Last week, I wanted to shut the world off for a while. Like off. Power it down. Not just step away from social media, or create quiet space in my life. Like make it stop spinning because clearly we are off our axis and out of control. We need to get a grip. The immigration crisis raged. I edited our community’s newspaper for the black community and read about the seemingly never-ending water issue in Flint, Michigan. In that same paper, there is an article about families in my own community who have been displaced by an apartment fire and have yet to see the organizations who are supposed to be advocating for them make any progress on resolving their crisis. A friend went to the doctor thinking she needed her gall bladder out and ended up in a biopsy to diagnose lymphoma. Another friend dared to hope in a new pregnancy even as she sat in the terror of another loss. And then she bled. And then she saw a heartbeat.
There is so much brokenness. So much pain. So much to be outraged about. So much to scream and rail against in this world marred by our sin and our sickness and our depravity. And then there are the tiny slivers of hope. The fluttering heart of humanity beating ever so steadily under it all. The reason we keep looking beyond the ugly and fighting for what is good and true. The reason we care that the Kingdom comes in our garbage heap of a world. That we hold on to the belief that God can bring light to our darkest places. The reason we don’t give up and power down and turn ourselves off even when we wish the world would take a break from itself for a while.
As a writer, I’ve been questioning what my moral obligation is when a crisis of justice blows up in our society and demands a Christian response. As we gather to shout from the rooftops that tearing children from their parents is never, ever okay, but I see last summer’s crisis in Flint still raging and no more voices clamoring on their behalf, I wonder if raising my voice in moral outrage in a flash of a moment is enough. Am I truly creating a more just world that way? And if where I land in that line of questioning is somewhere between “yes” and “no” with a red flashing warning sign that I am dangerously close to slipping firmly off the ledge into the chasm of “no”, how do I balance the lever and right myself?
I think action on behalf of the marginalized and oppressed is certainly part of the answer. Doing tangible things to support the people on the ground with access to the people who need us to cry out on their behalf. Checking my own privilege and quieting my own yelling in order to elevate the voices of the people who truly need to be heard but have no platform for it is another.
And then there is the one thing I can do right now. And again tomorrow. And again the night day. It doesn’t require that I have money to donate. It doesn’t require that I engage on social media. It doesn’t require that I craft an articulate response to social crisis and then defend to inevitable trolls who will come at me. It just requires that I be still long enough to be honest with myself. At the end of the day, our call as Christians is to reconcile a broken world to the Good News of the Gospel. To live as witnesses to the difference Christ makes in the way we respond seeming hopelessness.
And the way I can best and most actively do that is to heal my broken self. To make a firm effort to bring less brokenness to a world that is already broken enough. To be a better version of myself tomorrow than I am today. To bring more Jesus than sinfulness with me when I enter the fight for justice. Maybe the way I power the world down is to myself on silent long enough to hear the still, small voice that calls to me. To stop searching for the moral imperative in the violent noise around me, lay down my stone, and search my own heart in the remaining silence. Maybe I recognize my own agonizing thirst and the sin that brings me to the well parched in the midday sun, and drink the life-giving water before I run back out to share the message. Maybe I let Jesus tell me the things I’ve done rather before I point out all the ways “they” are ruining humanity.
If I truly want the world to be a better, more just place. If I want to reconcile the pain of a broken humanity to the hope of the Kingdom come, my best and first course of action is to reconcile my own broken humanity to that hope and bring a better, more just version of myself to the fight. I can’t turn the world off while I do it. But I can turn my gaze inward long enough to remember the axis on which it spins is hope. And its hope is in me. In you. In us. How can I right my heart so it spins less wildly and more in tune to heartbeat of the God who is Love?