Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crisis for our Comfort

So, its been a while. A long while.

In the past few months I have been all over the United States. From the bars of Boston to the cornfields of Iowa, from Hollywood Blvd to the the back alleys of Chicago. I have climbed a water tower in a ghost town in Kansas, and I have hiked in the mountains and foothills of Colorado. From seeing the slums of LA to sleeping in the warm bed of my childhood, I have been at almost a loss of words to describe my fall.

Where is our Christ?
Isn't He supposed to working through us?
Oh ya.
Well then, where are our Christians?

About a month ago I was in Los Angeles, California, exploring the option of pursuing a Family Therapy degree at Fuller Seminary's school of Psychology. We'll get back to the fact that I was in California in a minute, but for the moment concentrate on the fact that on this particular day I walked into a church that I was unfamiliar with, in a city that is far removed from any place I have ever pictured myself in... and saw this printed on the front of the bulletin:

I read the title as 'Crisis for your Comfort.' Turns out the sermon was actually on 'Comfort for your Crisis.' Which, I must admit, was a great message. The preacher talked about rising above living on the streets and, through the help of the Lord, has become a person again--with his identity set in Christ. See? Great message, and one that we all need to hear.

But, from where I'm sitting, I think I want more people to start seeing the other message. How many of us actually DO read our Bibles from an easy chair? Or, maybe more truthfully, sit down to read our Bibles from an easy chair... and promptly fall asleep?

Maybe its been the vast amount of need and disparity between people in different parts of the country, or maybe its been the inordinate amount of very, very nice, very well meaning people who smile at me politely when I say I'm going to Africa and tell me that thats a 'nice thing to do', a 'great experience' or an 'opportunity I wish I had had'. But I'm just sick of this thing called Christianity that we all play at, but so few of us do.

I need to watch how I say this... because I don't want to offend anyone. I have had dozens of amazing encounters with many Godly people who have been excited to see me go overseas. They have encouraged me, loved me, helped me and been excited to see what God is going to do. But every once in a while, there is the person who seems to WANT to care... but just doesnt. And that person is ussually categorized by saying something like, "Really?! You're going! Thats great! My friend so-and-so just got back from spending a month in [insert 3rd world country here]! You should get in touch with her, she'll tell you all about it" followed by another polite smile, and a quick turn of the heel to back out of the conversation.

And again, I think these people really do want to care, but they just dont know how. They are on the outside looking in. They are reading their Bibles from their easy chairs, or perhaps are looking for that easy chair and warm blanket so hard that they forget its found in their Bibles alone.

What would it look like to have a bunch of Christians actually start living like Christ?

The best example of a group of Jesus-followers I've heard of doing that is Shane Claiborne and his group at the Simple Way in Philly. Which, I must admit sounds.... radical. (If you don't know what I'm talking about... read "The Irresistable Revolution" or at least a sample at --trust me, its worth the read.) ....and it is, isn't it? It's radical, its amazing, its rediculus, it will never work and it will always work.

And most of all, I identify with it.

I love the line that says "People are not crucified for charity, people are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world." People love the idea of me going to Africa to play with needy AIDS orpahns. The idea of actually getting down on my hands and knees and putting a band-aid on that bloody knee of the child infected with HIV?? That's not so well-recieved. "Be careful." "Don't be stupid." "Come back safe." These are the things I am told. People want you to live Christ-- to some extent. The idea of actually walking and living like Jesus did? Not so popular. They want to stay in their easy chair's where Christ is their comfort... and, I'm learning, want you to stay there too.

But what if we would all get out of our easy chairs?

I've been thinking alot about what life is going to look like when I return from Zambia. Will I be used to wearing the same 10 outfits, and be able to give up my closet full of Nike swooshes? Or will I run back to my comfortable, happy life with arms wide open? Will I be disgusted by the American dream, or dream about being American again?

I mentioned in the first part of this blog that I was in California looking at the possiblity of grad school. California. That is one thing that I never would have anticipated for myself 5 years ago.

Back in high school I had a good friend who had moved to Whitinsville from Cali. He had been convinced that he wanted to move back out west after school, and would probably get married in his 30s. I, however, was very content to dream of a life characterized by getting married right out of college and staying close to my hometown. I wanted to coach my high school volleyball and track teams. I wanted to bring up my kids close to their grandparents. I wanted to live the life that worked so well for my parents. And, to be honest, I still want those things. But instead.... my Californian friend will most likely end up being the one to get married straight out of college.... and I have a very good chance at finding myself clear across the country in California, alone.

In addition to the possiblity of Cali boy getting married this summer, my little sister is also getting married in a very short 8 months, along with a good portion of my my close girlfriends. And yet, when someone asked me this week if I felt 'behind' in the whole boy realm... I found myself very naturaly and very honestly saying, "no."

No?! How could that be? This isn't what I had planned! California wasn't in the plan! Africa wasnt in the plan! What is God doing to me?? He is majorly screwing things up, dontcha think?!

What is next? Trying to create a Simple Way project in LA? Wouldnt people love that? "Ya, I'm going to live in the most beat-up house I can in the worst neighborhood I can find and open my doors to all the neighbors and just love em'." I can see that going over great with my parents. Living on the poverty line isn't exactly a well-received 'Christian' thing to do! If I was a good upstanding Christian, wouldn't I earn lots and lots of money and then give it to the poor? But... thats the whole thing. I want to help people. I want to love people. Which means more than just putting on band-aids. It means getting down and dirty with them.

Isnt that what God calls us to when he tells us to love "the least of these"? Or didn't that verse ever get highlighted in your Bible.

I guess I am just having a really hard time trying to figure out how to live like Christ, and live like an American. Or, more truthfully--but much more sad, how to live like Christ, and how to live like a Christian.

Lots of people have asked me why I want to go into Family Counseling...especially if my final goal is to be a youth pastor. And I have come to realize the reason is much the same reason that the idea of walking in Christ's foot steps is appealing. I can read Chap Clark's book "Hurt" from cover to cover, but unless I am able to help stop the hurt through counseling.... what lasting good does being aware do? It's just more band-aids!

I don't like band-aids. They eventually get pulled off, and the skin is all red at first, but (if the band aid has been there awhile) in actuality its pale and slightly pruny. I don't want pale and pruny in my life, which means I shouldn't want it for other people either. I want to dance. And laugh. And sing (even if its off tune). I want to run through fields with the wind whipping at my face, and I want to climb water towers. That's the type of life God has called us to, dontcha think?

And I guess that's why God has put this Zambia trip in front of me.

I was told that I may not recognize Christianity when I get to Zambia. And all I can say is 'Hallelujiah' to that. Don't get me wrong, I think there are many great things that Christians do right. Many awesome things that can be learned at Seminary (I am looking at going to Seminary, remember??), but at the same time.... I want to be able to fill in the gaps of systematic theology and live a Christ theology. I want to be able to live John 10:10b instead of just recite it.

But I'm guessing that that's going to mean that He is going to bring a little bit more crisis to my comfort. And I'm starting to become OK with that. But, fortunatley for my family and unfortuantely for God, I'm not there yet....there is too much of this world that I love. And I admit that I get a little scornful when I see very, very strong Christians living abundantly in the path that God has marked out for them.... and I realize that I would be very content and comfortable in that path. At those times I can't help but ask God why I couldn't have a path like that! But in those times I hear Him whisper, "because you wanted to be a paratrooper."

Now, this blog has already been way too long, but I will tell you one more quick story.

I did a dumb thing in 7th grade.

I was sitting in Kent Koeman's Bible class, and we were watching a video on faith. Now, I will admit that we probably watched dozens of videos on faith, and there were probably many such incidents as the one I am about to relate to you.... but there was only one I remembered. There was a girl, about 16 if I recall correctly, who was dieing of some rare blood disease. She had been talking about how, before she was diagnoised with the disease, she had been sitting in church thinking "I am going to rot away in this pew!" And so she asked God to do something big in her life. And so He gave her the rarest disease she had ever heard of, and because of it she was able to tell her story. Charming, right? But it caught me. I was feeling like I was going to rot away in my Bible-class desk.... and in my pew at church.... and Sunday School... and youth group.... and... well, you get the point. So I asked God that day to make me a paratrooper in the faith. (Though, I also requested that I not die of some rare disease.... and since I haven't come up with anything yet, I have a feeling that He honored that request.)

Life has not been the same (or easy) since. And, honestly, I would have it no other way. And on that note I guess I would just say: Be careful what you pray for... but know that God is going to do mighty things when you let Him.

And so I trudge along, trying to do the will of God, learning what it looks like to walk with Him, deciding what it looks like to walk AS Him, and trying to peice together my faith into a workable framework in which to live my life.

And, as depressing and/or promising as it is... I have a feeling that I have just begun.

1 comment:

  1. I want to see a Christianity I don't recognize, too -- how refreshing that would be!

    Can I come with you?? ;)