I know that my heart is not the only heavy one out there. In the last couple weeks there have been unjust and violent events, and I find myself reeling emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Presidential executive orders which do not jive with our lived out faith to love immigrants and refugees (Leviticus 19:34). A terrorist attack on Muslim worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City. I have been navigating social media, news articles, and political statements all while simultaneously fact-checking and processing through the lens of my own Christian faith.
We have also witnessed and been a part of acts of solidarity and advocacy. The Women’s March on Washington and similar events held across the world and in our own cities. Protests at airports where migrants, refugees and even U.S. residents were and are being detained. Prayer vigils. Potlucks and community gatherings.
I started this week with a heavy heart. A friend of mine posted on Facebook “The more involved I want to get the more time alone in quiet I need,” and it really resonated with me. As one whose lived out faith means seeking justice in community with others, I am compelled to be among others who are also burdened by world events and committed to change. As an introvert, I also crave renewed energy in the quiet of my own home. This afternoon as I write this, I am conflicted with a need to go home and spend quiet time with my family and my desire to attend a prayer vigil in community with others grieving the shooting at the Quebec City mosque.
Just like a marathon, we must “run the race with endurance.”
This same friend also commented that social justice is not a sprint. Just like a marathon, we must “run the race with endurance.” So how can we be intentional at training and taking care of ourselves for this marathon?
I started thinking about what it would look like to be intentional at balancing traditional self-care practices (for example, mine are gardening and baking) with practices that will help me “train” for the marathon ahead.* With the help of some others, I’ve compiled ways that we have quietly (or not so quietly) coped with change and tragedy around us.
1. Wise words (Jennifer Lucking)
Many of my friends have recently commented how they have been intentionally reading the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, especially since the American election. Others have been listening to or reading works by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This past Christmas, one of the best presents I received was The Violence of Love by Oscar Romero. I have just been soaking up his words. At the risk of my father reading this (who keeps his books in pristine condition!), I must say that I have been taking a pen and highlighter to almost every page. May I share with you a passage that I came across the day I marched in a local Women’s March a couple weeks ago? I attended the march with this prayer in my heart.
Let us not tire of preaching love,
It is the force that will overcome the world.
Let us not tire of preaching love.
Though we see that waves of violence
succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love,
love must win out; it is the only thing that can.
The Violence of Love, Oscar Romero. (September 25, 1977)
Last summer, this blog posted some of the staff’s favourite justice reads of the season; perhaps look to that list for inspiration or look to the blog’s top 10 articles of 2016.
2. Wise friends (Jill Van Beek)
I have found hope and strength in learning from my AJS colleagues. I was in Honduras the day of the election. My friends and coworkers there of course realize the importance of this election for the world and themselves, but they had a word for me as an American: now you know what it’s like for many of us in the majority world who feel disheartened and even oppressed by our own government. This is not new for us, they said.
Don’t lose heart. Stay engaged. There is hope.
3. Prayer, exercise, and allies (Idella Winfield)
In times like this, I go to center myself in God. Entering into a spiritual space with friends keeps me grounded and mindful of who God is and who I am in him. We lift each other up in prayer and support one another. I have a few groups I pray with—women of color and a church group. Surrounding myself in prayer with people of color is part of my self care because I know that I do not have to explain my hurt and pain—they understand in a different way. Then I exercise. I believe the spiritual and physical need to align. Right now I’m into kick-boxing. It helps me go into a zone where I can release my frustrations without taking it out on others. Lastly, I find being around allies reminds me that I am not going through everything alone and that I am supported. I am a part of a group that cares about one another's physical, mental, and spiritual states.
4. The Beatitudes (Kelsey Herbert)
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." These words have become my mantra. We are in a time where it is easy to convince ourselves that we are right. I am prone to believe I have it all figured out: that this is unjust, that is oppressive, this is what we need to do. And I’ve become exhausted. I say this mantra to remember that God is not looking for us to be right or have everything figured out. God is asking us to remember him and not to rely on our own strength. Learning to be poor in spirit, recognizing that I need God and that God will empower me to do this work, allows me to rest and reconnect.
How are you taking care of yourself and training for the road ahead?
* Even as I list these ideas, I am aware of my privilege. I want to acknowledge that not everyone has the privilege of distancing themselves as I can from day to day injustices in order to recharge and re-engage. Those who face oppression and discrimination on a regular basis do not always have the privilege of intentionally distance themselves as I can, and I acknowledge this challenge.