"Just" is a word that sneaks into my prayer vocabulary all too often. For example, "God, I just pray that you would...." or "God, just do...." It's a weird thing that I have heard lots of people do, and I wonder why. Am I limiting God to do "just" this thing or that? Am I afraid that God won't understand exactly the thing for which I am petitioning? God, just help me with this one. Is this a place that somehow gives me comfort in case You don't really want to listen to me today?
Maybe it's a way to place emphasis on how important this prayer really is? Parents often say, "JUST do it." It comes at the end of a long line of asking children to do something nicely, and is usually followed by something like, "I'm your parent and that's why." Am I at the end of my rope with God? I sure hope not. I am a control freak sometimes, so maybe it's like when Martha asked/told Jesus to make her sister "GET IN THE KITCHEN AND HELP ME." If you don't remember that's when Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing, by listening and learning from him.
Just. It has a dual meaning, doesn't it? It can help to specify, as in the above examples, or it can mean: that which is based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair. This season justice is spoken of often in the prophecies of Isaiah, for example in Isaiah 2:
Just. I long for the day when the justice of God is the measure by which all people live, by which nations are governed. I long for the day when playing war is less about politics, power and ego and more about actually fighting for the rights of people. We have gotten so off track, I know I have gotten off track.
This is where the two "justs" are meeting for me today. Rather than trying to change broken systems, fight for dollars for ministry, scream until the powers that be listen - I have to just focus on the fact that God is Just. If I don't I will be swallowed up by my competitive, people-pleasing, workaholic self.
Isaiah's prophetic voice reminds us that into the darkness is birthed light. Into the warring madness of humanity is born humble strength. Into systems of oppression, suffering and death is raised mercy, power, and grace. The people wouldn't listen, they were stuck in their ways....so much like the world today. Yet we are not alone. The advent season reminds us that God is not done yet, the story is not over...in fact the story is just beginning.
Sometimes in order for something new to begin the old must go away. In order for things to be let go they sometimes must be removed from our lives. It's the dance in between that can be difficult, yet we are called as God's people to continue to invest our whole-selves into the transforming redemption of a life of hope.
So today, and for the rest of this season my prayer is simple, "Just God, help me to live into your light. Help me God, to just focus on the ways in which I may spread hope, light, and redemption into this world. Take away my focus on self that I may focus on You in the lives of others. May the swords that I hold up in fight be turned to tools for the advancement of true peace. Amen."