Editor’s Note: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or apathetic when faced with the sheer volume of need in our world. Writing a check or volunteering with a local organization are important steps in the walk of justice, but they’re not the only steps. This article is the latest in our “Alternate Routes” series, which explores imaginative ways of cultivating empathy and restoring the cracked pieces of the world.
Very little in our world feels worthy of celebration these days. Syrians are being attacked by both their government and ours. Children of color are threatened with guns when asking for directions when lost. Black men are arrested for simply existing in white spaces. Add to that our boot-strapping culture that tells us people get what they deserve, if they will only work hard enough. (And, clearly some people just don’t.)
Celebration—particularly a commitment to celebrating the small steps taken by those with no bootstraps to pull up in the first place—is a difficult discipline in this cultural moment. Nevertheless, I have committed to living a life both on the margins and of celebration and it is in this present moment I find myself in.
Last summer a friend of mine decided she was going to stop smoking pot. It wasn’t good for her, she concluded, and besides, she wanted to spend her money on better things. She asked my husband and I how we thought she should approach this new goal and we suggested she focus her efforts one day at a time. So she did. One day without smoking, then another, then another strung together, Each week we celebrated her accomplishment with words of affirmation and hugs. After one month of being pot free we surprised our friend with some decadent, pot-free brownies. We sat around our kitchen table, overindulged in chocolate, and as a community of friends committed to celebration, rolled back the power of the enemy in her life. It would behoove Satan for us to believe our worth is tied to our achievements and that those who achieve more are worth more, but that is not the Gospel.
While some may call my friends’ accomplishment minor, I would argue there was and continues to be rejoicing in heaven over her desire and accomplishment to step more fully into who God made her to be.
I want so much more for my friend than pot-free brownies–and I want it now–but my impatient desires are not honoring to her or the slow work the Lord is doing in her life. While I know and am glad our brownie celebration was meaningful for her, it was also meaningful for me. The act of celebration is cathartic for those of us on the front lines of injustice. Celebrating even the seemingly small steps taken by my friends is a sacred act of refueling when I too have grown weary.
The act of celebration is cathartic for those of us on the front lines of injustice. Celebrating even the seemingly small steps taken by my friends is a sacred act of refueling when I too have grown weary.
Each Sunday evening around my table gathers a motley crew of “saints and ain’ts.” (As Jackie Hill Perry likes to say.) There are families and singles, white and black, formerly incarcerated and never-stepped-foot-into-a-detention-facility. There are homeless, formerly homeless, and homeowners. There is also fried chicken, Jamaican beans and rice, a random array of side dishes, and more dessert than I’d like my kids to eat. There are hugs and laughter, stories and smiles, jokes and real talk.
This earthly glimpse of the community of heaven is perhaps the best part of living a life committed to celebration. It is a foretaste of what is to come and what Jesus referred to when he said every tribe, tongue, and nation will have a room in his fathers’ house.
This earthly glimpse of the community of heaven is perhaps the best part of living a life committed to celebration.
When we celebrate together—as a community of image-bearers—we encourage one another toward becoming the people God created us to be. When we remember we were each uniquely crafted in our mother’s wombs and worth delighting in simply because of our maker, we experience a richness in community contrary to the polarization of the world around us. As we roll back the power of the enemy, fuel our weary hearts and taste the kingdom of Heaven on earth, celebration reminds us all that we belong to each other.