However, being committed to and called to such work is a job that demands a great deal of energy, can be frustrating, and often requires years of commitment - let's be honest, completing the jobs of super heroes can be tough. And sometimes we are so consumed informing ourselves about the injustices occurring in the world, organizing and strategizing the next action or planning the next protest, that our connect with God can get lost in all of it.
In a global world, in which we have access to new information every second, and in which time is of the essence, it is easy to glance at our overflowing to-do list and simply feel overwhelmed. Oftentimes, in such cases, seeing that list drives me begrudingly back to action, which is good. But such work should be done with passion and when not a burden.
And sometimes we also just need to take a break.
Today’s celebration of Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of penitential preparation. For many of us, it might mark the end of Mardi Gras celebrations. For some, the beginning of a ‘fast’ of some sorts – whether from sweets or from Facebook – or the beginning of trying to be more intentional in spending time in prayer, of reading the daily lectionary, or of consciously working to be more positive in our outlook on the world and on life.
For others, Ash Wednesday this year marks the intensification of the count down to General Conference at the end of April, and although it may seem more appropriate that Lent take-on the Advent-tide emotion of ‘waiting’ and 'preparation,' Lent should mark a different emotion for us as Christians.
No, we should not accept the injustices that our church proclaims through specific statements in our Books of Discipline and Resolution.
No, we should not passively stand and watch the rights of women being taken away, or ignore the cries of the homeless and hungry woman, man, or child who we pass on the streets.
No, we should not stop fighting for justice.
But we should aim to take a moment each day during this Lenten journey for ourselves. Time to stop. To breathe. To pray. And to prepare ourselves.
Might we remember that on this Lenten journey, this journey in search of justice, we do not travel alone. Instead, we are guided by the example of Jesus in his ministry with others and we are accompanied by people around the world working to achieve the same ends. Let this communal commitment to social justice not be a burden to us, but instead strengthen us in our journey and ease the cross that we bear.
As we begin this journey together, I lift up this excerpt from T.S. Eliot's poem, “Ash Wednesday”:
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
O my people.
Michelle Dromgold is a Mission Intern of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. She is currently serving at the Kindertreff Delbrücke at the Salem Gemeinde in Berlin, Germany. There, she works as a social worker with an emphasis on intercultural and interreligious dialogue amongst the children and youth at the after-school program and with local United Methodist Congregations.