Timely thoughts today from The Hippie Housewife
Sometimes the question overwhelms me. I want to help in some small way, to meet the endless needs both near and far, but I don't know where to start.
My desire to help everyone leaves me paralyzed, and so I help no one.
How do I leave behind this stage of being overwhelmed and move intentionally into a more holistic method of social justice? I don't have all the answers - maybe I don't have any - but I know that every journey starts with just one step.
One step ... and then the next. I can do that.
Acknowledge the needs
At times I am tempted to close my eyes and ears to the constant onslaught of needs. So many needs, so much pain, but our hearts should break over these things. The first step on this journey must always be to acknowledge that there is something very wrong with this world. This is not a cause for me to feel guilty for what I do have, but to daily strive to do something to help through everyday acts of mercy and justice.
Examine and pray
After acknowledging the need, I must refrain from the temptation to try to be all things to all people. I am only a small part of a much larger whole. Here I pause for a moment to pray for God's leading and to evaluate my strengths. How has God gifted me? What has He placed on my heart? Is there something in particular weighing on my mind? While there is always cause to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, I can be most effective if I discover, acknowledge, and build on my own individual strengths.
It always comes down to intentional living, doesn't it? The choices we make affect not only ourselves, but our brothers and sisters throughout the world. We can help through our consumer and lifestyle choices, such as:
- using our purchasing power wisely (buying fair trade, used, handmade, and/or local)
- living with less so we have more to give
- making creation care a priority
Focus on one thing It is easy to get stuck in the endless cycle of awareness leading to being overwhelmed leading to paralysis. Instead of giving up due to the enormity of it all, I can focus on changing one thing at a time. Just as with habit formation, making one change at a time is both less overwhelming and more sustainable in the long run. Instead of trying to jump to the end, I will take the first step, then focus on the next thing, all the while heading in the right direction.
Bloom where you are planted
Sometimes I get trapped in the "I have to go somewhere to serve" mindset. I have to move to Calcutta and live among the poor like Mother Teresa did. I have to move downtown into an intentional community like Shane Claiborne. I have to move to Uganda and open my home to the orphaned children like Katie did. But with a husband in school and two young children, moving isn't much of an option at this point. I can, however, bloom where I am planted. I can open my eyes to the poverty, of a different sort, that exists in the suburbs. I can trust that God has placed me where I am and can use me right here. I can find community even here, meet needs even here.
When our lives are full of joy, peace, and love, the same overflows in our relationships and interactions with others. We can let go of any sense of guilt and instead live from a place of awareness and action within the bigger picture of an authentic, joy-filled, God-honouring life. We can walk justly instead of trying to save everyone. We can help not out of pity, but out of love; not scales being tipped, but a cup overflowing. We will see others through the eyes of their compassionate Creator, and we will love them as ourselves.
These steps I can take. Acknowledge the needs, prayerfully examine where I can best help, and then live intentionally, focusing on one thing at a time. I can do this from where I am and out of joyful love.
Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World by Mae Elise Cannon
Mercy Rising: Simple Ways to Practice Justice and Compassion by Amber Robinson
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt
“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? 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?" Isaiah 58: 6-7
Cynthia is the mother of two little boys, an inquisitive preschooler and an energetic toddler. She blogs at The Hippie Housewife, where she shares her thoughts on attachment parenting, natural living, life as a Jesus-follower, and more, all tied together through her journey towards a more intentional life.
image source: nuckolls