Meet Jake. He’s 18 years old and is at a Christian festival for the first time. He really loves the worship and teaching, it’s been amazing to spend time with so many other Christians his age.
The stories he’s heard from organisations working with people living in poverty have really inspired him. He goes home feeling empowered to change the world and starts telling his friends about the stuff he’s learnt. He asks them to sign a petition which he’ll send to his MP in a couple of months.
It’s six months later and Jake is feeling a little deflated. He can’t remember half the teaching from the summer and is struggling with being the only Christian he knows at university. He’s overwhelmed with his studies and feels he doesn’t have time or energy for anything else. Finding the perfect church was fruitless so he only goes every now and again. The petition got chucked out the window months ago; he didn’t think enough people had signed it anyway.
We all have intense, fired up moments in our relationship with God that seem to fizzle out as time wears on. In the moments of bold and reckless faith we get our teeth stuck in at every opportunity; we help at the church bake sale, plop our loose change in the charity box, and get involved in the fundraiser for an orphanage in Africa. Our feelings of intense commitment and passion in our relationship with God overflow into action.
What happens when we don’t feel the passion and excitement any more? Those good things that we were doing tend to stop. We just don’t feel motivated to do them any more. The small lifestyle changes – buying the fairtrade coffee, signing the petition, wasting less – are easily forgotten. The equation often ends up looking like this: no feeling = no action.
The reality is that sometimes we need to do things because they need to be done. The gravity of a situation moves us beyond whether we’re spiritually tired, financially drained or low on confidence and just screams ‘it’s not okay that the world is like this!’ And we must respond. Action can’t wait on the feeling any longer. The world is moving too fast, the stab of injustice comes all too regularly, and we cannot be found still rooted to the spot, waiting for ‘the feeling’ to come. We act, because the situation requires action.
But it is helpful and human to have something to motivate and inspire us. Moments where we take something very ordinary and turn it upside-down, that can cultivate within us a deep sense of empathy which helps drive us to action. Washing an item of clothing by hand, eating only rice and beans for a week, sleeping on the floor for a night. By moving ourselves to stand in solidarity with others, we plant a seed of ‘feeling’ that has a depth beyond any hyper-injection of passion, because it is built on a foundation of intentional choices. More than knowing the facts about poverty in our heads, we feel the sting of poverty in our bodies. We are physically moved by the reality of thirst and hunger; we feel empathy. And this drives us to action again. When we get stuck in this cycle we don’t just want to change the world, we become the kind of people who will change the world.