As North Korea continues building and testing its nuclear arsenal, as Dreamers are threatened by the rescinding of DACA, as white supremacists march in our public spaces, and as relief efforts continue for those impacted by Harvey and Irma, it’s hard to hold on to hope as the International Day of Peace approaches on September 21st.
We all know brave women and men who have been working toward peace and justice for decades, many of whom are members of our congregation. Yet, it often appears that decisions continue to be made and actions continue to be taken that send us backward on our march toward justice and peace.
As we come together in community and prayer on the International Day of Peace, may we all reflect on the reasons we continue in our work to be peace, build peace, and preach peace. In her book Perseverance, Margaret Wheatley articulates well the frustration, the hope, and the reason we continue working toward peace, each and every day.
It’s normal to reach the point where we start questioning our motivation: “Why do I work so hard?” “Why am I dedicating so much time to this?” “Why do I stay in this work?”
And if we don’t ask these questions, our friends and loved ones surely will. Usually, if they’re confronting us with these, they already have the answers in mind: Stop working so hard; get a life; notice that other people aren’t nearly as dedicated as you.
Asking “Why stay?” can be an invitation to reassess not our work load, but our original commitment that brought us into this work. Especially when we’re overloaded, burned-out and exhausted, it’s extremely helpful to pause occasionally and reflect on the sense of purpose and potential contribution that lured us into working for this cause. Doing this with colleagues who also are working much too hard is a well-tested means for deepening our relationships and strengthening our resolve to keep going.
But there’s also a significant element of irrationality in why we keep going, even in the midst of defeat and exhaustion. The question “why?” doesn’t lead us to any personal clarity or reassessment, because there really isn’t an answer.
We’re doing the work because we’re doing the work.
If we try and develop an explanation beyond this simple statement of fact, we get into murky waters. Yet even though it’s the truth, it’s a statement destined to promote either anger or confusion in our loved one.
It’s an insufficient answer, and sometimes it’s the only one available.
-Margaret Wheatley, Perseverance 2010