It’s easy to be passionate.
It’s easy to be passionate about a cause.
It’s easy to be passionate about a cause when it’s cool to be passionate about a cause.
And then reality hits.
And you’re left wondering what on earth you got yourself into.
And you think maybe this passion for a cause isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
And you think about quitting because it’s hard.
So here’s the truth: short bursts of emotion rarely have long-lasting effect (thank you, Greg Darley) . Think about the motivation you feel at the beginning of a new year to accomplish new goals. Take a look at your life right now: how many of those have you kept? Think about how excited you are to meet new people, until the reality of their messy, complicated lives begins to intertwine with your own and you kind of give up on them. Think about every project you’ve begun with zeal, then tucked away in a closet to gather cobwebs when it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to the first time.
I think we approach causes the same way. We put in a little passion, a little effort, shake it together, and we expect–VOILA– results to pop out immediately.
Why should we think causes are any different from anything else in life?
Things that last are usually long, slow, drawn out, and boring. Yes, that’s what I said. Boring. Let’s review history for a moment:
The Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans took approximately 18 years (1950-1968) and was brought about by the tireless efforts of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, the Freedom Riders, and thousands of unnamed abolitionists.
It’s easy to look back and romanticize something you didn’t live through. It’s easy to think that the people living through these movements knew the outcome and the victory, enabling them to rally and push through to the end. It’s easy to think it wasn’t hard for them.
But while we see the big picture, they were caught in the details of the nitty-gritty, everyday, mundane work of abolition. While we see the success of their labors and the accolades of thousands inspired by them, they saw their countless failures, rejections, and humiliations. While we see a romanticized view of the tasks and roles they played to make a difference, they saw the thankless, hard work that felt at times to be a futile effort.
Maybe this will seem discouraging to some of you, but I find it to be the most frightfully encouraging thing you could tell me! You mean that someone else who was part of such a big movement felt exactly the way I feel? You mean that people who accomplished something grand that people still talk about today felt discouraged and frustrated? They are just like me.
Sometimes God gives us things that seem too big to handle. Things like Abortion. Things like Prostitution. Things like Human Trafficking. Then God takes a common, ordinary person–like you, like me–who sees what others do not see, cares about what others don’t care about. It seems like a huge monster to tackle, and it seems impossible to defeat it. But we do something about it. Why? Because we see that it’s a worthy cause.
At North Star, a conference International Justice Mission (IJM) held for student leaders, Louie Giglio talked about vision. He said that vision is like a seed you plant in the hope to end slavery. Everything that follows after that–the other 99%–is a life of sacrifice.
That’s a harsh reality.
But suddenly the fight stops being about you–about being defined by the thing you’re passionate about–about this innate desire to make your mark in the world– about leaving some grand and glorious legacy. Fighting for a cause isn’t about you. Fighting for a cause isn’t about making yourself look good, because you won’t. You’ll look like a fool to the world.
Fighting for a cause is really about fighting for people. Unborn babies. Women abused and exploited. Children beaten. Men thrown in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. But you plant the vision and you labor out of a love that overcomes fear. A love that conquers the monotony. A love we can only have when we’ve been loved by Jesus.
I can’t remember who said it, but I was once told that God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the called. I’ve been called to be an abolitionist. That’s not something I necessarily chose for myself, but it’s the place where the world’s deep need and my passions collided together. I don’t know what that looks for me in the long haul, but right now I’m called to lead students. To empower and equip them in this long fight for justice. It means a lot of thankless, monotonous tasks. It means stepping out of my comfort zone. It means sacrificing time and energy for people I may never meet on this earth. But I’m all in.
This fight is a hard thing. This fight is a worthy thing. I’ll keep on fighting.
By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. [1 John 3:17618]