I have been working almost non-stop this week, helping to get Occupy DC off the ground. I have carried signs; distributed fliers; marched on Bank of America, ALEC, Citibank and Koch Industries; helped facilitate group decision-making; and trained new facilitators. The Occupy Wall Street movement is growing in dozens of cities across the country (including my hometown of Wichita, Kansas), and there is a great deal of work to be done.
I am working alongside some really amazing people, most of whom I had never met before. These women and men are fed up with the overwhelming influence of the wealthy elite and their corporations, and they are gathering to tell the super-rich 1% that we – the 99% – will not remain silent.
This work is hard! I have been pulling twelve hour shifts out at McPherson Square, and after just a few days I realize that I am already on the edge of burning out. There is so much work to be done and so many people to talk to. I simply cannot be present to everything and everyone all at once and all the time.
I reflect often on the fact that Jesus took regular breaks from the crowds and retreated to pray. He sought wisdom and guidance from his Father. Carving out times of solitude, he took time away from the press of the multitude. Jesus knew very well that the crowds would never be satisfied, no matter how much of himself he gave.
Rather than trying to satisfy the crowds, Jesus focused on giving them just what his Father had sent him to deliver – no more, no less. Jesus did not allow pressure from the masses to derail his teaching, healing or the training of his disciples. Above all, he did not permit the demands of the throng to interfere with his relationship with the Father. Prayer was at the heart of everything Jesus did. The harder things got, the more fervently he prayed.
As Occupy DC continues, I cling to Jesus as my example for how to relate to God and people. Prayer must be the ground and center of everything I do. Without the peace and stability of the Holy Spirit, I cannot withstand the press of the crowd. Without the strength that God provides, the demands of the people will consume me.
I must remember that my job is not to direct this movement. My role is not to make things turn out the way that I would like them to be. Instead, my calling is to embody the love of the Lord Jesus, radiating his joy and peace to everyone I meet. This seems impossible, but as the Lord himself said, “what is impossible for people is possible for God” (Luke 18:27).
This growing movement demonstrates that many of us are rejecting the distorted worldview of consumerism and Mammon. As a disciple of Jesus, I believe that there is a better way of living, one that lays down privilege instead of grasping it; showing willingness to suffer rather than inflict suffering. With God’s help, I pray that my life and example will proclaim this Good News in these days of unsettledness and seeking.
How are we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, leading lives that point to the peace, justice and joy that come from unreserved surrender to God and his love for women and men? How can we stand with the world in its suffering, while calling others to know the Great Physician who can bring true healing? What would it look like for the Church to be fully engaged in the struggle for truth and mercy in our land?