Embodying Justice: A Lesson Written in Crayon

“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, it’s wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte.

This simple yet profound statement has captured the imaginations of The Ministry Collaborative (TMC) staff since we discovered it last spring. At that time, we were all new to pandemic life and experiencing the unending exhaustion that seemed to be synonymous with the pandemic itself. While much has changed since then, the experience of overwhelming exhaustion by clergy remains unchanged, therefore, we decided to put this declaration to the test.

We are currently wrapping up Wholehearted: Transformative Leadership in a Broken World, a successful 6-week virtual cohort of 20 pastors who took a journey of discovery focused on the themes of identity, sabbath, justice, and paradigm shifts through the lens of wholeheartedness. The time has been well spent and has served as a deep well of life-giving connection and energizing reflection.  For the next several weeks our staff will give you the “ten cent tour” as we reflect on some of the insights and voices that have guided our time together.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love,

And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Last month, here at the Ministry Collaborative, we finished our first ‘sprint-cohort’ on Wholeheartedness.  We had a series of discussions on sabbath, justice, and paradigm shifts all centering around the concept of identity.  One of the most compelling take-aways for me, was the exercise on identity using a simple crayon.

We were reminded of the integrity of crayons, and how they color the same, whether whole or broken, new, used, or drawn to a nub.  This thought is sticking with me.  The question that lingers, however, as I consider these troubling times is, “are we coloring the same?”

With the way our lives are looking, one has to wonder.  With the way our relationships are formed, one has to wonder.  With the way our country is looking, one has to wonder.  And specifically, as many of us consider America a Christian nation, one must wonder.  Why am I having the same conversations with my children that my parents had with me, and that their parents had with them.  Our history and our present are marked by, haunted by, injustice.  In the “land of the free,” where justice is supposed to be a birthright and protest is recognized as the mandate of those who resist tyranny – these are often dismissed and denied to those who are not white and male.  How does this happen in a place where our pledge is, “liberty and justice for all”?  It seems that there are some particularly colored caveats.

For the Christian, and for those given to lead Christian communities, this should not be the case. Our lack of integrity, our “head-in-the-sand,” and our insecure identities belie our noblest confessions. We have missed the lesson about the crayon, and we are NOT coloring the same. We have caved to a culture of compartmentalization.  While our compartments promise control and order, the truth is that these compartments are more like cages.

We are crushed as we aim to conceal our contradictions.  We are quietly frustrated by facades that we assume, and the expectations that are imposed upon us.  And then finally… we compromise.  We go along to get along.  We become the worst type of pragmatists.  We maintain an appearance of comfort and control and may enjoy a bit of the deference that our titles ensure us, but our souls are bound.  We are not free.

Like idealistic politicians gone to Washington to do some good, after years of compromise and silence, we are awakened from our dream to a frightening reality.  We have become what we once sought to overturn.  Hiding from others, hiding from ourselves, and hiding from the blessed burden – the once burning desire of our calling.   We are bereft of the courage and the fortitude that our costly (free but not cheap) grace demands.

We have learned to live behind masks made for us by others.  We perform our godliness for a price.  We are unsettled by anyone audacious enough to challenge our charade.  We loathe them while we also secretly admire them. We are pious frauds. We preach, but we are not free.

We are not free because we are inauthentic.  We are inauthentic because of our insecure identities.  We have not loved ourselves well, because we’ve not received or somehow found divine love incredulous, and we cannot love others well.

Hence, we lack the conviction that demands truth-telling, we lack compassion that demands generosity, and we lack the character that demands justice work.  Again, and perhaps worst of all, we have compartmentalized the golden rule.  This bondage will not allow us to liberate others – that is to do the very thing we were created and called to be and do!

In as much as we have in some way or another, responded to the gracious calling of GOD, accepted the mantle of these callings, and willfully received the charge to preach the Gospel – please understand that we have accepted the call to integrity – authentic identity –  the freedom to be as we were created to be – the call to color the same – whether broken or whole, brand new or drawn to a nub – this is GOD’s grace toward us.  And this lesson is written in crayon.

I hope this doesn’t offend you, but if it does, don’t take yourself too seriously.

GOD has made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women.  It’s quite simple: Do what is just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take GOD seriously.

Look to GOD and remember the crayon – color the same.  With your whole heart and your authentic self, enter fully into every place that GOD grants you access.  Speak truthfully, be compassionate, be just – whatever your age, stage, or station – be authentic! This is who you are… this is who we are!

Do this, and we will not simply be advocates or allies, but we will actualize justice – we will embody justice.

In our freedom, without pretense or performative acts, we will free others.  We will embody justice.

In our freedom, that is in our being, we will free others.   It ain’t that hard… It’s written in crayon…

Let’s color… the same.

It’s quite simple: Do what is just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take GOD seriously.

As an additional resource, be sure to check out our recent podcast episode, “Embodying Justice: A Wholehearted Leadership Round Table Conversation,” here.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact Adam Mixon, Content Curator, at amixon@mministry.org. Our staff is always available to you as you pursue the joys and challenges of leadership.

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