to make a clean break, and I pray to God that they are given the fullness of that opportunity. Innocence was ripped away without permission and smothered as if it didn’t matter. It was concealed and denied. And now the oppressor faces his due punishment, for that I am thankful.

So much is affected by injustice. There is so much to consider. Injustice is not only an act, it is not only a series of: injustice, investigation, justice served. Injustice lingers. It follows lives to their end like a black cloud and sometimes lingers over the following generation of those originally affected. This breaks my heart more than I can elude to on a blog. I simply cannot begin to try.

And when I cannot find the words to speak, to tell a story, I will pen a poem in hopes that some expression will come from my heart that sends the message I intend. For my friend Michelle and all of her courage:

Magnificent is the beat of the heart of Justice
Riding in stronger than the armies of old
Wielding a sharper sword and farther reaching weapons
Than any injustice could imagine
As they creep and hide and commit their crimes
Denying and conspiring that Justice is not great enough
In the darkest corners it ruins and smothers and sabotages
Innocence and rights are laid waste
and left to suffer silently, endlessly, without hope
Until Justice makes a fool of its powerless enemy
By lighting the concealed atrocities and
Ripping apart the haughty enemy
To give due diligence and freedom
healing and hope
to the victims and to the wounded
To sound the song of victory
Making known the all-consuming power
of Justice at its best
A foretelling that injustice will never have the last word
And this time injustice has not seen impunity
It will not be the last
For Justice rides on in triumph

 

Thank you. Heartfelt-style.

I need to say one. more. time. how appreciative I am of all that attended the awareness event at the Kilns last night. How blessed I feel that you took the time to come out and educate yourselves and use the power of your voice to help promote change in this world.

That is beauty.

That is love.

Thank you.

Imagine what Marie-Jeanne, or any of the women from that video would feel if they knew we were watching and crying with them? Hoping to help them? Doing what we can? Her heart would be filled with hope. My hope is that it already is because her story was finally told.

The advocacy team at WRN screened the movie about a week prior to the showing, and we sat around to process and talk and share our hearts afterward about how we can empower you (the attendee) and not leave you feeling hopeless. And so, I felt lead to simply try and encourage those that came to the event. I spent two nights and one afternoon in solitude simply praying and writing and reading different parts of books and the word to find anything to help. Anything to ease the pain from watching such a horrific truth laid out before your eyes.

But when I got up in front of everyone, I felt overwhelmed. I felt lacking. Speaking in front of people isn’t that big a deal to me, but you all were different. You were aching and crying and looked hollow with pain, or angry – all of the emotions I saw in front of me were profound. God is stirring something in your hearts. I encourage you one more time to write it down, consistently pray for that, pray for the people, and ask God what justice should look like in your life, because it will most likely be different from the man or woman who sat next to you last night. May God lift your soul, speak to you, and give you the strength to continue to do good.

Justice

Justice:

–noun

1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
4. conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
6. the maintenance or administration of what is just by law, as by judicial or other proceedings: a court of justice.
7. judgment of persons or causes by judicial process: to administer justice in a community.


“To look for justice is a sign of deflection of devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it.” -Chambers

That quote hurts my head. I’m not even kidding. Currently I am on a massive hunt for the real definition of justice according to what God says in the bible. Yeah, there are these fabulous detailed definitions on dictionary.com, but it’s vague, and very human. When I see the atrocities and horrors of what is happening in the DR Congo, I get angry. I want punishment. But I also long for mercy and grace to be poured out and for healing to happen. I battle internally about the meaning of justice in relation to this kind of situation.

In my off time, I volunteer for World Relief Next in a couple of areas. One area is for women’s advocacy. There are a few of us who are working on how to advocate and get the word out about this particular fact:

currently the worst place to be a woman is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

However, not only do we need to advocate, but we need to educate and engage those we share with. And to properly do this, we need to know what God says about justice. This means that Natischa, Darcy and myself (and for the rest of her internship with Antioch Church, the lovely Katy) will be starting to study what biblical justice is. I will keep you posted on thoughts of justice and scriptures that we have found as we do this. I really hope it changes my heart more toward God’s heart.