My hope and wish for our crazy world is that we find and work toward ways of bringing social justice and equality to all, with no exceptions. Let's resolve to love and care for OTHER'S children as we do our own. If we can remove the concept of "other's" and see all children as our own our future can be bright...and we can get to equality and justice for all. Peace+Love. - Peter Heymann, New Year’s Day post on Facebook.
I’m struck by this post on Facebook this morning. It touched me somewhere deep inside, and promptly brought to surface the difference between ‘get to’ and ‘have to.’
I’ve had the privilege of living in different cultures, both American and cultures outside the US. Cultures within US borders can seem the most diverse, in terms of worldview. Yet, they’re not as different as we often allow politics to portray them. Politics should not be the defining paradigm by which we see each other - particularly as it relates to compassion, love for humanity, justice, and our sense of right and wrong. When we see each other through political lenses, we are doing our collective identity a huge injustice. Justice should start with us, and this is as good a place to start as any.
Every single time we choose to see those with another worldview as the enemy - as against what we stand for at our collective core - we are contributing to war, bullying, intolerance, injustice, and hate.
Injustice is a topic we dance around for a myriad of reasons. Injustice, in a general sense, is a common theme for sermons and church services around the holidays. Understandably so. Yet, my husband and I both weren’t sure how to approach it with political conservatives as a significant portion of our congregation. As the holiday season progressed, we made our small contributions in action to those in need, and tried to care for those who need the most help at this time of year.
On New Year’s Eve day, I ran across a video exposing the sex slave industry in the US, particularly how it is happening right under our noses at major US professional sporting events, such as the SuperBowl, etc. It shocked me, to be honest. Perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t think that’s the problem. We are in denial simply because we don’t want to touch these issues with a ten foot pole. Do we not want to touch them simply because they’re icky, and denial is more comfortable? Partly. But I think the bigger reason is we don’t want to make others uncomfortable - because they won’t like us or or they’ll pigeon-hole us as bleeding heart do-gooders. In other words, it’s all about us.
And when did “do-gooders” turn into a bad thing?
Ever since we chose “get-to” over “have-to.”
Ironically, Americans have always been “get-to” people. That’s really who we are. Yet, we all want structure too. How we draw the boundaries around our point of view create the view we find ourselves looking at. This, in turn, draws the perceptions and understandings that our mind translates into our opinions.
This is not unlike how we come to a spiritual belief, or a conviction of a particular faith. Some of us have a particular spiritual awakening and some choose to attach that experience to a set of beliefs that will ground them, or help make sense of this extraordinary moment in their lives. Yet, others can have an awakening of similar magnitude and choose to let its stake its claim in a more expansive, ethereal and undefined way. Some will simply ignore the experience altogether, writing it off to some unexplained science yet to be discovered.
We can ask ourselves if our various responses to an extraordinary experience are all wrong, or if even, only one is the right one. Or we can allow it to be what it is for each individual. I’m not sure any of us are truly certain of their rightness…in their deepest place. Sometimes the experience is so real, there seems no other answer than the one that makes the most sense to us - and perhaps that is the right answer. But, how do we ever really know? Truth is, we don’t. We choose to believe, or not.
What I do know, however, is the minute we stop listening, we’ve sabotaged our own growth and the possibility for more. Listening is the key to peace, both in the outer world, and the inner one. Listening goes beyond the ability to have auditory capacity. It is the hearing that happens within. Deep within our being, but also the chatter around us, or the voice that speaks within our mind. All of these voices come together to create a harmony sometimes - leading us to different places on our journey…each having its purpose for our lives if we continue to listen. It’s up to us to decide which voice, which sense to listen to most deeply - and when. In my life, I’ve found the inner promptings to be the most reliable - even if not the most logical. They are certainly the most accurate.
This kind of listening is what happened when I saw the video about sex slavery online this week. I didn’t want to repost it. Especially on New Years Eve, a day filled with anticipation and celebration. I found myself faced with the choice between posting it and not posting it, and not posting it made my gut uneasy. What if one girl was saved because my post just happened to get passed on to someone whose inner hearing had been awakened by seeing it? What if the video awakened some sense of sight they didn’t have before, and it was activated at the Giants game on New Year’s Day? Of course, this is unlikely. But, is it?
My guess is that more often than not, we are tuned in to these promptings and simply need to listen. We don’t have to be right. We only need to be awake and willing. Last night, on our way home from visiting my mom in New York city, my husband purchased a lottery ticket from behind the counter of one of those convenience stores for the first time ever. He said, “I don’t know what happened - it was talking to me…so I bought it. Shall we scratch it off and see?” We did and it won $10. Next, he asked, “Shall we buy 5 more with the 10?” I said, “no…” No? He reminded me, and rightly so, perhaps this ticket was leading us to bigger things. My background in addictions caused me to spontaneously say no, aware this was exactly the trigger that leads people into gambling more than they should - and I knew we were not at any risk. Understatement. I saw my logic had superseded my sense of adventure - as silly as it might’ve been. We sat in this parking lot on New Year’s Eve and scratched off another five tickets…and went home empty handed. But my husband had a big smile on his face - because he’d done something he’d never done before, and because our lives are so busy and filled with obligation, we’d actually had a moment to do something spontaneous together - even if it was as mundane and simple as that. It had been a Christmas where we hadn’t had a single day off yet, with none in the foreseeable future, and each day’s end was filled with an obligation of one kind or another. This was a simple and fun moment that had not been on the calendar. And, if you knew my husband - the pastor and Eagle Scout - it was also a living on the edge moment too - which still makes me smile when I think about it.
Listening was the reason for this simple pleasure. The ticket had called out to him…from a place within that knew he needed to laugh and play a little - even if it was playing a lottery ticket. Most choices are much more eventful than this one, but it demonstrates so well how even the simplest of choices have lessons or gifts for us.
What does that story have to do with a video of sex slavery and injustice in the world? A lot.
On one level, we are not listening to ourselves at our most fundamental level. We are more concerned with how others will see us, than listening to our deepest voice. But on another level, we are denying who we are. When we watch a video like this and find ourselves doing one of the following: a. cringing; b. ignoring; c. dismissing; or d. judging are denying who we are.
If you feel detached, you’re not alone. We can only handle so much information that makes us uncomfortable. And if it makes us uncomfortable, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you’re uncomfortable seeing it, it’s telling you something. It’s telling you your heart is still beating - and you feel powerless to do anything about it, or feel guilty that you don’t want to. Don’t worry - you’re not alone. None of us really want to. Most of us think or feel we don’t have time to make a difference.
If it makes you angry, it’s most likely because you were looking forward to relaxing and watching football on new Year’s Day, after working your butt off all week - and the last thing you want to infiltrate your mind while watching a really good football game is girls like your daughter could be being sent off to slaughter while you’re drinking your beer on the couch. This is, after all, more than one hard working man can deal with - or have the power to change!
No matter what your reaction is - you are listening to something. The trick now is to choose to listen to the part of you that reflects the person who want to be, not the one who wants to
It is in communion with God that we find our center. Prayer is communication with God. How do you pray? Are your prayers petitions? Or do you sit in the presence of God and listen to what God has to say to you? Do that. Sit in the holy presence and learn to listen. Listen from the deepest place. Just sit in the presence and listen. This is communion with God. This is prayer. (Daniel did this three times a day…a daily discipline.
This discipline will focus your faith, and know what God’s will is for you. You will know God’s will is out of love for you. It will show you a holiness, a holy purpose. Prayer leads to faith, faith leads to obedience, obedience leads to purpose.