These last few weeks have been challenging for our country. Regardless of where you stand on the truck protests that took place in Ottawa, most of us find the images of riot police and horses breaking up crowds this past weekend jarring. Beyond the images, the lack of leadership on display in the nation’s capital has only exacerbated the problems.
I have never witnessed anything like what we are currently experiencing in my lifetime. It has been quite unsettling for me and while I have tried to not allow the goings on in our capital and other cities around the country consume my day, it is hard not to let it in on some level.
While providing further detailed opinion on what has transpired might be somewhat cathartic for me, my blog is aimed at navigating life on a heart level. This weekend’s events have impacted me, but so have many other things in my life. For all of us who have endured or are enduring heavy moments, the question has never been about what happens to us. The real question is: What are we going to do about it?
When something affects me on an emotional level, my reaction typically falls somewhere on the spectrum between apathy and anger.
Apathy might be the worst response. It is the ‘meh’ reaction. If something does not affect me, I am just going to ignore it. This past Saturday, I was cleaning up and stepped outside to take out the garbage. I became aware of how quiet and peaceful it was, and standing there, I thought about the juxtaposition between what I was seeing and what I had just read about Ottawa in the news only a few minutes earlier. It was easy to think, “this does not affect me”. Maybe not. Not this time or in this place. But, when we see something evocative and inherently important and decide not to engage in it, we cede a piece of our heart. Apathy breeds apathy and actively discourages engagement, even when we know it is the right thing to do.
Anger, on the other hand, can get the best of me when I allow it to spin up uncontrollably. It is at the opposite end of the spectrum from apathy in the sense that anger can cause me to become so emotionally engaged that I start ignoring other important things. We live in a time when anger is capitalized on. If I read a news article that evokes anger, the likelihood of me clicking on the next article on the same subject is high. Getting stuck in the algorithm is a real thing and can contribute to us getting worked up if we are unaware of it.
Recognizing these patterns in my own life has helped me learn ways of better dealing with tough moments. As I look at the suboptimal ways of handling heaviness, I take hope in Scripture, as it provides many examples of how shifting my perspective can result in a far different outcome.
While apathy might lead to passivity and disengagement, I know that I am not called into every battle. More than at any point in human history, today we can access the stories of all the pain and suffering happening around the world at any moment. The device that brings us this information resides in our pocket. The weight of all this information would crush us if we let it. Which is why we can’t. Human hearts were not designed to bear the weight of the world. We have to be ok not knowing much of what is happening in the world while carrying the few things that do truly impact us in a bearable way.
The practice of detachment is the ability to let go of all the things that we carry and trust them to God. This means everything. This does not mean that we stop caring for or engaging with people and important things. It means we engage at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.
I care deeply about my country, but there is little I can do at any given moment of the day to impact what is happening in Ottawa. If I am reading about it, or writing a letter, then I should be engaged, but the rest of the time, I need to be present to those around me and trust the rest of my concerns to God.
There is a story from the Gospel of Luke when an angry crowd drove Jesus to the top of a hill with the intention of throw Him off a cliff. Yet at the top of the hill, “He passed through the midst of them and went away” (Lk 4:30). There are an infinite number of ways that Jesus could have handled that situation, yet at its climax, He simply removes Himself and walks away. This is a call to us in some circumstances. Let it go and walk away.
Similarly, anger, when used under control, can be a very powerful tool. Anger often results from witnessing injustice or disparities that are disruptive to us. Righteous anger can drive us to address things in our lives that are not as they should be.
Jesus got angry. Witnessing the temple having been made into a marketplace, He makes a whip and chases out the moneychangers and animals – He flips over tables (Jn 2:15). Jesus saw the situation and acted in response to it. He did not lose control or act out emotionally. He took the anger that he justly felt and dealt with the issues accordingly.
My challenge is walking the line of righteous anger. At times, I can let my emotions get the best of me and it spills over into other areas of my life. I can react disproportionately to a situation. On the other hand, when I witness something that I know demands a response, but do not, it creates a fracture between my actions and what I know to be true. Over time, this degrades integrity. Anger can be a powerful tool, but it is one that needs to be harnessed and utilized well.
The Weight of a Moment
When society lacks stability and competent leadership, I tend to project out. I think about the world my kids will one day inherit and feel uncertain about where we will find ourselves in a generation from now.
It would be easy shrug it off and just carry on with my day, but our hearts were designed to engage. Life has its battles, and we cannot sit out and wait for the results. That said, once we have chosen our battles, we need to know when to engage and when to detach. Operating in sonship, I can trust that when I am not engaged, I have a Father who will look after things.
We also need to listen to the parts of us that cry out at injustice and be prepared to respond. Righteous anger is a powerful fuel, but I need to constantly check myself to ensure that it is under control and that pride is not getting in the way.
Difficult moments will come and pass, both on a personal and national level and everywhere in between. As we pass through them, understanding our reactions and comparing them to the examples of Christ will help us identify the gaps. Closing these gaps will help us to carry the weight of our moment.
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