Thursday, June 11, 2009

In which she cringes.....

On my way to the doctor yesterday, I had a bit of an "aha!" moment.... but not exactly in a good way. More of an "I really thought that?" moment. I've had the idea of social justice on my mind a lot, mostly because of reading Shane Clairborne's Irresistible Revolution, and just thinking through the so-called practicality of a missional mindset (while my kids are young and as I wrestle through my own opinions and beliefs) and wishing fervently that Hunny and I found a place we could worship and find fellowship. Anyway, driving through downtown, I saw a woman standing on a corner where I normally see the same homeless guy holding his sign. I've driven past this same man for 10 weeks in a row (I see the maternal fetal doctor every week, thanks, Diabetes!), and it kind of shocked me to see someone else in his place, maybe especially because she was a she? No sign, no expression, just standing there, and I have no idea if she was homeless or just there.
For some reason I recalled almost simultaneously two things I participated in at college. The first was a class that fulfilled my Life* requirements, called Hunger, Plenty and Justice. It was both a philosophy and religion course taught by one of the most brilliant professors on campus. And I barely passed. I struggled so much in that class, and at the time I simply said that I couldn't wrap my brain around the philosophy side of the class. That's true (I still struggle to think through logic or other forms of rhetoric), but I think there was also a spiritual implication I just refused to "get" at the time. I was trying to figure out my own faith, and the Life course (among other things) certainly did much to shake me! I wish I'd let this class impact me more then and grow me up, instead of me backing down and refusing to internalize the issues we discussed: the idea that there is an inequality of food distribution in the world and the implications of those who choose to tackle such a huge project. [*At my college, before Freshman year, you had to declare Life or Search, a 2-year "religion" general education requirement, the difference explained at the time was the "Bible" course or the "History of the World" path.... in retrospect, despite its being billed as biblical, the Life course was very secular, and the Search course was not nearly as boring as it sounded at the time. However, Search students seemed to have twice as much homework as I did, so I don't regret that particular decision! Not to mention 2 of my all time favorite classes were taken as Life requirements.. so there!]
The 2nd thing I thought of was a servant-leader group I joined to help fulfill some of my volunteer service hours for the Bonner Scholarship I was a member of. Besides the preposition at the end, what's wrong with that sentence? I only did it to fulfill a requirement: to log hours of community service. The group was called Micah 6:8 (He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.), and their purpose was to learn to be servants by being leaders in the effort to promote social justice. I was so clueless. I thought life was pretty good back then, so I didn't really understand the term social justice (or inequality) at all... I knew that I was poor compared to some of the other kids on campus, but who cared, right? I didn't even end up completing the internship, and again, I desperately wish I could go back and be moved by others' true desire to be servant-leaders and to give to their community.
As if that were not enough, I then remembered an evening I'd been out on a date and ordered a very expensive fish sandwich of some kind. I don't remember why I got a fish sandwich, because the mere idea makes me want to gag now. If I remember correctly, it's because I was at a fancy seafood restaurant, and I was trying to mask my distaste of fish (which I don't normally care for), so I thought, "bread will help this." Needless to say, I still didn't care for it, and I did my best to nibble the bread and make it seem as if I enjoyed the food, and then was too "full" to eat it all, so please box the rest for me, thankyouverymuch. Walking back to the car, a homeless man walked up to my date and me and asked for change. Truthfully, I told him I didn't have any, but would he be interested in leftovers? He GLADLY took that box of nibbled-on fish, and I remember how relieved I was not to just throw the food away (and thus admit to my date I hated the food) and pity that he would eat a sandwich I'd been more than wiling to throw away. And I was proud. Proud of my solution to the not wasting food and proud that I'd helped this man out.
Yes, all this passed through my mind very quickly as I took my turn at the light, but I cringed as soon as I recalled feeling that prickly sensation of self-congratulation for offering a half-eaten sandwich to a man who deserved a sit down meal and a decent conversation. I treated him as the dregs of society and patted my own back for it. How foolish!!! How humbling?! What if God gave me that kind of grace? "Here. I'll let my Son's sacrifice cover about half your shortcomings, but really, I was just gonna throw it away anyway, so you'll be fine." SHIVER.
I still have no idea what I think about worldwide justice. Politics make things muddy. My own priorities make things uncertain at times. I do know, however, that I have a passion to not just BE in my own little world, ignoring the sufferings of others. I want to offer myself and expect nothing in return. I want to serve soup in a homeless shelter and not feel superior. I want to teach my kids that there is more to being frugal than trying to be millionaires. I want to have my own eyes and ears opened so that I can see other people and hear their true needs as Christ would... and love them as He would love his bride. This feels like a tall order, and I fear falling very, very short of this. But it's the journey I'm on, and one I'm still figuring out what it looks like. I'm also fairly sure I'll mess up along the way, but at least I know that His grace looks a heck of a lot better than a half-eaten fish sandwich, eh? It might look a lot more like 5 loaves and fishes turned into 5000, and that kind of grace is pretty awesome.


runningtherace said...

That is a lot to think about as you pass a person on the corner! I'm having a lot of the same thoughts about college - why did I let so many opportunities pass me by? If only I knew then what I know now... It is a good reminder to read this entry and think about social justice and my person internal response to others. Thanks for sharing, friend!

a Tonggu Momma said...

Micah 6:8 is my dad's favorite verse in the Bible. He is not a religious person, but he loves two Scriptures. That one and when Jesus boils down the commandments to the most important two.

And if more Jesus followers embraced social justice this way, there'd be a heck of a lot more True Christians running around.

misti said...

This brought tears to my eyes...very insightful, thanks Misty

Elizabeth said...

I remember singing Micah 6:8 in chapel during college and not understanding the implications of it. I still don't, honestly. Social justice (or at least the way it's carried out) is something I'm not entirely sure how I feel about, especially with the political climate the way it is now. But it shouldn't be about politics, for Christians especially! We are here to serve God and serve others. I want to understand that more fully and make sure my kids do too. It's so hard to do.

I love this post.

Reflections in My Mirror said...

What a great lessob for us all. Thank you for this! I needed it.
I think we all get caught up in ourselves from time to time and forget that we are to be God's servants and to show others His love. We are to be his missionaries to the world of unbelievers - showing them His grace and forgivness.
Well said my friend - I will contemplate theis a little more in my studies.
Amy Q

Reflections in My Mirror said...

Having a hard time typing tonight - sorry guys for the typos!

Anonymous said...

M, I can not tell you the awe I have for you. I love this post. I forget how well you write and how deep you think. I never forget how deep your heart is, but it is so nice to be reminded in this way.

Love you Love, B