beyond this life

I have hope for justice beyond this life.

There’s a persistent sense of unfulfilled desire that I recognize inside me lately. It’s hard to capture it with words and is easily mistaken for other feelings that come with the unmet expectations I have.

This feeling though is bigger than I am. It’s bigger than life right now, and I’m reminding myself (and maybe others) that something that great can exist.

As I ground myself more in the adult reality, I am finding that life is not meant to revolve solely around me. Life is more than just me and mine: my family, my job, my house, my neighborhood, my comfort, my safety, my etc. To frame my understanding and perspective about life primarily in relation to myself, though very common here in the United States, is quite problematic and selfish.

For example, when folks argue that men should want to be feminists and pursue equity across gender because they should want better for their mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, I shake my head with disapproval. This way of thinking is insufficient for me because it suggests that the value of women lies less in who they are intrinsically as human beings and more in who they are in familial relation to men.

I can’t be here for the social analysis that communicates “I am for you because you are MINE.” That’s not justice; rather, that’s just a benevolent kind of unchecked self-centeredness. I want an analysis that says, “I am for you because YOU ARE.”

Consequently, as I live a life that is not meant to revolve solely around me, I am redefining what it means to “be great” and to live “my very best life.” If you’re around me, you’ve probably heard me say either of these things in passing.

In so many ways, I’ve been told that I am special, that God has great things in store for me, that working hard would get me what I wanted for my life, and the list goes on. Now, either I didn’t work hard enough to obtain the extraordinary life for which I was planning OR I missed something along the way.

Granted, I can accept that there’s still more hard work to be done and that there’s more in store than this less than extraordinary life. I also accept that I must have missed something along the way. I thought I would be living my very best life by now, and so much of my life now as an adult is not the greatness I intended.

I did not plan to be 25 years old, imagining a lifetime of singleness and celibacy.

I did not plan to leave Durham and move to Greensboro indefinitely.

I did not plan to graduate with a master’s degree in counseling AND THEN sell clothes at Banana Republic and teach Spanish to high school students.

These things are not bad things. They just seem FAR more ordinary than I expected. All of this is NOT what I envisioned as the very best life. This leads me to believe that, indeed, I missed something, and that’s there more to be learned here.

More recently, I’ve discerned that I can “bloom where I’m planted” i.e. be who God has made me to be and be part of whatever God is doing right where I am for the benefit of others and for God’s glory.

However, blooming right where I’m planted doesn’t always lead to the extraordinary. Oftentimes, it essentially means being present and faithful here, in this life that I did not plan, even when it’s redundantly and painfully ordinary.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m grateful for the good that’s here. There’s also a surplus of challenges that aren’t letting up any time soon, that are part of greater injustices I observe.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to get consumed in a fantasy of being extraordinary somewhere else and resorting back to selfish ways of framing life around me.

As I resist this tendency and pursue “blooming,” it means learning, growing, and connecting justly one day at a time, moment by moment as necessary.

It means being the friendly neighbor in Greensboro, the helpful sales associate at Banana Republic, and the diligent teacher of Spanish, and it means seeing these ordinary opportunities to do so as valuable less so because I gain something from them and more so because they have value worth recognizing.

Admittedly, I often fall short of practicing all of this despite how ideal and noble it all sounds. I am still tempted to indulge selfishly more than I can ever share via this blog, and I wonder regularly what else or more I should be doing because I cannot understate how challenging it is to bloom where I am planted.

Here, not only are there limits on water and sunlight for me some days, but even on my best days, others are still wilting away in this broken garden we inhabit.

People keep asking me what my plans are, what I would like to be doing right now, or what would be the ideal situation for my life. And this line of questioning is understandable, especially once they connect my educational history and my current reality; folks are just trying to make sense of an extraordinary academic record paired with ordinary life opportunities.

So am I.

More than this, I want justice. I will be grateful as I bloom and yet unsatisfied because people will still fail to sprout despite their best efforts. I don’t anticipate understanding or fixing all of this; even while pursuing this better kind of best living, I accept the limits to what I can know and do regarding the wrongs that need to be made right.

Thus, I have high hopes for justice beyond this life. This hope goes beyond today as I seek a more just tomorrow and beyond tomorrow as I believe in a forever whose justice is far more extraordinary than any ordinary justice we have ever known.

Love Love Love,

Jesse

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