What I Wish I Knew as a Young Activist

Dear Christinita,

I see the call of justice sprouting up within you. It brings me great joy to see you taking your first steps towards righteousness and peace. There is so much life ahead of you on the journey! Your heart will hold immense pain, but also immense joy. The road will be wild and arduous, but also absolutely beautiful. Stay the course and fully open your heart to the leading of Jesus.

Your advocacy is not so much needed, as it is desired, by the one who called you. Here’s some wisdom for the journey, precious one, words I wish I knew as a young activist:


1. You are enough.

When the Lord opened your eyes to our broken racial history I know your heart felt like it was bleeding. I remember your stomach churned in lecture as you heard stories of the annihilation of your Cherokee ancestors, the Mexican abuelitos who were gassed in the fields, and your European grandmothers who seemed so complicit. These evils are worth weeping over; remember the God you serve wept first. One day you will hear a voice beckoning your heart, “go and advocate for your people.” Listen intently. Feelings of inadequacy may make your heart race, but if you respond to this call your eyes will see the kingdom of God in your midst. Let the voice of the One who called you become greater than the voices that tell you your mixed race disqualifies you. Remember you are Latina enough; you are Native enough; you are European enough…you are enough. The God that goes before you doesn’t require you to know all the answers, he asks only for your trust and obedience.


2. Authentically lead out of who you are.

You were fashioned by the hands of Creator to bear the image of God uniquely. The fire, sweat, and tears of your ancestors were woven together to create the exquisite tapestry that is you! Within the Church, you may notice that the leaders who are given a place at the table seem to look and sound the same; and rarely do they look and sound like you. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself being trained to relate to God, lead, or speak in ways that center the White experience but brush the other parts of your ancestry under the table. You might even find that hiding your vibrant tapestry offers greater opportunities. But I urge you, resist the temptation to choose recognition over authenticity! It may feel like a warm embrace in the short run, but take heed because this road will lead to burnout and suffocation of the soul. Instead, unapologetically bring all of who you are to Christ’s shared table. Listen to the wisdom of Native theologians, discover the sacredness of the land, let your soul dance in freedom to the Spirit-filled corridos of hermanas, and lead out of your communion with the brown-skinned Jesus. Recognize your unique gifts in the kingdom, and own your voice! You may not always find honor, but you will find abundant life. The most powerful act of resistance against the evils of racism and patriarchy is a thriving and rooted woman of color. You are the enemy’s worst nightmare, honey.


3. Let the good Gardener root you and prune you.

I guarantee you that you will fail. There will be moments that the Lord calls you to speak against injustice but fear cripples you from raising your voice. There will be days that you are tempted to build a trellis of bitterness and anger to fight against the evils of racism. Remember that bearing fruit is a process that requires pruning of the heart. Don’t cut yourself down, but surrender as the good Gardener cuts off anything in you that doesn’t produce fruit; the Lord is consecrating you as he calls you. You will be tempted to fight the pruning—to avoid it by filling your hunger with pride and self-importance. Though this may seem safer, the fruit of this type of advocacy is a theatrical performance at best and destruction at worst. Instead, receive wisdom in the community. Take time to regularly examine your heart. Be still. Root yourself in divine love -- love that is not dependent on what you do or how others perceive you. Rest in the knowledge that the results of your ministry are in the hands of the good Gardener. Advocacy that grows from being rooted in God’s love and pruned by the good Gardener will bear fruit that lasts.


4. Press into vulnerability and humility.

Sometimes advocacy is raising a banner or debating on Twitter, but the most powerful tools of resistance aren’t always the loudest or most visible. Vulnerable and humble leadership is what engages the heart. Allow the experiences, hopes, and pain of fellow classmates and community members to enter your heart and shape your advocacy. Become skilled at asking good questions. Listen earnestly and intently. Practice mutuality. When engaging with potential allies, remember that you weren’t born woke. Rather than leading with a mallet, create disarming spaces for confession and repentance. Lead the way in vulnerability and humility. The deeper you go, the deeper those who are following you will go. There is freedom for the oppressor and oppressed in the call to holy resistance. When you trade bitterness for rootedness and pride for vulnerability, you will see many enter into this freedom.


5. Learn sustainability and sacred boundaries.

Why are you striving? Why are you working yourself past your human limitations? Your heart for justice is beautiful, but don’t allow it to become an excuse to toil far more than you were created to. You are not God. Find rhythms of life that remind you of your sacred boundaries and honor your health. The Lord created your body with wisdom to know when to work, slow down, and rest. Make space to listen to your body. Do you sense exhaustion, sickness, or stress? Chances are you’re stepping past sacred boundaries. Remember that God is trustworthy and at work when he calls you to rest. Go to the doctor and schedule regular check-ups. Take time to dance and exercise. Schedule in regular times to rest and play. Learn the art of self-care and bubble baths. Make space to receive. The health of your body and soul are important. Honor the call, by investing in practices that will sustain you for the long haul.


6. Find spiritual journeyers and mentors from the past and present.

You are not alone in the journey! Not only are there brothers and sisters around the world that share a call to justice, but there are saints throughout history to learn from as well. Plant yourself in a community of spiritually-rooted activists, seek out mentors, and read wisdom from journeyers past and present. Find a church that’s committed to justice, and let this be a community where your soul can breathe. Gather fellow justice workers for dinner. Form text threads with journeyers who are outside of your city. Find a mentor that is farther along in the journey. Read the writings of those who have gone before you. Glean wisdom from present day prophets like: Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, Sandra Van Opstal, Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Kathy Khang, Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra, Christena Cleveland, Mark Charles, Gail Song Bantum, Rev. Dr. Orlando Crespo, and Soong-Chan Rah. These words will be a healing balm for your soul and companions on the journey.


7. Remember that you are deeply loved by God.

You are more than your title. You are more than your accomplishments. You are more than your advocacy. You are more than how others perceive you. The truest thing about you is that you are deeply and intensely loved by God. Take space daily to hear the voice of the one who loved you before you were called. Listen intently and let these sacred moments be your life source

Christinita, your life is precious. Your advocacy is not so much needed, as it is desired, by the one who called you.




About the Author

Christina serves as a regional Justice and Reconciliation Specialist with InterVarsity and has a heart to see marginalized communities empowered and students and staff sent out as healers.

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