“6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
----- 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."
The days continue to swell with tension and emotion. Anger, fear, impatience, sadness, withdrawal, and pride have taken our nation and split it into a million directions. Not only do we run in a million directions, but we drag as many people along with us as we can. This is one of many examples of humans displaying the opposite behavior for an emotion. Our desire to build our armies around our beliefs and intentions is an act of self protection rather than advocating for someone else. It's more of a "who's with me?!" instead of "who needs me?"
I am a fighter and protector by nature. I can endure many things but I rarely tolerate the abuse of someone else. Thus, I have to repent from building an army almost daily. If I wake up ready to fight the world, then a worldly fight is what I will get-- one filled with severed relationships, insults, judgement, and gain that serves my need to be right instead of helping those in need. But not fighting feels wrong too. It's sticking our heads in the sand and waiting for it all to go away.
I'm here to tell you, it is not going away. What what happens in 2020 will change the world because for the first time the entire world experienced the same thing at the same time, just in very very different ways.
So what do we do? Because it seems like the only options are fight or flight. Let's consider the third option: to help. Becoming a helper has healing power. And to heal, we must fight the disease not the person carrying the disease. In my prayer, I began to ask "how can I help?" over and over again. The answer to that has actually changed every day and as long as I have an open mind, it might change every day for the rest of my life. It's helped me think outside the box, ask better questions, and FEEL things alongside those that are hurting. This is important! Feeling pain alongside someone creates solidarity. It focuses our energy on healing instead of punishing. The posture of the helper shows us how we can use our resources and energy to help the ones that hurt just as Isaiah 58 says above. We can intercede in prayer when their prayers are too discouraged. We can spiritually feed people that are starving. We can provide shelter in a friendship. We can vow to never turn away from our own flesh and blood, for they are all God's children that He would have left the 99 for.
I believe that much of the grief that we feel today is due the the spiritual not leading the practical. It's amazing how I can be in such a good place from listening to a sermon or reading my Bible then ruin it all from seven minutes on social media. To be a helper and a healer, we have got to be more intentional with our time and our mental bandwidth. Let's do more research and less scrolling. Let's listen more and talk less. Let's find ways to be kind instead of ways to pass judgement. Let's rise by lifting others. Let's pray before we act. We are not here to destroy, we are here to redeem. We are here to be the light that rises in darkness.
As you read Isaiah 58 above, who comes to mind? Friends? Family? First responders? Essential workers? City officials? Coworkers? Our government? COVID patients? Your pastor? For me it's all of the above. I feel fear for them all in some capacity. But as the Church, the question is and will forever be
HOW CAN I HELP?
How can I not be a bystander in my own life and be part of making my world a better place? What do I have that can help build the bridge?
The last and probably most important question I will leave you with is this:
Who do I need to forgive so I can stop being angry and start being active?
This question is a life changing one that doesn't get the credit it deserves. My husband and I have made a lot of mistakes, but our commitment to forgiveness is the reason we have prospered despite the hardships we've suffered. The folks you don't get along with will learn nothing from your unforgiveness. The more of it they are denied, the more they will stand their ground. This is the curve we need to flatten. Bitterness is the root of the lifelong disease.
Focus without forgiveness turns into frustration. If 2020 can be about WHAT is right instead of WHO is right, it can still be the best year ever.
Every year Josh thanks the person that blew him up. Without him, we wouldn't have what we have today.