I have a tiny 3"x5" framed print of yellow and red roses on my bedside table. I keep it there because it's from someone special. And special people are so because of the way that they contribute to your life, even after they are gone.
Like my great-grandmother. She was an artist. She wrote songs, played piano, and painted - landscapes, portraits, stills, whatever. I remember when I found what I thought was a "secret room" while exploring her house; it wasn't really, but it was usually off-limits to the grandkids - her converted studio, formerly the sunroom.
Her first name was Eloise. Every year until I was 12, we went to her house at Christmas. She sat in her favorite chair - a rocker, it seemed she was always the focal point of the room, for me, at least - and to her left was a small wooden plaque with a verse whittled into it: What does the Lord require of thee, but to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God. Micah 6:8
That verse is synonymous, in my mind, with Eloise, her house, the almond-cherry scent of her bathroom, and the framed print of roses I opened more than 25 years ago on a cold Christmas day.
Like the plaque, seek, love, walk, was etched on my heart and in my mind so much that in high school I wrote my valedictorian speech around that verse. So it's my great-grandmother that gets credit for the iron-rod of justice that I wield on a daily basis.
The problem with an iron-rod of justice is that you can beat the crap out of people with it. I don't think that is what God intends. I have noticed that I wholeheartedly seek justice for myself and also that I feel wretched when I feel that I have been treated unfairly and can't get justice.
I think God might have told us to seek justice, because we don't just naturally go around seeking justice for others. This is not about seeking revenge or inflicting punishment on a wrongdoer, but about protecting people from situations and attitudes that generate and perpetuate injustice - things like discrimination, hatred, poverty, corruption, violence, and powerlessness. Seeking justice for others means lifelong battles against ugly realities wherever they exist.
Mmm, now what about love mercy. Same goes. After a quick self-appraisal, I know that I want mercy for my shortcomings, but I also tend to withhold it from others. That's totally dysfunctional - to love mercy selectively! And funny enough, mercy only comes into play in the presence of harm -- an intentional or unintentional mistake, error, crime, sin, whatever you want to call it. We are not only to look to the interests of others to protect them from harm, but also supposed to apply mercy to those who perpetrate harms. Weird, right? Change starts with kindness, apparently. (Didn't our kindergarten teacher try to teach us this, and that man whose name starts with a J? )
And now, Walk humbly with God. Also weird. First off, I know I'm not God. But I can't count the times that I behave as a totally self-reliant free agent and trick myself into a I've-got-total-control attitude. Walk with you, God - no thanks, I'll do my own thing, thank you very much.
That kind of self-deception is harmful - not just spiritually isolating, but in practice it's non-sensical and dangerous. We are not in total control of every situation, and for that matter, I'm almost certain that God is not either, in this realm of the natural fallen world. It was stolen and now belongs to someone else, which is why it's marked for destruction, one day. All really weird stuff.
I don't want or need to figure all that out today. Sorry for the rabbit trails I have introduced. I really just want to acknowledge a wonderful great-grandmother who continues to remind and reform my mind toward justice, mercy, and humility. And so far, this life pursuit has been rewarding, surprising, hard, and totally worth it.
Etch it in your heart and mind - seek, love, walk. I promise it's anything but monotonous. And for any of you that purchased our limited run of Eloise bags, they were named for her. For justice. For mercy. For humility. Seek it, love it, walk it.