By: Lauren Jacobs
I remember the sound of her voice and her sandy blonde hair, up there on stage in front of blue blazer kids in the school hall. I remember her story, and her words “my husband hit me with an axe against my head,” she said, “the doctors said I’d never walk again, but here I am, walking, talking, living.”
I remember her words, forever burnt into my memory, and the feeling that rose up within me a 14-year-old school girl peering up at an abuse survivor and vowing in my heart to somehow aid women like her. That vow resonated inside my heart again, when I met Yeshua and got saved 3 years later. That desire to help abused women led me to become a trauma counselor, woman abuse therapist and then on to become a full-time social justice journalist.
Inside my heart, I only ever thought about the stories I was telling and the lives I was helping. I thought only about the women whose faces I saw and whose hands I held. I wanted to tell their stories so I could raise awareness of realities like child brides, gendercide, female ritual servitude and women abused the world over. Yet in my quiet times with God I would often cry and pray for God to use me outside of just individual lives, I wanted to make a change, not just for one, but for many.
Ten years ago, a fire started inside my heart, a fire of calling and passion, a fire I would not name to anyone but God. His call was stirring me to speak louder and lead campaigns, to become an activist against gender inequalities and the global oppression of women. Activists are change – makers, they strive for a different world where the glaring oppressions and wrongdoings become undone. My walk with God has taken me to many different places, to writing books, on to the mission field, to global conferences, churches, individuals, hosting my own radio show and being interviewed in magazines. Each of these steps have been steps in the fight to make changes for women.
More recently God has been speaking to me from the precious beatitudes, encouraging me through the words of Matthew 5 verse 9 which reads “blessed are the peace makers for they will all be called children of God.” (NIV) While reading this verse a month ago, I kept on seeing the word change maker in my mind instead of peace maker, so I prayerfully dug deep in to the words found here. I discovered that the Greek word here for peace maker, is a word that means to make or do something, it’s an action, expressed as something tangible and active. While the word for peace, goes back to the holistic Hebrew word “shalom,” which is deeper than just peace, it means wholeness, welfare, prosperity, harmony, complete, and the biblical idea of peace is not the absence of war, as we imagine it to be. In fact, you cannot be a peacemaker without stepping in to conflict at times.
I think of the abused women I have met and counseled. How they fought an internal and external war with both themselves (what would I lose if I left my abusive partner?) and with others (what are others going to think about me?). But in order to step out and form peace for themselves, life had to become uncomfortable first. I think of my journey with social justice journalism, in order to tell the truth about women’s oppression, I could not do that from the sidelines of safety. I could not do that from the sidelines of remaining where I was, I had to be in West Africa to uncover the truth about virgin girls being offered on altars for their father’s sins. To create awareness about gendercide, I had to watch documentaries and listen to the stories of women who had lived through the one-child policy in China and the horrors which came with it.
A peacemaker is a changemaker. She or he is one who does not avoid the truth or a necessary conflict in order to live in a temporary makeshift “peace,” rather they step outside of their comforts, both internal and external in order to bring a greater wholeness (shalom) to a greater group of individuals. Temporarily risking themselves for a God passion of truth and completeness for the world. Jesus did this when He came to earth, He knew what His mission was but He also laid aside Heavens Throne in order to die a painful, horrid death on a tree for no sin of His own! He did that because by entering our world of war, He gave us peace by reconciling us to His Father. That’s the greatest peace we could ever know. In seeking to understand what being a change maker is, I came back to this precious beatitude and saw how every time I spoke up for an oppression I saw, I was being moved by God to risk my temporary comfort for a greater wholeness for others.
It’s not just me who does this, there are thousands, if not millions of people right now leaning in to God’s voice and obeying that voice through caring for the earth, the animals, people, the oceans, the homeless, the abused, the widowed, the orphaned, the deserted and so much more. God spoke to Aaron the high priest and to his sons telling them to bless His people Israel with a blessing that ended in “may Yahweh lift up His countenance and give you peace.” While standing in the wilderness, with the promised land still waiting to be conquered, and war lingering close to their tents, God commanded the priests to bless the people with peace. A peace that transcends war, inner peace of rest and knowing who they were in God so that whatever momentary war would come, there would be the knowledge that peace can exist even within conflict.
That’s our role on earth to lay aside selfish wants and seek to love another as we love ourselves, and that often means we enter the war of working for change, in order to bring a greater peace. Peacemakers, actively seeking, making, doing, creating and forming a tangible wholeness and welfare for others, these are the ones who will be called children of God.
A changemaker works for the greater, for the future, for something more than just the self, or the momentary. Changemakers are ordinary women and men, who dare to think about a different world, a world they not only think about but act to change unreasonable things.