My thanks to the Dutch for this weird phrase, that literally means “to burst into a sudden rage.” The world makes me crazy sometimes, like when I’m raging against it and then suddenly gratitude finds its way in, and the two feelings feel so weird together - so paradoxical. But if we’re paying attention to realities near and far from home, we might notice that we get a lot of exposure to this strange feeling combo. It’s uncomfortable, but I think it’s uncomfortable on purpose, in order to get us to take meaningful action.
So what’s the point of noticing when gratitude and outrage come as a package deal? I think it’s so we can take a fresh look at the fallen world around us, because we have the eyes, hands, and heart to observe and grieve the gap between what is and what should be. We grieve because we don’t have the power to fix the world.
So I’m gonna scream my dickens. (This is how I used to announce my impending temper tantrums to my family when I was a little girl.) Let’s see, I could scream about terrorists, or refugees, or nuclear armament, but it’s doubtful that even raising our collective moral hackles will result in finding a peaceful and just solution to these situations.
Enter strange feelings number three and four - helplessness and/or hopelessness. We usually have only a fleeting glimpse of these in our neat and orderly lives, because we have things like status, and retirement, and insurance, and routine, and a justice system, and emergency services, and education, and employment, and credit cards and on and on. The people we serve in Honduras and Haiti usually have NONE of these things.
We are unaccustomed to feelings of vulnerability, unlike many people in other parts of the world. While we are well insulated from helplessness and hopelessness, our neighbors suffer from overexposure to these elements practically every single minute of every waking hour of their lives.
Awareness can be a disturbing thing, especially when it highlights contrasts that signify unacceptable differences in quality of life among human beings. What do we do with it? — Lots of us bury the awareness. “Out of sight, out of mind” is so true. Or deny it, or better yet, blame people. If people deserve what they are getting, there is no injustice between these contrasting realities. Or you can internalize it and become depressed and disillusioned because you can’t fix the world.
We shouldn’t delude ourselves that we can take down entire broken systems. End poverty, hmm, probably not — there are those who make these claims, but, I don’t really think that can be done. But it’s not about what we can’t do. (What we can’t do is always irrelevant.) It’s about what we can do; and there is opportunity for meaningful contribution.
So this is my thought. We aren’t asked to save the world or solve the problem of evil. We are asked by God to respond when we have both the opportunity and ability to make a meaningful impact. What is the best “good” that we can do? This is what I like about economic development. Let’s equip people with skills and opportunities for gainful employment, in the name of Jesus, so that they have financial security to provide for their family’s needs as well as contribute to their church, for its further development. This is a real outcome. We focus on economic development because it is the best “good” that we can do, in the name of Jesus.
So be outraged. Be grateful. Be intentional. Act. Near home. And Far.