Falling Forward

Walking into resistance begins in the mind, an awakening to the realization that without confrontation and public action, the status quo will never change. We cannot live life with the same old mindset—we need to cross over and boldly step into new levels of work. We perceive that God is doing a new thing in us and in his overall work in this moment, and now we need to bravely walk in.

Brave steps are needed, not just because we think we need to do something new, but because our minds and hearts need to be reoriented toward humble service that takes courage. We need to ensure our motives are in the right place, that we know how to empty ourselves and join the work of walking humbly and serving those who are leading and working toward resistance.

Activism is not something that stays in the mind or the heart, but it moves through the whole body driving it forward, ensuring that things do not remain as they are. Often we think of activism as participation in public, radical events, even to the point of civil disobedience and arrests. These are activities that activists do, but activism is full-body engagement in other ways also, to change the current social reality; it’s actively working toward change. Activism is demanding, forward-driven motion. It is active, full-scale public witness, not done on social media, although social media can tell the story of movement and call toward change. It is embracing and participating in the physical work necessary to make change.

Full-scale public witness, however, is met with resistance, not only in the public square but in our social circles, our relationships, and even our own minds. This resistance can be helpful—it enables us to root down and own the evolving conviction we are walking into. When I speak of resistance, I am not thinking about anger or public displays of hostility; I am thinking of friction, the ability to rub up against something and effectively move forward.

Without giving a deep physics lesson, this is an important principle from the physical world. Friction is essential for effective movement. Simple walking cannot take place until our feet come in contact with the ground; friction keeps us from slipping and falling. It provides heat and traction, keeping us from slipping around in harmful directions. Bringing our ideas outside of our minds and on public display is met with sometimes very helpful friction.

We need some friction to help form our thoughts more clearly and outside of a vacuum. Pushing back and forth on ideas, solutions, history, and experiences is the exact back-and-forth that democracy is hinged on—we the people, all the people, work together toward good solutions for everyone. When only a select few make the decisions for the masses, those who are harmed by those decisions need collective voice to speak up for change. This is the essence of resistance and friction’s natural work. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s an important process. In our faith circles, we often hear a similar reference: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

Though friction is effective, too much friction can be ineffective.  This is an important parallel in resistance work. Too much friction can cause unwanted heat, creating greater wear and tear or resulting in fire. Too much friction can lead to less efficiency and an inability to move at all. Additionally, too much friction can create higher levels of noise that cause people to shut off the cause of the friction indefinitely.

This is basic science. Resistance and pushback are needed to shape a better outcome, but too much can be destructive. As you consider falling forward with more conviction, keep in mind that neither the work nor those we are trying to influence need someone who does not regulate their levels of resistance. It’s a balance to be heard and be a positive influence for change.

Jesus was faithfully stewarding the message of the kingdom when he shared these parables in Matthew:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:3133)

The good work of kingdom restoration, whether done in a sacred or secular setting, is a deeply spiritual work; do not minimize the humble, small efforts that you and others bring to it. Whether it is building or rebuilding, allow God to take your small offerings and plant them into his bigger kingdom work that defies human logic and is eternal.

Let the work lead you with shouts of joy, like the people alongside the work of rebuilding the temple with Zerubbabel— “God bless it! God bless it!” (Zechariah 4:7). Allow the small acts, with small faith, to move mountains, not by your might or power but by his Spirit.

Excerpted from Join the Resistance by Michelle Ferrigno Warren. © 2022 by Michelle C. Warren. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. IVPress.com.

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