The concept of doing the “next right thing” is so genius, because the small decisions we make in our hours and days ultimately shape our lives. Even though we can’t see it in those small moments. In the marathon journey of living as a Christian striving to participate in the racial reconciliation of Jesus, small steps matter. They keep us going and they keep our hearts engaged. Sometimes these steps are visible, sometimes they are matters of the heart. I wanted to talk about three of my small next-right-things from this Spring: three small steps that helped me stay purposeful in pursuing the goal. I hope they’ll encourage you in what you are already doing or hope to do.
Voting locally, voting minority
In The Liturgy of Politics by Kaityln Schiess, one of the main takeaways is that we love our neighbors better and more directly by focusing on our local votes, not just our presidential votes. Local elections happen more frequently and are fine-tuned to the issues that affect the people in our immediate vicinity. So, when local election season rolled around this year, I was ready.
The exciting thing about this election was that my husband happened to meet one of the candidates running for our local school board. He was a Christian, he was Black, he had passion for the disadvantaged students in our district, and Ben and I were all in. I got behind him on Facebook and shared posts and election information. We donated to his campaign. And he ended up winning! We are so excited to have been a small part of him getting to represent our school district.
Renewed Prayers for the Pandemic
As COVID has dragged on it has also slipped out of my prayer life. But a couple of things reminded me to lament it again before the Lord and ask him for his rescue. One of those things was reading the recent stories coming out of India, where the case and death rates are so high that the streets resemble a horror film. The other was an article in which the author talks about his experience growing up in the Black churches of rural Alabama, and the specific suffering that the pandemic has dealt there:
“Most churches back home don’t have the resources and technology to stream online services. For the past year, many churches in rural Alabama attended church through their landline phone. My grandparents’ church is one of them.” (Christian Crawford, Resurrection Sunday in Alabama’s Black Belt)
Services through a landline phone in Alabama. Bodies piling up on the streets of India. When I hear these stories and contrast them with my own, where many in my community and church are celebrating being freed from the mask mandate, my heart laments. Lament is a painful and good practice- it aligns our hearts with the suffering and engages our hope with the God who hears our prayers. I have also been helping our kids pray for the countries in the throes of COVID with the purpose of helping them see beyond themselves. Because thinking outside our own experience is key to understanding the experience of others we meet and taking a posture of sacrifice and compassion. May we not be so in love with our freedom that we forget the suffering going on near and far.
Dwelling on True Hope
This Spring I read Timothy Keller’s new book, Hope in Times of Fear. While the whole book was phenomenal, I particularly resonated with the chapter “Hope for Justice.” In it he reminds Christians that pursuing justice is not a lost cause; it is a foreshadowing of the ultimate new heavens and new earth. This quote explains it well:
“The resurrection and new creation, then, have a major influence on the Christian’s understanding of how to regard the various forms of decay that we see around us in creation now. One of the ways that nature “groans” under decay is in unjust relationships. Christians are not to be passive in the face of injustice. If all the repairing of the world was to happen in the future, then there is little for us to do but to live lives of personal morality and holiness and sit on our hands and wait. But…the resurrection means that the liberating, repairing power of God is here now, through the risen Christ and his presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. We have not been saved just to be safe but saved in order to serve.” (Timothy Keller, Hope in Times of Fear)
I needed that perspective. It gives me hope. And it reminds me to stay engaged and looking for ways to be active each week.
When the Next Right Thing Feels Too Small
It’s important to remember that heart work is real work. Sometimes I get frustrated by feeling ineffective in my desire to do Jesus’ work of racial reconciliation. But I really feel that the more we work on our hearts the more prepared we are for action when the time arises. And our hearts overflow into our relationships and conversations; we will be able to help others catch the fire for justice because they will see it in us. None of the steps I listed above were huge, and that’s the point. They were just the next right thing. Pay attention to the situations around you. Pay attention to how God is pulling your heart. Sometimes it’s impossible to know what to do next until it’s right in front of us. So stay engaged and stay encouraged in the journey!