Trudging After Justice - by Katie Jamer Jewett
Confession time: I'm tired.
I am the sole female in a house full of boys. My husband is working from home, and our older two sons are studying and working out of their bedrooms. I am homeschooling our third son, recently diagnosed with learning disabilities. Last summer, our toddler suffered seizures, resulting in speech and mobility delays; this summer, he adventured his way through hot water burns and a cracked tibia. As the mom of the household, it often falls to me to hold it all together.
But I'm tired. Tired of the endless cycle of meals and laundry, tired of grocery runs that take twice as long as before, tired of managing everyone's schedules and emotions, tired of never having enough time or space for myself, with no end in sight.
Recently, pastor and writer Nadia Bolz-Weber observed that one of COVID-19's biggest challenges is that there is no turn-taking. Usually, we take turns with grief, so that when one person is particularly laden down, the rest of us can hold her up. With COVID-19, however, we are all grieving at the same time. You may be grieving for different reasons: perhaps your house is empty and it's a struggle to fill the days alone. Perhaps a diagnosis or age has made you particularly vulnerable health-wise, you have not left your home in months, and it's starting to get to you. Maybe the pressure of the world—not only the pandemic, but the political landscape, the forest fires, everything—has left you cynical and unable to see beauty. But regardless of the reason, we are all tired, all grieving.
In the midst of this, it's easy to retreat out of fear, barely realizing that in the name of self-preservation, we are abandoning our neighbours. Because COVID-19 is not really anything new: it is only revealing and exacerbating things that have been present all along. If there was inequity in education before, it is that much worse now. If affordable housing was a problem before, it is even more so now. Not only are racism and patriarchy more visible now than they were last year, for many in our world they are even more deadly.
So here we are. People who are tired and grieving, but also people who love Jesus and who have his heart for justice in the world. Even at the best of times, it takes a tonne of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy to care for a hurting world, and it's understandable if we wonder sometimes if it's even worth it. Where are we supposed to find the energy to care for our neighbours in the middle of everything? Why pursue justice when we feel like we are barely hanging on?
We pursue justice because we can't let go of the vision of shalom described by the prophets: a state of right relationship in all of life. We are captivated by the hope that someday, swords will become ploughshares, and the desert will bloom with wildflowers. Someday, the prisoners will be freed and the blind will see and the hungry will be fed. Someday, everything that is broken will be made whole again. We keep pursuing justice because we know in our bones that God's Kingdom is upon us, and because giving up on justice would mean forfeiting that aspect of God's image in us.
In seasons like this, we might not be able to run after justice as in other times. We may need to take more breaks, recognizing the limits of our bodies, minds, and spirits. We may find ourselves trudging, not sprinting, towards justice. And that's okay. If we keep moving together despite our slowness, we will see that God's Kingdom—a Kingdom marked by justice and shalom—is not so far away after all. God is still at work in his world, and even if we can only manage a few steps forward, he is more than able to pick up the slack.
Over the coming months, we'll be exploring practical ways of pursuing justice together with each other, and together with God. Trudging after justice might look like learning about a complicated issue, such as Indigenous-settler relations. It may look like finding new and creative ways to give out of the resources that God has given us, financial or otherwise. It may look like walking alongside people whose stories are different from our own, and honouring their stories despite our own discomfort. Or it may look like praying stubbornly that God's Kingdom comes on Earth as it is in Heaven, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Jesus promises us that God blesses those who mourn, those who work for peace, those who hunger and thirst for justice. May we be aware enough to receive those blessings, even as we trudge forward together.
Katie Jamer Jewett lives with her husband and four boys in Douglas NB, on the banks of the beautiful and bountiful Wolastoq River. She is a student, a teacher, and a neighbourhood-builder who is still figuring out what it means to follow God in her corner of the world.