By Rev. Jim Innes
Despite the challenging times and all the weighty news of violated peoples, we must live forward. By living forward, I mean, despite all circumstances staying hopeful and creatively active.
One major obstacle to this ‘living forward’ is that the magnitude of some struggles tends to have us pessimistic about our ability to change anything. And many of us are confused as to whether we are part of the problem.
Despite the obstacles, through the struggles of others, we become increasingly aware that the status quo will no longer cut it. Someone, or some circumstance, or some current failure, needed to be addressed yesterday.
We live in an interconnected system that shifts together, falls together, and rises together. One person’s joy elevates us, and another’s can equally decimate us. And because we are all in the process of growth and change (moving towards enlightenment), our ignorance will cause others to suffer. Our redemption will cause others to be free.
The weight of our shared humanity is enormous. This weight is frustrating. We don’t always know what to do (maybe less often than we admit). It is a weight borne by the victim(s), and those not wanting to victimize. And I believe this frustrating weight (or perhaps better stated as confusion) creates most inertia around social change.
This inertia around social issues is dangerous energy. It can be seen as apathy and stir up hate and violence. Such reactions cycle back on themselves. Instead of being aware of (and then freed from) our confusions, we become lost in more intricate issues, increasing our inertia. Apathy is real. We must watch for its insidious non-action. But apathy might not be the reason some do not act.
It takes faith to manage these systemic issues. Faith believes life is more than individual experiences (or the needs of a small collective of a ‘chosen’ race) running amok looking for ways to stay ahead and prosper. There is an interconnected order to things. And this order has a creative rationale that is, in my experience, based on compassion. It can be aptly called “our shared humanity.”
Christian literature is filled with stories of compassion. Many of these stories speak to courage; the courage to step outside the ‘norm.’ Such courage gives as needed, instead of as deserving. In many ways, this is my attraction to the life of Jesus and his early disciples.
Jesus and his disciples acted from their hearts. There was not a question as to right and wrong, only a question as to what is loving and needed. For them, politics be damned. And though they struggled a bit to know who to reach out to, in the end, it was their mission (and purpose in life) to increase the health of every person they encountered.
Jesus and the disciples ‘lived forward’ by uncluttering their minds with worry. They didn’t eat up their energy or time with imagining the worst and planning avoidances. They risked failure. And they put themselves in harm’s way.
As I see it, ‘living forward,’ is a matter of living with compassion. It will take courage, but as we place one foot in front of the other, and risk failure and criticism, we will discover energy, hope, and creativity.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.