I sat down to write hours ago. My fingers brushed against the keys, pressing a few to form feeble words and broken sentences.
Outside my bay windows, a storm is charging through Chicago. The wind tears through the trees and litters our cars with leaves and little branches. Sheets of rain pound against the sidewalks and a river flows from the alley.
And then just as quickly as it started, it stops.
The street returns to normal—quiet, peaceful—as if nothing happened.
I haven’t known how to put all of my thoughts into words, so instead I’ve stared out the window, listening to the distant echoes of thunder. Here—safe in my home—I check the weather on my app.
Severe thunderstorm warning.
But it’s ok. I’m inside. I’m safe, and the storm will pass.
I haven’t known what to say because everything in our world feels challenging and because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. So I stare out the window, watching the storm pass by—knowing that it will end, and I will probably be unaffected.
This is what I am fighting these days—the temptation to say nothing because everything feels complicated. It’s the temptation to watch the storm pass from the safety of my apartment while I watch a few people dart from their cars to their home down the street. It’s the temptation to choose to be unaffected.
Our world spins in chaos and fear.
The weight of it all feels like a brick building sitting on my chest, and the temptation creeps back in.
Sit still. Stay silent. Stay where you are. This storm will pass, and if you stay inside, you won’t get wet. Wait it out.
There’s this beautiful passage in Isaiah 58. It shows me another way.
It’s the mark of true worship. It’s the difference between giving into the temptation to stay still, stay silent, stay unaffected and charging into battle. And it wrecks me every time.
“Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. Isaiah 58:1-9
I don’t have quick fixes for the pain our world grapples with, nor does our world want quick fixes. We long for change—for someone to say, “Here is a better way.” As a follower of Jesus, what wrecks me most from Isaiah 58 is that word—worship.
This fight for justice is an act of worship. Freeing the oppressed, giving shelter to the homeless, sharing food with the hungry, removing the chains that bind people, giving clothes to those who need them, loving even the most challenging people around us—these are acts of worship. This is the kind of fasting—worship—the Father desires.
And the temptation to sit this one out, to let someone else go to battle again—to watch the storm from the comfort of our homes while the world groans—is a sin. To give into this temptation is to miss the mark.
Fighting for justice, for the oppressed, for the homeless and the hungry isn’t always simple. The answers aren’t always clear. Sometimes we’re so scared to say or do the wrong thing that we do nothing at all.
And we watch the storm from our safe place while our neighbor tries to outrun lightening.
These days I’m using a phrase I learned a long time ago. It’s been a battle cry in many seasons, and it’s true of this one too.
Start where you are.
Start right where you are, and just take one step. Widen your circle. Learn from others. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Give to others.
Get a little wet and a little dirty. Join your neighbor in the storm or invite them inside.
Our broken and bruised world is so angry and so scared, and the Father looks at us with holy anger and love and mercy in His eyes. “This is the worship I desire,” He says. “Set each other free. Give to each other. The world will know you are my followers because of your love.”
So friend, will you join me in starting right where you are? Start here and take a step, because our world could use more of the Father’s love at work in our broken and bruised selves.