Often when I’m traveling, I forget after a few days that where I am and what I’m doing is not my normal life. I had that sensation several times this week. While I knew that where I was and what I was experiencing – meandering the streets of Midtown Manhattan, going through security at United Nations Headquarters, staying up late talking and reflecting with a group of strong, inspiring people of faith – would come to an end and I would soon be back in Chicago, I did not put much energy into thinking about what going home would feel like, whether returning to business as usual would change or remain the same.
Now that I am home and starting to rest-up from the whirlwind of a week at the 59th Commission on the Status of Women, there are several ways in which I think about returning to business as usual Monday morning. Namely, that I won’t.
A bible verse which I’ve held close for many years, and which was prominent in our reflections as a cohort during the CSW week is Micah 6:8 –
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
I like this verse because it so simply crystallizes the Christian vocation. As we live among God’s children we are called to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly. No matter what career or jobs we hold throughout our lives, our Christian vocation can be lived out by bringing the spirit and mandate of these verses into our daily interactions and decisions.
This year, I am a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, placed with ELCA World Hunger. In addition to serving full time with the ELCA World Hunger team, I also live in intentional community with four other volunteers and participate in LVC programming such as community and spirituality nights, and retreats. At our January retreat in Milwaukee, Pastor Steve Jerbi of All Peoples Church closed our day together with a brief bible study on this verse. Pastor Steve took us back a bit in Micah chapter six in order to impress upon us the context of this verse, something I’d never really considered. This verse is not simply expressing how we are to be in the world, but it is giving us a new way to be in the world; burnt offerings and sacrifices will no longer do – God wants no more business as usual.
On Thursday, during our side event hosted by the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches, Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee surprised us by dropping in and saying a few words. One of the observations she made about how the faith community’s engagement with justice work really stuck with me. She said that when it comes to working for justice the church cannot be shy because Jesus was never shy; Jesus was a radical. If we are to live Christ-like, justice-seeking lives, we must constantly reject business as usual.
How will I be radical now that I am back to my normal life? I’m still working that part out. However, one of the ways I found myself most frequently interacting with the wealth of information and knowledge washing over me during the CSW was by questioning what I was hearing, observing, and thinking. And so I will continue to question – both how I will be radical, but also question as a way of being radical. I believe that questioning is part of faith. As a person of faith, I question what I’ve been taught in order to further discern how God shows up in my life and what role I am called to in the world. While I’m still working on discerning my overall calling as well as my place in the work toward gender justice, I know that one role I will strive to continue is questioning stereotypes and biases I’ve inherited. Because business as usual didn’t cut it for Jesus, and it won’t cut it for me anymore either.
– Gina Tonn