How can a self-centred person learn to care for others?
When I started out I don’t think I realised the importance of this question. But over the last few weeks, I am growing more convinced that many sense their lives pulling in a “self-contained” direction and want change.
And its not just us as individuals but for communities and organisations as well. So this isn’t just a personal question but a communal one, and we as the Mosaic community are asking how do we learn to care for each other and those around us. As we have lived this question we have been blessed to have ordinary inspiring people speak into our lives. Jenny Duckworth came into our midst to share with us her journey with “doing justice” and its safe to say her words moved us.
Read the series: ‘A Just Words Response – By Justin Blass’
I wasn’t ready for Jenny to speak, I was caught up “running” the evening. As she got up on the stool and started to share her stories I worried that I wouldn’t be able to leave all those tasks behind, but I was captured, there was something different about her words.
Some speak and capture you with their ideas or style. Others speak and capture you with themselves; who they are. Their ideas are deeply woven into their lives; lived words. It didn’t take long for me to recognise that Jenny was the latter, a modern day prophet directing change not from disconnect theory but a lived theology. Jenny spoke early about her desire to develop a way of seeing God and all life that didn’t just dismiss the mess, she called it a “living theology for a screwed up world.”
Her honesty immediately broke down walls as she spoke of her “middle class addiction” and her encounters with holy heartbreak. It didn’t take a laborious internal searching to resonate with her addiction. I heard myself saying “You can take the person out of the middle class, but you can’t take the middle class out of the person.” She sung in harmony with the previous speakers as she affirmed the power of heartbreak; that when we encounter another’s suffering that heartbreak for them is a gift to break the addiction of self and stuff.
You can’t force this heartbreak and treating people as tools to provide relief isn’t going to serve anyone. I could sense that people in Jenny’s life weren’t projects but part of her family. Her genuine care coated her words as she spoke “God’s justice is hospitable.”
This hospitable justice isn’t just for the “other” out there “in-need.” She described the mutuality of justice; that to do justice we need to learn to receive as well as give, to be served as well as served. She didn’t view people as problems to fix but as solutions able to change the world. Her words struck a deep chord with the mission of the Mosaic community when she asked, “Can we help people find their contribution?”
To sustain this work of together finding and giving our contributions Jenny recommended celebrating the small glimpses of hope. Sustaining any endeavour to make a difference in a “screwed up world” requires fuelling the hope that motivates us. To so this she says celebrate the moments that point to hope and celebrate them in the hope that these moments will one day become the constant reality. She called these moments, “kingdom moments.”
As a community looking to further our engagement with justice, Jenny gave another bit of advice “go deep not wide.” There are lots of opportunities to get involved in many things. Instead she recommends focusing on one thing and avoid the temptation to try to tend to all things.
At first this advice overwhelmed me with thoughts of needing to pick the right one thing. This quickly subsided as she took us back to the centrality of justice; relationships. Staring at the centre I realised that we only get it “wrong” by not acting at all because really the result of focusing on any particular issue will be relationships. Relationships are really the only ingredient required to do justice.