Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Every journey starts somewhere.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

        Micah 6:8 has been a favourite verse of mine for a long time.  I love the ideas in it, and how it speaks the truth of who God really is and what matters most to him.  Though the thought resonates with my heart, I'm not sure I fully comprehend what "doing justice" is exactly.  I have pictures of massive protests, rescuing people from slavery and giving money to the poor, but have never been sure how that fits into my life.  Slowly but surely, with a lot of stalls and starts, I'm beginning to figure this out with the help of a lot of really amazing justice-minded individuals.  This blog is about exactly that - my journey of figuring out how to "do justice" in every area of my life.  I hope it will inspire you to begin your own journey of figuring out what that looks like for you.
      Every journey starts somewhere.  I suppose mine started in middle school when I became more serious about my faith and felt strongly that one thing the Bible continually called us to do is love others, and, more specifically, care for the poor and fight against oppression.  Since then I felt like that was the only thing I could possibly do with my life, like Paul felt about preaching, "necessity is laid upon me.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"(1 Cor. 9:16).  However, at that point my understanding of justice was rudimentary.  Like most young kids I thought going on a mission trip or sponsoring a child was all I could do.  I suppose we could call that my first false start.  I knew I had to do something, but I had no idea what to do or what was helpful.  There have been many since.
      At the beginning of this year, however, I was blessed with the world's best first real job. I work for an amazing non-profit organization called the Wellspring Foundation for Education which is working to empower a new generation of leaders in East Africa through a quality, values-based education -and is doing it in a way that is life-giving and empowering to everyone involved.  The students, the teachers, the parents, the donors, and the staff.  And it has been in the last year, at work, that I've really begun to learn what it means to "do justice".
      My boss likes to say that "justice is sexy," and he's totally right. Right now, it's trendy to give to charities and travel to developing countries to volunteer.  And while that's really great that more people are engaging in this way, it comes at a cost.  In many cases, it has become another form of racism and imperialism, and is accompanied by attitudes of superiority heavily masked with pity.  This attitude isn't empowering to anyone.
     In the midst of this trend, Wellspring has been working to ensure that everything the organization does is synonymous with true justice, such as ensuring that the products used in fund-raising events to help empower kids in Rwanda and Burundi aren't exploiting kids and their parents in Bangladesh or Ghana, and creating a curriculum to teach youth and young people what justice really is and how to "do justice" in a way that benefits both the poor and yourself.  As I've been a part of this over the last 9 months, it's made me reconsider my definition of justice and what it means to "do justice" in my daily life.  One quote that comes up continually as Wellspring engages with justice, is:

"Justice is what love looks like in public." -Cornell West

      This definition sounds to me like a mandate.  Justice is not exclusively charity work.  It's not something enacted upon the poor.  We are called to love another; our neighbours, our brothers, our enemies, and the poor.  Justice isn't something to be confined to our interaction with those in the global south or the poor communities in our cities.  It's a lifestyle, an attitude that should be reflected in all our interactions and choices. 
      I don't have it all figured out yet.  If I did I'd probably be writing a book entitled something along the lines of "10 easy steps to being more awesome!" instead of a blog.  This is documentation of my journey - my journey of doing justice not only in my career, but also in my relationship with my husband, the rest of my family, or my friends; in my attitude towards strangers and people who cut me off in traffic or take up the majority of the aisle at Superstore; in how I choose to spend my time; and in what I choose to spend my money on.  I hope my reflections, my triumphs and my stumbles will encourage other people to take this journey and learn to "do justice" in their own lives.  And if not, I hope I can at least provide some sort of entertainment to those who choose to follow my journey.  Who knows how long this will last - I'm sure it's a journey that won't be finished until the day I stand face-to-face with my Creator, but for the foreseeable future, I am consciously choosing to actively pursue living justly, and to share what I learn along the way.

       Thanks for reading!

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