i-Zeal-ism

My 11-year-old feet dangled off the top bunk while I began to evaluate my surroundings. I was in my bedroom, but somehow, I felt so different. The ideas and ideals that I was taught in home, church, and school just weren’t adding up. I couldn’t reconcile them with the reality my pre-pubescent mind was now digesting.

Why did we wage war instead of peace? Why were our own domestic issues not being resolved?

Why did it matter that Adventists were featured in National Geographic as people who lived longer lives if they were living unhappy lives?

Why did ‘rational truth’ matter if it changed nothing? Why was the attempt to “always being right” creating relational dysfunction?

The rays entering my window could not shine bright enough to lift the dissatisfaction I was experiencing. I was dissatisfied with the dysfunction of the corporate bodies I belonged to. I was dissatisfied with the dichotomy between appearance and actual condition. I wanted us to actually partake of the truth and benefit from the truth as well. So, I pulled out my 5x7 tie-dye journal, and I made a list of goals I wanted to achieve by age 25. Dissatisfaction had activated my imagination.

Honestly, I still maintain this habit now in my adulthood. I am still that 11-year old girl who copes with dissatisfaction by dreaming. I am dissatisfied with the present condition of our SDA institution—along with many other Seventh-day Adventists. I am dissatisfied and pained when so many of our churches look and act like the tombs; I am dissatisfied by our fixation on deciphering the signs and symbols of a complex future while neutering the Gospel’s ability to transform the present; I am dissatisfied and pained by the prevalence of apathy, and I am dissatisfied with the Laodicean lethargy that keeps us from championing the justice of love.

However, I am no longer that 11-year old girl. Imagination is not the only way I can cope with the negative realities that I grapple with. I don’t have to suppress the expression of dissatisfaction, settling for doodling on pieces of paper as my way of escape. Now, as a strong and God-breathed expression of purpose by design, I can do something about; I can harness the power of ZEAL!

I live convinced that the spiritual promises of Scripture are not utopian falsehoods. Rather, they are concrete imperatives for the people of God to galvanize and execute. Flaws and all, the followers of God in Scripture are said to have, by faith, “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised” (Hebrews 11:33). These are not just personal and private victories achieved. They are social victories that transformed each of their respective spheres of influence. Enforcing justice deals with making decisions in the midst of socio-political environments. Conquering kingdoms refers to toppling over faulty systems. The miraculous and seemingly impossible change is materialized, by faith, with the activation of ZEAL, the God-given energy bestowed upon us to change that which is not as it should be.

Great change can be birthed by coupling dissatisfaction with ZEAL. Yet, seeing someone express their dissatisfaction and ZEAL is sometimes uncomfortable for others. And, you’ve probably been there yourself. You’ve probably been misunderstood as harsh, overly critical, disrespectful, or unrefined. The act of expressing dissatisfaction can easily be misinterpreted as trying to tear a good work down rather than being seen as constructive building up. Jaded by their own failed attempts at transformation, others may be wary of expressing ZEAL; they could be downright frightened of it.

But this should never cause us to forget that even Christ, in a moment of unpopular and passionate ZEAL, took revolutionary steps to shift the religious institution of His day (John 2:13-17). I challenge you to embrace your dissatisfaction and embrace the ZEAL dissatisfaction inspires. Consider the value that critical reflection and active passion have brought in the past. Consider the dissatisfaction and ZEAL of the prophet Jeremiah, the noble Queen Esther, the reformative Martin Luther, the radical SDA Pioneers, or the visionary Ellen G. White. Embrace the revolutionary, ZEAL infused roots of our protestant faith for the sake of Gospel and people. Don’t just dream; dedicate your dissatisfaction to the Lord, receive the power of the Spirit, and do something about it!

- Judit Manchay