Wednesday, December 28, 2011

justice and righteousness

Justice and righteousness are two words that burn in me. I want to live a life of righteousness, a life marked by integrity; and I want to live a life that brings justice where it is being denied. I believe that's God's heart for all of us, but what does that mean and what does that look like?

What do you do when you see injustice? When you're faced with it every day and yet you feel like your hands are tied behind your back.

Shortly after I first moved here twin boys came to one of the orphanages we worked with. They were about 11 months old when they got there. Their mom dropped them off because their dad was no longer around and she couldn't care for them. She came from another province because she heard how good this orphanage was, so even there you know she loved these boys and I'd say wanted the best for them, which she believed she couldn't give them.

The older twin's name meant treasure. The younger one's name meant abundant and when I learned the meaning of their names I was again amazed at the beauty of their mom's love for them and left to wonder at how broken it must have made her to leave her boys at an orphanage for someone else to raise.

After about 4 months in the orphanage one of the twins was adopted by a family in Italy. We knew it was coming, but we weren't there the day they actually came and took him away. His brother wasn't there either. The workers took him to a different house in the orphanage, so he wouldn't be seen; so they didn't have to explain why they were separating brothers, twins, who had already suffered more loss in their lives than any child should have to face.

And so one twin was left with a broken heart and for six months he waited for a family to come take him home. But there was a piece of him that was already gone.

The day came when another Italian family came and took him away and I missed that day too, but I prayed, as I had ever since the first twin left, that somehow they would find each other. At least they were both in Italy now – and they were pretty stinking identical.

A year after the second twin was adopted one of the workers at the orphanage said some visitors were asking for my email address. Shortly after that I received an email from the second adoptive family wanted to know if I had any information about his health or his family. I got to tell them that he has a twin brother who lives somewhere else in Italy. And that both boys had a mother who loved them and gave them names full of beautiful meaning. She loved them so much she came back last year to see how they were doing and if they had been adopted or not yet. They were both already gone.

Several years have passed and they still haven't found each other, but at least the ignorance is broken. And when I look at the faithfulness of God in this story so far and in countless other stories I can't help but hope and believe that someday I will get a picture, not just of the one boy growing up, but of him standing next to his brother again.

In Jeremiah 22:3 God says, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”

So what do you do when you're face to face with injustice. What do you do when it's staring right back at you through the eyes of a baby girl who's asking how come you get to live your life and I'm living mine? I don't entirely know the answer, but I know that you have to do something. Living a life of justice is about doing something, doing anything except apathetically doing nothing. And everyone can doing something.

verse 16 says “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? Declares the Lord.”

Sometimes I grow discouraged even though we're commanded not to. It comes when I think about my life and think about how normal it feels and I forget that what we're doing here is far from normal. It comes with knowing there will always be people all around me in great need. And that it's not the times when those epic monumental stories happen that make your life, but it's what you do each day that builds your character and defines who you are.

There was a little girl in my old neighborhood who was being raised by some friends, she has been for most of her life, because her mom is a prostitute. A couple years ago her mom came to visit one day. The next day she came back and took the little girl with her without packing anything, without talking to anyone or telling anyone anything. All we knew was that her mom had just remarried. They tried to go find the little girl, they went to the mom's house and to all other the other places they could think of. They talked to different people who said they thought they had gone to this place or that place. Time kept drawing out longer and longer and with it the likelihood of finding the girl again decreased. Seriously, they were going on ridiculous little roads to places way out in the middle of nowhere – which really does exist here – and they were taking boats up the river to whole communities that are just floating around. Then one day they found her. In a boat with her mom and some other relatives. They brought her home. Her mom had told her the family she was living with didn't want her anymore and that they'd packed up and left her. See, finding a girl after she's been missing for a few weeks, doesn't just happen. The people who were looking for her weren't stopping and they didn't know what to do, but they knew God was faithful and he knew where she was. He'd never left her side as she sat in the boat. Broken. Waiting. Wondering.

A couple years ago I was going down to the slum a few times a week. One of the teenage guys there was interested in studying English at the Youth Center, but he didn't know the alphabet yet, so I said I could help him learn the letters so he would do better in the beginning level one class the following quarter. One afternoon as I was walking to his house I saw a mom bathing her very little baby girl. I asked her how old she was – just six days – and she was so cute! Somehow I had missed the fact her mom was even pregnant, although to my credit I hadn't really talked to her before that. And so as I said hello to this little one I saw a can of sweet milk sitting there behind them with a spoon in it and I knew that for some dumb reason that's what she was being fed. I asked why she wasn't nursing her and she said she couldn't. She didn't have enough milk. All the excuses you hear so often. And she didn't have money to buy real formula, but this milk is fine. And I was so mad at her for hurting her baby like that.

I went off to teach English and tried to find out if a friend of mine had any formula she could give the baby, cause I was low on money myself.

The hour helping him learn English passed and I went home. Started reading a book about celebrating children and how they have rights and God got me. And so I knew that I did not need to save for tomorrow what was needed today and God would provide for that need some other way on a different day and my Thai baht for getting to the airport in December got turned into a small jar of formula for one sweet baby – and I was humbled by hearing more of their story when I showed up again. Sitting on the steps of her neighbor's house Chandy's mom told me she can't nurse. She has AIDS and she doesn't want to give that to her baby. And she looked at the formula and said, but this is the best. And all I could say was that this is what your baby needs.

And so every week I would go visit this little baby girl and watch her growing so big and strong and healthy. Later one of the other girls on staff was hanging out down there and told me she talked with Chuon and she told her that she doesn't have to think about giving her baby away anymore because she knows she'll always be able to feed her.

Who am I? And why did I fight it? And what right had I to judge her so quickly when I really had no idea? And how will justice ever come if we don't step out and do something? Just something. Because they will always be there asking us for something. The answer is not always yes, but the answer is always Jesus because sometimes an affirmative answer would do more harm than good. What you need to know is where your heart is in all of this. Why is it yes or no? Giving or not giving? Find God's heart. Then, love and serve from there, answer from that place within the heart of God and you'll walk in justice and righteousness.

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