We asked members of our staff to share what moves them to do justice work. This month Kelly Burd, Minister for Leadership Development, reflects on what motivates her to stay on the path toward God’s vision of a more just, compassionate world.
We Are Not Alone...
There are times when the troubles of the world seem so overwhelming that I’m tempted to boycott the media, stop looking for information about the suffering of other people, and pare down my attention to include only my own little clan and circle of friends. What pulls me outward and motivates me to stay on the path toward God’s vision of a more just, compassionate world? The teachings of Jesus, as well as faithful saints and mentors that inspire me with their words and actions.
Jesus calls us to leave the shore of our individual concerns and follow him into the masses, to recognize that our interrelatedness transcends apparent differences and our value is equally important in God’s eyes. It is at once humbling and uplifting. And it is our calling–to follow the one who insisted that every religious law boiled down to loving God with all our strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Martin Luther King, Jr. reinforced the great commandments and our inherent unity when he insisted, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Even so, being active in the struggle for justice over the long haul can be exhausting. Because success can sometimes seem elusive, and celebrations rare, it is important to celebrate even small victories and to remember we are not alone in this work. Everyday there are masses of people around the world who are standing up as justice seekers and peace makers, as individuals or in crowds, in communities of faith, town halls, classrooms, streets, prisons, and homes. The recent uprising of people as far as Egypt and as near as Wisconsin offer glimpses of strength, hope and power that are manifest when people recognize a common right and come together to insist upon it or defend it.
As a seminary student I began to burn out from my work in a justice-related internship because I felt I was failing to make a lasting and significant impact in the lives of people I worked with. When I shared this with my mentor, she wisely responded, “God does not call us to be successful in everything we do. Only to be faithful.” She gently encouraged me to trust that many other people are also seeking to be faithful in their witness to God’s vision of the world, and because each of us is doing a small part, a larger movement is at work. This truth compels us to contribute our gifts, passions and energy with the understanding that the world’s troubles do not rest on our shoulders alone. God, who cast this vision, is with us, and so are many colleagues, friends and strangers around the world who are walking the path toward a more just, compassionate world. We are not alone!