The older I get, the more I respect that Jesus was a carpenter.
I don’t know anything about carpentry, but I do know that it requires a large amount of patience to craft something from what was once a tree in the forest.
One day toward the beginning of Lent, I stood in my kitchen making homemade tortillas for our family of four, and I realized that this Lent, in this time of our nation’s discord and injustice, what I need is to work with my hands.
I need patience and diligence.
If you search, it won’t take long to find an article connecting the work of the hands with happiness and rest, a break from our fast-paced and information-heavy society. When we stop to relieve our tired eyes and brains, we find a new kind of mind and heart space while we use our hands to tend to something or to create.
Our current administration requires something of all of us, as the bedrock of this nation is the voice of the people — democracy.
So if we are actually called to be activists because we are a part of this country, to be the checks and balances to our people of power, how do we do it?
We do it with the work of our hands, just as Jesus did it with the work of his hands.
I resisted while I made those tortillas, while I listened to the song “Hard Times Come Again No More,” written by Stephen Foster in the mid-1800s about the plight of the poor in America. While I listened I thought about our poor, our immigrants, our minorities, and as the rolling pin crossed back and forth across the tortilla, I thought of my native brothers and sisters, too. And I prayed to know more and to care more, to fight for the poor, the broken, the discriminated against, the immigrants and the refugees who are being pushed out.
We have a garden in our yard, and when we plant our seeds in a few weeks, we’re practicing resistance.
We’re telling ourselves, our neighbors, and this country that we care about the everyday lives of the people, that we’re willing to work to protect them. We’re willing to care for the environment when we recycle and dig in the dirt and support our national parks, we’re willing to protest in the streets when we see injustice, and we’re willing to pray in our homes that the resistance-heart and hard-working hands of Jesus bleeds into who we are in every moment of our lives.
I’m sending a hand-written letter every week to President Donald Trump, and it’s been one of the most empowering and challenging things I’ve ever done. To write these letters is to send my story, my voice, straight to the White House, and the president doesn’t have the ability to say, “I never knew your story.” I’ve told him who we are, where we come from, and why it matters that we have oil-free water running in our rivers and why it’s important to have our immigrant friends at our Thanksgiving table. I’ve told him that I believe in the Jesus who meets the downcast at their doors and cares for their needs when the powers meant to protect them don’t.
I’ve told President Trump that I am praying for him to remember that every voice matters.
And with each stroke of the pen, with the work of my hands, I am acting. I am resisting. I am answering a call.
I teach my boys about immigration, and as we learn more about our native Potawatomi culture, we resist the foundations of racism that our country was built on.
When we visit our local international market, we look the people working there in the eye, recognizing that some of them may not be able to return home. We look them in the eye and learn their stories so that they know that they are not alone.
This Lenten season may not just be about taking a break from social media or making sure our news sources are factual and accurate. It may not be about fasting from chocolate or alcohol.
Maybe this Lent is a call for us to resist in a quiet, hard-working way.
Maybe this Lent is a call back to activism in the everyday work of our lives, whether we’re carpenters or gardeners or something completely different.
Maybe this Lent, we remember that Jesus asks us to lean in with patience and diligence to the work set before us — the work of fighting injustice and praying for the oppressed in our midst.
And while we do the work of our hands, we pray and we sing:
“Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.”
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