One day, when Selah was really little, about 5 years ago, Jack came home and put in a video from the International Justice Mission. He was preparing to do some lessons on social justice issues with the youth at church, and I heard the video from the other room. Somehow in my 27 naive years, I had never heard of the things described in this video, and it tore me apart. Children being sold into slavery; teenagers and women trafficked and used in brothels; little boys kidnapped and forced to kill their parents, ushered into the army at the age of 5; the industry of sex tourism. The sheer number of people these things were happening to shocked me and left me numb. I had given very little thought to abuse, and now I was seeing the reality that these weren’t just rare, sick crimes. This is every day business in dozens of countries.
My response was lots of tears, lots of asking God how could I help, lots of guilt about how little I contribute/how easy my life is, and lots of just emptiness, sadness. I hated that I couldn’t do anything, but at the same time, I could not let go of the belief that God did indeed want me involved! But I didn’t know where to begin, and I wanted answers fast. In this blog today, I want to briefly share in a nutshell the process I had to go through. (I know it doesn’t look brief, but we’re talking 5 years here!) Perhaps it will be a starting place for you, if you feel some of these things. There is so much more to say than just this, I’m just scratching the surface. These are in order…unfortunately, we can’t skip a step.
1. EDUCATION: The first step is definitely education and awareness. On my blogsite there is a list of links to organizations that are literally saving the world. We can use them to learn about current events that pertain to these types of issues. This first step involves a little bit of time, signing up for a few prayer/info emails from various organizations, and most of all, it involves bravery. Most of us want to turn our heads from ugliness; we don’t want to know it exists! But we must be brave, and let education and awareness break every last piece of our heart. We will not be used by God for justice if we do not first allow it to hurt deeply.
2. PRAYER: As education turns to brokenness, continue to ask for a tender heart. I learned that as Jesus grieves over these victims, He longs to have others who will toil with Him in prayer and grieving as well. Think of Jesus entering the garden before He was taken away to be crucified; He begged His disciples to stay and pray with Him, but they slept instead. If we want to go with God on rescue missions, we have to go with God in times (maybe years) of lamenting WITH Him. For a couple of years, I remember crying and crying and saying, “God, what good am I doing them through all this crying? Send me!!!” But this is important. God will not just give marching orders to act like His hands and feet. He has to change us to BE His hands and feet. That takes time, and it has to be done His way.
3. RELATIONSHIP: In mourning with God where He is, we gain exactly what He wants for every human being on earth: closeness and intimacy with Him. In this stage of my process, I learned one of the most important things I will ever learn: God does not want justice to be the number one passion of my life. He does NOT want me waking up every morning thinking about it. He does not ask me to live for it and die for it. God wants HIMSELF to be the number one passion of my life. He will allow no other to take that place. I learned I was worshipping the actions and the compassion and the desire to make a difference; God will not allow us to do this and get away with it, because He is a jealous God. He loves us too much to let us live for what He did not create us to live for! Oh, how frustrating these months were as I learned this lesson. I simply did not understand…until He finally got it through to me. We cannot put ministry, even the things of His heart, above HIM. There is a difference between the two, and we must understand that difference. This is when some of the frustration finally started to cease for me. My heart for justice is still there, strong as ever, given by God and approved by God…but I have learned to train my heart to beat first and foremost for the Lord and to seek Him above all these things.
4. ACTION: Once we get that straight, that personal intimacy with God must be our battle cry first and foremost, then we can trust that as we are with Him, learning, praying, mourning, that He will lead and guide us on how to serve people in need. We will be changed from the inside out, instead of being given laws and rules to live by. Honestly, I think there is room for believing that when Jesus said to sell our possessions and give them to the poor, and leave behind fields and family, that He meant it literally. There is room in my heart for that. I believe we need to prepare our hearts for it, meaning loosen our grip and be willing. But I also believe now, after going through this process, that to act on that without knowing the details and timing specifically from God to me, would be all about ME (making myself feel better) and not about God or justice.
After all these steps, He might say to look at your budget and change it a little or a lot, to give to organizations such as IJM, to make sacrifices to your non-necessities. To make sure you and your family are aware of the amount of non-necessities in your budget at all is a big step that most American families never take (at least not until they are forced to). But you won’t be doing it because you feel guilty, you’ll do it because God is leading you. You can come to Him and say, “Lord, this is Your money. Where do you want it to go?” He will tell you. Don’t let someone else tell you what to do as if you can’t hear from God yourself!!!!!!!!!!! (exclamation points to infinity!!!) This may just be a personal vendetta, but I cannot stand it when people say that when they see others in need it just reminds them to be grateful for their many blessings, and then call it a day. Sure, be thankful for your many blessings, but don’t think for a second they are all yours to keep! When these steps happen in our lives, we will strive for equality and will not be content with excess.
He might call you to advocate in all kinds of creative ways, such as writing, speaking, meeting with small groups, educating others. He might call you to stay home and pray, or meet with a group to weekly pray over the prayer requests that come from these missionaries and organizations. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get connected with orgs and missionaries out there, because then you have real names and current situations to be praying for.
I went from thinking there was nothing I could do to feeling like there is no way to stay faithful to all the possibilities. I don’t pray and serve in these ways nearly as much as I thought I would, or sincerely want to. I exist and thrive on knowing God is constantly at work in my life, refining me, burning away the chaff of distractions to both His call on my life to know Him and His call on my life to burn with Him for justice. The story has taken one unexpected turn after another for me, to say the least. The only way I can describe how I feel is to imagine being a jockey on a horse at the Derby, waiting in the gates, and even after the gates open and the other horses are running their race, I’m (against all rational thought) holding back my horse. Imagine that horse’s fury and desire to GO! That’s how I feel so many times. And that’s how God feels ALL the time.
“The Lord will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior He will stir up His zeal; with a shout He will raise the battle cry and will triumph over His enemies. ‘For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills…I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.'”
Come, Lord Jesus!