I’m afraid I need some more personal consecration before my husband and I retire. Peter recently had a surgery that gave me an opportunity (i.e., required me) to help him eat, get dressed, and change bloody bandages while I managed the homefront with two teenage boys and one newly out-of-the-nest-and-in-college daughter.
I lasted three days before I ran out of loving mercy and doing justice. I wanted “justice” for myself. I wanted a break from being nursemaid to a grown man and a break from reminding my sons to brush their teeth. I reminded everyone within earshot that I had given birth three times, never requiring Peter to help me eat, get dressed, or change bloody bandages. Changing diapers didn’t count.
Jesus died and rose again in a three-day period, but I could barely make it through my husband’s liquid diet.
Living out personal values can sometimes be easier in the public sphere where wise words are simply tweeted, inspirational sermons and presentations are shared on YouTube and Facebook, and Instagram photos paint an idyllic life in perfect lighting. We can project the life we want rather than the life we actually live, and that is where I sit most days. I sit in the tension of valuing deeply the biblical concepts of mercy and justice, yet I am often at a loss as to what living out those values at home, at church, in my neighborhood, and in the world should and could look like.
I’ve been a campus minister—a so-called professional Christian—for seventeen years. I am college-educated. I live in the suburbs. I drive a minivan. I easily obtained my U.S. citizenship after decades of a citizenship-identity crisis. My life screams of privilege, having had the ability to navigate through many of America’s hoops and loops; it also craves justice as a formerly documented immigrant and hyphenated American.
I’m a voracious reader, and the Internet provides endless streams of information and opinion as well as opportunities to engage with existing and new networks of people. I’m learning about mass incarceration, climate change, and the school-to-prison pipelines while at the same time struggling to see how and where God is calling, inviting, and compelling me to do more than share information. He dares me to be transformed by a new, deeper understanding of loving mercy and doing justice. I’m itching to push the envelope further in my own life and in the lives of my family, my neighbors, and my church without sounding crazy or, worse, pushing people into such discomfort that even eye contact is a risk.
But in this place of tension, I’m finding that taking small and big risks are the very invitation Jesus has for me and for us as the church. It is too easy to pass the peace on a Sunday morning and never ask each other, “Are we at peace?” What does peace even look like here? It is too easy for me to share articles and retweet someone else’s words and never invite someone, anyone, into a real, face-to-face conversation about what is going on in this world. It’s too easy to imagine being loving while the reality is closer to my cleaning up bloody bandages while muttering under my breath about the unfair distribution of household responsibilities and prescribed gender roles.
It’s much easier to say Christ compels me to love mercy and do justice, but I am finding that being honest with my limitations in experience, understanding, and knowledge is where I find freedom from judgment and an opportunity to learn from one another’s diverse and important experiences. I’m hoping we can journey and be transformed together.