During my high-drama single days, I lived in Nashville, which was a landing spot for lots of young, single, newly graduated folks like myself. I spent four years there becoming an adult whilst wearing lots of denim and going to lots of concerts and flirting with lots of boys. But, I digress.
My Nashville years also included a church that met in an old middle school gym. Like most churches in Nashville, the music was insanely good and it wasn't unusual to have professional musicians and people who had record deals leading worship. My church also had a pastor named Carter who charismatically preached with passion and wisdom and whose sermons impacted my sometimes frivolous life during those rather formative early-adult years.
One sermon in particular still comes to mind every so often and lately I've been thinking about it again. Despite almost ten years having passed since I heard it, I can vividly remember one Sunday, during the sermon, when Carter dramatically swung an imaginary bat (or maybe it was an imaginary stick) and ardently charged us to "beat back suffering." I can't remember the sermon title or even the exact context for what he said, but I remember that something in my heart responded to that very literal image of beating back suffering.
I suppose the next question is obvious. How do I do that? Atleast, that's the question I'm asking myself right now.
Yesterday, I was reading the news online and made the mistake of clicking on an article about three children who had been incredibly neglected and abused somewhere in the Northeast. That story kept me up last night and I woke up this morning with a heavy heart thinking about those children who are all close in age to Sam. It makes me so mad I could spit thinking about the injustice done to little ones like those. It also makes me want to kick down doors, punch some people in the face and then rescue some babies.
Sometimes the weight of the suffering that I see happening around me or experience in my own life threatens to do me in. After the two miscarriages we had in the last year and half, there have been some moments when I've come close to folding under the heaviness of it all.
Today, I went to Kmart and bought a Sesame Street toothbrush, a Lightning McQueen tube of toothpaste, a box of Skittles, crayons and a coloring book and a few other random things that I'm really hoping a toddler will like when he opens it up on Christmas morning. I realized yesterday that the deadline for "Operation Shoebox" is coming up and so I'm planning on dropping my box off at a local church in hopes that it will find it's way into the hands of a child who I will never meet in a country I will probably never visit. It's not much, but for one child, it's something.
I realized this morning that I spend a whole lot of time thinking about myself and my family and what we need and what we want. Something about reading that story yesterday about those precious neglected children jolted me into remembering that I've been charged to "beat back suffering." I keep asking God why He isn't swooping in to rescue children like that or dropping supernatural boxes of food and toilet paper and clean socks on those people up in New Jersey who are homeless after Hurricane Sandy. But, I'm starting to wonder if, in fact, He's not doing those things because we're supposed to be. (Not that He can't do it without us, because He sure as heck can.) But, I think that my sitting around moaning about why God isn't fixing all the things that aren't right with the world isn't the answer.
I promise I'm not trying to put a guilt trip on you or anything or make you feel like suddenly I'm a social justice nut who's using my blog to judge you. I just had this epiphany that maybe it's time I picked up my proverbial stick and started beating back some suffering. I'm not sure what that might look like yet. Maybe it's just a shoebox filled with a few toys, a toothbrush and a coloring book. But, maybe it's volunteering at the local crisis pregnancy center and/or delivering food to a foodbank and/or adopting a child who needs a home (!!) Maybe it's time to be a radical when it comes to meeting needs and easing suffering and offering mercy.
I have no idea what it might look like. I just know that I'm tired of thinking about myself and I want to do something instead of just getting mad and wishing things were different.
On my way to pick Sam up today at school I passed a church with a sign in their front yard that said,
"Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly." Hello, Micah 6:8.
It's time to pick up that stick and get serious.