Image provided by: Ashley Lorraine Boccuti
1). What makes you come alive? I believe the first rule of sustaining anything is identifying the unique gifts, talents, and passions that God has equipped you with and pursuing those with reckless abandon. No one person can tackle every.single.issue that will rear its head in the next four years (and beyond). We need people that are open-heartedly living into the unique spaces that God has created them to inhabit. That doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to other issues, but it does mean that – once we have figured out what does make us come alive – we are no longer running fruitlessly in hundreds of directions. This is a sure recipe for burnout.
If you have young kids – as I do – take them along for the ride so they grow up seeing a passion for service in action. I would argue that this is different from using your kids to advance an activist agenda, as another UFP blogger recently pointed out.
As kids get older, tune into their unique passions. Find out what they want to be on the front lines of. My parents did a great job at this, recognizing my unique gifts and either facilitating for me (when I was younger) or helping me facilitate (as I got older) opportunities in the community to test out these passions. I’m sure this is largely why service has always been an important part of my life’s work.
2). Collaborate. Not only is taking a scattershot approach to service and activism frustrating and exhausting, it can be tough to move in and out of organizations and contexts. Once you’ve identified some areas that you are uniquely equipped to assist with, plug into organizations where you can have a consistent presence.
For me, education is what makes me come alive, as well as welcoming the stranger as Christ taught us to do. This is what I do as my life’s work (writing, teaching, preaching), and it’s where I expend my energy in my community. I’ve been doing this work consistently and long enough that the people at the organizations I work with know who I am and (I hope!) look forward to my visits.
All the organizations that I know of and work with are incredibly family-friendly, and welcome the addition of kids into their endeavors. It requires forethought, organization, and perhaps some extra energy on our part as parents but developing familial relationships with others in your community goes a long way toward sustaining resistance beyond the next four years and into future generations.
3). Create accountability. Commit to your plan of activism and follow through. Whether this is among your family, with a like-minded group of activists, or through involvement with an organization, don’t let yourself get intimidated or discouraged or overwhelmed. We all need a support system to keep this from happening; people who both depend on the work you’re doing, and encourage you in it.
4). Be open to new experiences. Like I said at the beginning, the past few weeks have seen me take activism to levels I never had before. The cataclysmic events of the past few months have incited many of us to do more. This is what democracy looks like, this is what faith-in-action looks like.
When you have the opportunity to raise your voice, to make some small statement, to be part of the movement than incites change, be open to that opportunity. That doesn’t mean you have to jump on the bandwagon of every single issue that comes along, but hopefully if you’ve done the work of figuring out what things are important to you, what issues and organizations you want to support, you’ll have a better idea of what new experiences to be a part of.
5). Build resistance into your family liturgy. I have a friend whose toddler loves it when people chant, “love trumps hate, love trumps hate.” So sure – you could do something literal like that! But for me, resistance to hate is rooted in love which generates care, compassion, gratefulness, generosity. Those are the things I’m trying to build into our family habits. I take every opportunity I can to talk to my almost-2-year-old – in terms she’ll understand – about what Love is, what it looks like, what it empowers us to do.
We’ve tried to orient our days around specific practices that root us in this love – scripture, prayer, gratitude, meditation. But just as important, I think, is that she see me going out to try to live what I preach!
6). Take care of yourself! Really, this should be the first point! It’s been said that self-care is an act of resistance because we can’t advocate for anyone or anything if we’re not taking care of ourselves. So know your limits – mental, physical, emotional. Know when you need to say no to something, or take a nap, or do a yoga class.
What are other ways you’ll be sustaining your resistance efforts with your family for the long term?
Come discuss with us at our Facebook Group: Raising Children Unfundamentalist
Alexis James Waggoner is a theologian and educator. She teaches at Belmont University and is the founder of The Acropolis Project (http://theacropolisproject.com), an organization dedicated to raising the bar of theological education in communities of faith. She also serves as a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves and is passionate about ministering to women in places where they are often marginalized. She has an M.Div from Union Theological Seminary in New York, a husband of 12 years, and a baby named Junia.