Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Last week was hard. It started with Monday, when I submitted the form to make my engineering license inactive. The decision is an intentional letting go practice. Back in March, I wrote that letting go would be my Lenten practice as part of my move. I was wrong. It’s become a life practice. I’ve learned letting go takes time and is hard work. Grief is involved.
Going inactive with my license meant letting go of fear and ego. The fear tempts me to invest time and resources into keeping my license active, even though I’m not using it, nor do I want to work in that capacity again. The fear whispers, “what if you need the money?” It takes emotional energy to turn away from the voice and let go. It also demands faith and an “all in” commitment to my work of eco-justice.
Letting go of ego is required because people now treat me differently than when I was an engineer. It’s obvious that our society thinks less of a self-employed, work-from home deaconess. It takes emotional energy to let go of the ego aspect of being an engineer. It also takes courage and strength to be confident in who I am, knowing I bring all my engineer knowledge and skills to the table, even when others don’t acknowledge them. I think of it as my superpower when people underestimate me.
The emotional energy needed to let go of my engineer identity was how my week started. Then, supreme court rulings were issued on Thursday and Friday. Having worked as an environmental engineer, the rulings shouldn’t have surprised me. Over three decades of practice, I saw environmental regulations swing back and forth, depending on who was governing. Rights in our country, be they for people or the environment, are only guaranteed by the constitution. Since our constitution grants no rights to land, creatures, water, air, ecosystems, or any other part of our environment, they are subject to the desires of the legislature and courts, both of which change over time.
Similarly, except for the right to vote, the constitution and its amendments grant few rights to people who aren’t cis-gendered males. Many rights have been legislated and interpreted to be given to others, but like environmental regulations, they’re subject to re-interpretation, new legislation, and court decisions. That’s how we ended up with a ruling on Thursday that says states are limited in their ability to regulate guns and a ruling on Friday that says states can regulate a woman’s health care. The second amendment to the constitution guarantees rights related to guns. There are no amendments that guarantee women’s rights, other than the right to vote. The Equal Rights Amendment was attempted but has not yet been adopted.
The constitution, brilliant as it is and revolutionary for its time, is still a document written by and for the benefit of landed white men who used guns to take what they wanted and hold onto it. Meaning, it’s written for their benefit. At the time the constitution and bill of rights were adopted, few people had the right to vote. Men under age 21, slaves, women, men who didn’t own land, and others were excluded. These people gained rights over the years only when those in power thought the consequences of not doing so were more dire than the consequences of doing so.
By Friday of last week, the emotions from what’s happening in my personal life and in the country had knotted my thoughts beyond the ability to communicate them. When that happens, hiking is the only thing that works to start the untangling process. Immersed in nature, I feel the Spirit at work freeing my mind. Combined with the meditative effect of putting one foot in front of another, strands of understanding start to fall free from the knotted ball in my head. So, last Friday, I retreated to the Little Spokane River Conservation Area, where I hiked to process the knotted thoughts in my head and make sense of the world.
The first strand of thought to pull loose was gratitude for the people who had set aside the conservation area for my benefit. They had let go of the desire to make money from the land. Instead, they recognized the land as a common good. Giving thanks to them reminded me that every right I have as a woman is a gift from people who came before me, people who worked for women’s rights and made those in power so uncomfortable that they granted the right.
Now, it’s my turn to do the work. There are so many injustices in our country! I would get nothing done if I tried to work on all of them. I focus on creation care because it’s my passion and knowledge. I weave into it the connections between violence done to the land and violence done to people. As a Lutheran deaconess, I serve people of faith and their congregations, helping them connect their belief in God’s liberating love and desire to love neighbor with caring for creation. I try to call those with power to let go of the things they hold tightly due to fear and ego, so they may experience the liberating love that expands rights and abundant life to all of God’s people and creation.
If you’re disturbed by injustices in our country, then it’s your turn to do the work, too. Vote, but that alone won’t do it. The current system was built by those in power and designed to keep them in power. A deeper change is needed than just a new law or a different court decision. It’s OK if you don’t know where to start. I didn’t know where to start, and I still don’t know what I’m doing. The secret is to just try something. Start with the issue that most connects to your life story. Maybe your story connects with the justice issues embedded in last week’s rulings on guns and women’s rights. Maybe it’s some other injustice. Find a group that shares your passion. Donate. Show up. March. Listen. Learn. Serve.
What do you need to let go of to get started?