In one of my favorite movies the main character has the following line:
We’re the middle children of history…. no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives.
While this is super-cynical I think there is some truth to this. Our consumerist attitudes are a symptom of a life that has nothing greater than ourselves to think about. Hence, in some ways, our lives are our great depression.
But our lives are far from our spiritual war. If my readers share my belief in the Christian faith they will likewise believe that there is actually a war that is spiritual. A war against addiction, poverty, disease, and injustice.
Sometimes when God really put justice issues on my heart I would get super-discouraged. The statics seem so overwhelming. The American government or the American church alone could end world poverty if we so chose. 1 woman is raped every 3 minutes. And so on…
But I was given hope by the story of the boy and the starfish. There was a beach covered in washed-up starfish. In the middle of this beach was a boy standing there, picking up one at a time and throwing it back. An adult walked up and said to the boy “You won’t make a difference doing that, why bother?” He replied “It makes a difference to this one” as he threw it back. Picked up another and said “and this one.”
I might suggest that the bible is saying that this is simultaneously the way to engage in the spiritual war around us and to combat the our great depression.
After some time I started to feel a different sense of being overwhelmed. It was the sense that the real injustice was elsewhere, like anything we did here wouldn’t be worth it, because America is already prosperous enough to have homeless people who value more wealth than entire countries.
I thought I had to go to Africa to make a difference. My great war existed, but I was impotent to do anything. Regular news and documentaries make sure that I have a window right into the terribleness of it. As if I’m watching a loved one die behind two-way glass, helpless to do anything.
But I didn’t give up. I knew that if Jesus said the ‘least of these’ I would find those there were near me to help at least. It might not be severe poverty, but injustice still exists in the US. I pushed through though it made me restless.
But then I found out about the modern slave trade. If you haven’t heard about it, check out International Justice Mission, Love146, and Justice North.
I realized that the great war wasn’t behind glass, or an ocean away. They had brought it to our back door. We have brought it to our back door because of our great depression. Our consumerism, our life of ease has created excess. Excess has created addiction, and addiction has created a market for any thing that can be sold to feed excess. It is a cycle.
And I’ve seen that cycle end, I’ve seen the waves stop washing us up after being thrown back. Addictions broken, consumerism ended, justice and forgiveness has come to the disenfranchised. I’ve seen it, in individuals, one person at a time.
And because of that I have faith to fight. Faith to stand up do everything I can to help one person. Because when we start working with God, one person at a time, we can make that difference.
Just like a butterflies wings starting a hurricane, God uses one old woman praying in a church to start a movement. That is how he rolls.
Have faith, don’t drown in the impossibility and crushing weight of all this. Just go to your back yard, pick up a starfish and throw it back.