Can simple action change your heart?
Our Just Words series ended with a punch to gut brought to you by Darryl Gardiner. Daryl shared some powerful thoughts on how to step outside of our self contained world into the moments of justice.
From the moment Daryl started speaking you could tell he was going to bring it. He paced like a boxer preparing for a fight. He laced his words with a confident conviction. The fight started with some “war” stories of working with others that could easily fill up a cable drama. After the “drama” resolved he stopped and said “and then we got to the social justice part.”
I knew he had me. His story drew me within reach then his insight pounded into my gut.
The pummeling continued as he said people often flock to the big causes or the dangerous situations for validation. Most want to be seen doing justice. We want actions and stories we can broadcast to demonstrate how good we are. For me this is the territory of the ego and one I constantly trip over. Daryl kept pushing saying that churches are often guilty of wanting to take all the glory and leave none for God.
All this talk of self centered motivation doesn’t get us off the hook but changes how we go about doing justice. His challenge was to take justice out of the hands of our egos (with its need for validation) and start doing the work that no one cares about. In his mind its the little things that make all the difference. I thought he was speaking directly to me when he said, “stop making the work harder than it is and start doing the little things.”
The power of insight was dizzying and my head is still spinning when he urged us to stop thinking that God views the poor from our position. Questions grew, “from what position does God view the poor?” and “how do I need to learn to see those around me?”
I didn’t have much time to chase them before the next blow came; the call to insignificant action. The call to follow Jesus for Daryl includes the call to serve those around you with simple acts that one else notices and if they did they wouldn’t care about. He gave us a challenge to pick 3 small things a week to do for those around us. These could be as simple as a cup of tea with a shut in or driving someone to the grocery store. Things that you wouldn’t write home about but that make a little difference.
For the record he wasn’t opposed to acts that challenge the systems and structures which contribute to poverty and injustice. But stressed that as a foundation we all commitment to serve those in need around us.
He said if you are having a hard time finding ways to help ask yourself, “who do you walk past that Jesus couldn’t walk past?” If you’re only hanging out with people like yourself then find ways to connect with people who are different from you. Commitment to the other according to Darryl has to have a cost. Its got to cost time, money, and relationship.
I find the challenge to committing to small acts of kindness lies in the obscurity of their impact. Do they matter? Staring at the insignificance of these little acts it is easy to lose heart. Daryl seemed to believe that this place of insignificance is precisely the place we are called. The scripture which inspired his belief comes from 1 Cor 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
The obscurity of our acts is our offering to the God who is working things out, hemming together the insignificant to make something beautiful. And when it is finished we will stand in awe at the work and know that it was God.