For many of our clients, and for many of us, we know this pain well. Many of our immigrant clients come from countries where they faced brutal oppression and constant danger. Many of them lost loved ones and don’t know if they’ll ever see their families again. They were irreparably harmed, unceremoniously torn out of joint by people with power. What can be said to them? What can possibly be expressed to provide comfort and peace in the midst of such deep travail?
Janet found the face-to-face meetings with clients during intake to be especially transformative, their needs frequently going beyond the scope of what legal assistance could provide. Although she was able to offer them her legal expertise, their stories were often filled with dark and difficult chapters. “In some cases, we met the face of profound despair,” Janet says. “This is the humanizing encounter and one where Jesus has called us to be present.”
For many of us, Christmas is a wonderful reminder of all of the gifts we already have. Family, stability, support, and vocation. We can rejoice in these things and feel the well of strength rising within us. For many of the Clinic’s clients, many of these blessings may be in jeopardy or simply absent. For isolated ex-offenders, beleaguered immigrants, domestic violence survivors, and homeless teens, it is difficult to even conceptualize joy. But, many do. Many focus on those things that they do have: family, children, their relationship with Jesus, whatever modicum of stability they do have. They hold on to these things and it gives them strength to carry on.
Sacrifice is an ambiguous concept. But it is not flowery. It is not a dandelion that can be blown any direction we please. Sacrifice is an anchored reality. It is a particular thing that one gives up for some other more beautiful reality. And further, we believe that there was one sacrifice that is the paradigm for all sacrifice; and it happened in the first century in an occupied country to a peasant without a home.
Backward-looking, we sit in awe of the Cross, where cataclysmic injustice was done to justify us. Forward-looking, we set our gaze on the New Heavens and the New Earth, where justice will replace suffering, where peace will replace war, where God will wipe every single tear from our eyes. Christians are people of memory—and we not only remember backwards, but we remember forwards.
There is rest to be had in ministering to others. As Tim Keller points out, there is a freedom to self-forgetfulness. Serving others, fulfilling others’ needs, actually fills you. But there is a rhythm that’s modeled for us in the Bible. After fashioning everything from nothing, God set aside one entire day for rest. God rested to show that he was God and that His creation was good. When we enter into that rest, we too are renewed by the understanding that God is God and that His creation is good. When I rest, I realize, shockingly, that the world doesn’t depend on my awesomeness in order to continue. It depends on God’s.
And that’s the paradox of being human. We love freedom—but we use it to enslave. Today’s freedom fighter is tomorrow’s oppressive dictator. We are “bent,” as C.S. Lewis put it, towards destruction and we use our power to take it away from others. Not only do we enslave others, but also we allow ourselves to be enslaved by meager things. I rush around, looking for something else to occupy my time and entertain me and fulfill me and satisfy me. We enslave—we are enslaved.