Changing the World One Step at a Time

What does Lent mean to you if you’re not Catholic? What does Black History Month mean if you’re not black? What does it mean for people when they no longer feel attached to their own communities? What does it mean when we don’t feel attached to communities we don’t see ourselves being a part of?

This isolation of people in communities and outside of communities has created separation between us. It has detached us from our neighbors, our friends and, I’ll be honest, even our loved ones.

As a kid, I felt empowered by the opinions that I had. It was easy to judge issues, people and communities – even my family – based on judgments that I was “smart” enough to come to.

Much of my life, I have been quick to judge without knowing the people that I’m talking about. See, what I didn’t realize is that when I would point to poverty as a choice I completely disregarded the experience that each person goes through.

Every single day, our worlds crash. Sometimes homework can be the end of the world for me because those are my experiences. And sometimes I can walk through my own “darkest nights” with strength and perseverance.

I admit I’m immature and I’m mature – sometimes all at the same moments. But where I can grow, where we can grow, is in our respect of lived experiences.

If I want to talk about poverty, I need to be with the poor. A lot of people, when casting judgments about the poor, like to use the passage Matthew 26:11 “You will always have the poor among you” but tend to leave out the other line in the passage, “but you will not always have me.” When we read scripture carefully we understand what Jesus was actually saying, instead of what is easy for us to judge.

“The poor will always be among us” does not come as an acknowledgement that poverty will always exist, but that the poor is where we will find Christ.  When we get to know each other, we look past things that frustrate us.

If we can have respect and love the people that we disagree with, then won’t we add another layer to Lent? The purpose of Lent is to admit what is holding us back from closer relationships with God. Our God does not simply dwell within confined walls, I know speaking for myself.

I believe in a God that dwells past spaces of confinement. I believe in a God that dwells among us, in us and around us. I believe that this Lent is, yes, a time to cleanse but not a time to step back; we have to lean in.

We have to lean in to our places of judgment. We must close the spaces that isolation has created between us. Spend less time on our phones, less time consuming, less time away from each other. We must slow down from who we define ourselves as being and search who we truly are.

Lent must be a revolution of the soul. By ignoring this Lenten season and this Black History Month as an opportunity, we are robbing our world of some much-needed growth.

For too long have well-intended people stalled transformations of the soul.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

If this frustrates you, I ask that you sit with your frustration to find why you are frustrated.

God was not in the earthquake, God was not in the storm, God was in the silence. Let us sit in the silence and grow.

 

JARED SCHAAF

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