01 March 2005

Washington, bureaucracy and change that starts with me

A day in Washington D.C. is definitely high impact and possibly more impacting the further you dive into the workings of the Federal Government. Today my friend Tracy sat on the White House Advisory Committee for National Drug Control Policy and I was there as his "assistant." In the 5 hours of meetings, I was struck by the utter complexity of this one little arm of the U.S. Government. What became blazingly obvious was the complete insufficiency of humanity to develop anything truly effective without miles of "junk code." As the discussion progressed, the simple objective of this agency, reduce drug use in America, became a juggernaut of departmental relationships, appropriations and various other tongue-twisting obstacles.
There were moments I despaired. How can this acheive anything? What difference could this effort be making if I can't understand a word of this meeting?
But I began to get hopeful when I considered that my job was to not to worry about National Drug Control Policy but to think about how I could be faithful with my own work and trust God with my few little loaves and fish.

Psalm 4:5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Mark 8:17-21 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

I am reminded of Donald Miller's poignant words in his collection of memoirs entitled "Blue Like Jazz" He shared similar concerns about the efficacy of his protests against the Bush administration.

"The president gave his speech inside the hotel and left through a side door, and they whisked him away before we could shake hands and explain our concerns. When we were done, I started wondering if we had accomplished anything. I started wondering whether we could actually change the world. I mean, of course we could - we could change our buying habits, elect socially conscious representatives and that sort of thing, but I honestly don't believe we will be solving the greater human conflict with out efforts. The problem is not a certain type fo legislation or even a certain politician; the problem is the same that it has always been.
I am the problem.
I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles with his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the need beast of a thing that lives in my chest.
The thing I realized on the day we protested, on the day I had beers with Tony, was that it did me no good to protest America's responsibility in global poverty when I wasn't even giving money to my church, which has a terrific homeless ministry. I started feeling very much like a hypocrite. ... Nothing is going to change in the Congo until you and I figure out what is wrong with the person in the mirror."

So in a few days I will head back to the job of pastoring a church of 550 adults - which in one sense is no less complex than the Office of National Drug Control Policy. My job is to first look in the mirror and be faithful with the smallest of tasks, before fretting, before worrying and way before blaming. And it is here that I will work to maintain the perspective that my best efforts are needed and yet they are loaves and fish in comparison to the gargantuan need of the day - Christ still must multiply them and, if I can bring them to him with humble motives, He will - to His Glory. Good can be done, I have my part and He has His - both essential, one minute, one immense - truly a divine dance that leaves me neither boastful nor despairing.

Here's Tracy and I at 1600 Pensylvania Ave. Any real change will originate there the same way it does at 1601 West Drake Road. I will pray that it does at both addresses - to the Glory of Jesus Christ.


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