This morning I visited a new church in my search for a new community, a new place to call home. It was what you might call a coffee church, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the people I met. Even better, the pastor spoke on something I've been thinking about a lot lately: the fact that if we truly believe what we claim to believe, we must step out into the communities around us and make an impact. If we're not making an impact on the people and places around us, we're simply not living the way we're meant to live.
Unfortunately, figuring out exactly what this means is far more difficult than I ever used to imagine, at least at first glance. If it is our purpose to give, to serve and to love those around us, how do we discern and respond to that calling? No two people are called in precisely the same way, just as no two parents will ever agree on whose child is more special. To think and to act otherwise is simply an exercise in beating your head against a wall.
Yet something still brings us together, drawing us close despite our differences. We find commonality in our heartbreak for the underprivileged, our distaste for the status quo, our hope that things can get better. We may not have the answers, but the passion and desire for change is palpable.
And that is a great thing. Yes, passion and desire are prerequisites to achieving anything substantial, and shouldn't be overlooked or discounted one bit. I certainly don't mean to do so. But I fear that all too often we fall into the trap of believing that passion and desire are the ends, not the means. Across the board I hear organizations and individuals trumpeting awareness, as though awareness will make a difference. Even this morning in my conversation with the pastor, he said something to the effect of "at least they are raising awareness".
This isn't to say that there's anything wrong with awareness. Again, awareness is a prerequisite to taking action. I don't want to belittle it's importance. But awareness is just the first step, and I fear that we rarely treat it that way. I mean, think about it. How many times have you been made aware of some new issue facing the world? Global warming, the plight of farmers in South America, homelessness, whatever. The number is off the charts for each of us. But how often to do actually act on that awareness? Probably not that often, if ever. And that, I fear, is the issue. We hear about sex trafficking and child slavery and genocide, problems that are so big and so far away, and slowly we become desensitized. Slowly we begin to believe that these problems are bigger than us, and slowly we begin to accept that to do our part is to become aware.
Don't get me wrong, I fall into this trap myself all the time. I don't claim to be innocent, not at all. But in a perfect example of irony, the only way to avoid this trap is to become aware of it.
Making awareness our primary objective betrays everything consequences be damned stands for. If we hope for things to get better, we must act in the name of truth. Awareness alone changes nothing. The moment we become satisfied with learning and not doing is the moment we lose our chance to make an impact. Awareness is only half the battle, and Lord knows you can't win a battle without fighting the whole thing. The sad truth about passion and desire is that they are both worthless and meaningless without action, without stepping forward and taking hold of the world. Only when we act on awareness are we fulfilling our calling. Only then are we fulfilling our purpose. Only then are we living out what we claim to believe.
To me, hope is an action, not just an idea. Not just a word. Hope is more than awareness, more than something that exists in our minds. It must be something we do. Otherwise it counts for nothing.
And so on...