In the last year or so, I’ve become like a secret shopper and a food critic—only I don’t get paid for it and no one cares what I think. Instead, I’m just making up for years of eating food I didn’t order or drinking caffeinated beverages that I’d requested be made decaf. I have a list of companies who are out to get me. I can’t legally say all of their names, but S---bucks gave me one too many nights of caffeine poisoning, a deli in town served me a bowl of broccoli cheese with an empty Splenda packet hidden in the bottom, and the Mars Corporation placed a worm in my peanut butter Twix. I don’t know what angry person trapped inside of me suddenly emerged, but overnight I became an intolerant consumer, writing the soy milk distributor, large pizza chains and even a face painting manufacturer to complain about their products.
I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t want to feed a corporate giant that spit in my food. I wanted to say no to the personal injustice, no matter how insignificant.
It’s easy to hear a call to action when you’re dealing with a large company that cares about customer service. It’s not a big deal to write an email to a restaurant that asks for your feedback. But, it’s hard standing up to broken systems, latent racism, and Christian idolatry.
We’re surrounded by shattered lives. We’re inundated with images of the world’s imperfections, the evil that steals and the apathy that lets it all happen. Yet, I’m afraid it’s become normal to me. I’m afraid I only deal with the injustices that directly affect me and my family. I’ll fight for my rights as a consumer but I won’t stop buying clothes that perpetuate sweat shop labor.
As a carrier of the life of Christ, isn’t it supposed to make a difference that I’m on the earth? Do I even think about how God might have me participate in societal change and individual transformation? It’s not about starting a movement based on guilt or obligation. It certainly isn’t about conjuring up emotions for a cause or an organization. But am I even open to what God might have for me today? What if every single day I can be a part of extending the kingdom of God here on earth?
I never understood why people in the New Testament were crabby about miracles. There were always some who rejoiced, a few who believed, but for the most part, it was the religious who were severely put out by Jesus’ healings. After spending some time in my neighborhood, having a few smashed car windows, a few things stolen and an attempted break in or two, I understand the reason we don’t always want miracles.
They’re kind of disruptive.
See, there’s a system in place. The system is broken, it’s oppressive, everyone knows it, but it’s the system. Things get ruined, people get killed, families get destroyed. When a miracle happens, when a life is transformed, when a blind community gains sight or a crippled structure gains movement, we’re forced to deal with the fact that change is possible.
This is inconvenient, especially for those of us who have resigned that the world is hurting and, honestly, how much of a difference can we make?
Miracles remind us that it does matter how we live, that faith and God are alive and not contained in a set of beliefs. Miracles are the result of the supernatural interrupting the ordinary. For far too long, I’ve lived in the middle of the ordinary. My faith is contained, my kindness is limited, my generosity depends on my mood or my own desires.
And every day I wake up surrounded by sex trafficking and violence and poverty and I’m one of those people who couldn’t care less. I don’t want to read the paper, I don’t want to see the pain, I want to pretend like the shattered pieces of our culture are some unique mosaic instead of an ugly and growing reality that I often feed.
Does it make a difference that I’m here? Maybe a better way to ask the question is this: Am I so full of self that I can’t hunger and thirst for righteousness? Or, when I see a need, do I make myself central to the solution instead of inviting the presence and perspective of God?
I’ve grown up comforted by the fact that God’s mercies are new every day. I figure the mercies are resources to keep me from screwing up. But what if I’m given mercy so that I might participate in the reconciling work of the Creator? What if I really am a conduit of authentic life and I’m not even considering how to use it to nourish others?
I’m living like a hoarder, and I’m barely even praying about it. What’s worse, I’m missing the abundant life myself.
What would it look like tomorrow morning to wake up and embrace a fuller meaning of God’s mercies? What would it mean to ask God to guide me in the handling of these mercies and to lean in to what it means to be his hands and feet?
My complaints to Gap customer service and United Airlines got me free stuff. But raising a hand to question society or being a voice for the voiceless will not get you an apology letter and a complimentary gift card.
When you become a real agent of change, a real participant in the kingdom, no one is sorry about the injustice they’ve caused. They’re just inconvenienced. Culture doesn’t always want the miracle. Sometimes even the church doesn’t want that kind of interruption.
But I live in my neighborhood in my town in my state and country during this time for a reason. Perhaps today is the day I start to ask why. Maybe today is the day God wants to disrupt the ordinary with the extraordinary. And maybe, he wants to do it through you and me.