I’ll be quite frank: I’m struggling these days.
I’m struggling to hold together my many different experiences in Christian community. To process the many groups of friends, family, and mentors whom I love and who have formed me--all with vastly different understandings of how God speaks and interacts with the world and the ways Christ calls his followers to live.
I’m struggling to understand how to faithfully move forward today and tomorrow and the day after.
I’m struggling to know when I am walking in Christ’s call for followers to fight injustice, to dismantle systems of oppression that war against His beloved creation. And when I am letting fear or worry or anxiety well up and control my words and my behaviors, depleting me from the inside out.
I struggle to understand what it looks like to place trust in God while recognizing that God has clearly called His followers to sacrifice their own safety in care for the least of these. And that failure to heed this Christian call to dismantle oppression affects those in vulnerable positions far more than it affects myself.
I struggle knowing that, should I chose to, I could pull myself out of social media and the news. I could cut myself off from the injustice around me, and I would hardly feel the affects of the present administration. But I also know closing my eyes and ears to the stories of those whose rights are at risk, those who feel overlooked by the Church called to protect them, goes directly contrary to my commitment to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
I struggle to know when to focus my energy on speaking out about the ways my fellow Christians reinforce systems of injustice—whether actively or through their silence—and when to focus my energy on caring for those most vulnerable in the face of that injustice. When to avoid division amidst difference in belief, and when to acknowledge that there is no true peace without justice for the least of these.
“Cry aloud; do not hold back: lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins,” says the prophet Isaiah.
I remember that the same Jesus who says my yoke is easy and my burden is light warns that it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
I realize that the application of the Gospel looks different for those in positions of power than for those who are vulnerable. And while I might struggle sometimes to know if I can afford my rent, and my gas, and my food, that as an educated white woman from a financially stable family, I am the rich man, I am in the position of power.
So while I can cling to the comfort of a light yoke and an easy burden that Christ offers to those who are most vulnerable, I must also take up the duty of using my position and my power to defend those who are far more vulnerable than myself.
As someone who can vote, who can call my representatives, who can protest, who can study the systemic problems that keep people from breaking out of poverty, I can and I must work to break down the systems that keep those who are hungry from stable access to food, that keep those without homes from stable shelter.
For a brief moment, I wish I could hide behind simple phrases like "God is in control"; the epithets I'd pray before I travelled abroad or made friends with people who look and think and live nothing like me. Those who don’t know where they will find their next meal, those who don’t know if they will soon be kicked out of their homes. Those who don’t know if they will lose their healthcare, those who don’t know if they will soon be deported.
For a brief moment, I wish I could go back to a time when my heart was so tender, as it remains today, but stood protected behind a thick wall of naivety. When my eyes weren’t yet open to the depths of injustice that plague my country and the world.
Today I can know that the God who guided me to do wild and crazy things at the age of 18 still guides my every step, but I also know that the God who is in control chooses oftentimes not to stop those who perpetuate evil in His name. He asks his followers to do that tireless work instead.
And so along with the comforting phrase of “God is in control,” I take on the responsibility of speaking out against laws that threaten the earth I’m commanded to protect and to serve and the women, children, and men around the world I’m called to defend.
I know that when I meet Jesus face to face, he will remind me what I did for the least of these.
Whether I not only gave food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, but advocated for a healthy global food system.
Whether I not only welcomed the stranger, but fought against a system that frames the stranger as someone to be feared.
Whether I not only visited the sick, but advocated for a system that assures them access to healthcare.
Whether I not only went to those in prison, but fought against a corrupt criminal justice system.
I’m struggling these days to know what defending God’s creation looks like in my own life. I'm writing and praying and kneading and preaching my way into such a vision, but for the moment, this struggle is where I am.
The Christian life is a commitment to stand in the midst of tension. It is painful and confusing, it is beautiful and real. Right now, I'm struggling to know how to do it well.
Will you join me in the sore ache of muscles stretched and strengthened?
It's hard, but I promise it is good.
Cry aloud; do not hold back: lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God, they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. "Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?”
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight, and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless poor into your house?
When you seek the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, "Here I am."