Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Disclaimer: If you Offend Easily... you Probably Shouldn't Read

Whenever I enter back into an academic setting a couple of things happen. First, I am always challenged. Second, I always covet something I don't have.
I tend to have super big dreams for my life. I want to change to world. I'm not really content not to change the world, and I'm always striving for bigger things.
However, you must understand that when I say bigger, the sense in which you understand that word may be vastly bigger than what you think. Unlike many youth pastors, I have absolutely no desire to have the biggest youth group as far as numbers. I want kids to feel like they can bring their friends, not because I want glory, but because they see Jesus in my students. I want the youth group's impact to be big, that doesn't mean that their numbers are big. There is a huge difference between the two.
But, my dreams aren't limited to that of a local church, or even being a youth pastor in a church. As odd as this may seem, I don't really see myself as a very good youth pastor in the commonly understood way youth pastors are good. I don't like lock ins. I don't like big games. I don't like meaningless events. I don't like separating the youth group from the larger church all of the time... to be completely honest, I tend to long for the small churches I grew up in, the intimacy and family feel that they bring, and the hard core faithful disciples they tend to cultivate. That said, I believe that can happen in a big church, but it just takes more work, and I still am wrestling with how it is done.
When I come here though, in a safe, theoretical environment, I am suddenly re-filled with dreams I once had. Often impractical dreams and goals, of what it means to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world.
To be completely honest, I hate the suburbs. Hate, is actually probably too nice of a word for how i truly feel for them... but it's the best I can come up with. (This is where you may want to stop reading ;) I tend to feel like they are the key place of mediocrity. It's sort of like someone can't decide whether they want to live in the city or the country, so they live somewhere in between. I have always thought I was going to live in the city. I love the city. I love working with inner-city kids, I love hanging out with homeless people, I love constantly being reminded that grace is all around us, and we must depend on God every second of every day, for our very survival. Since I don't feel called to Africa, the inner-city is the closest I get to that.
I've had a dream since I was a small child, that I would one day move into the heart of a dangerous, hopeless, poverty stricken city and live there until it is completely transformed. Doing my best to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a practical way.
That's probably why when I moved to the suburbs, my friends all asked me if I was selling out. Am I selling out?
I don't really think I am. The passions for the city are there. The passions for loving, for evangelism, for compassion, are all still there, I just think it's odd living in transition, and if I'm not careful, I could end up residing there.
People need love in the suburbs. People need, in the words of Walter Brueggemann, the constructs of the imperial mindset gradually broken out of them, and for better or for worse, that's what I'm gifted in.... prophetic preaching. But how did the prophets of the old testament live among a community, preaching the truth of God, without being absorbed into the culture itself? That had to be a struggle.
A struggle I am finding myself struggling with every day. I told a friend the other day, that the suburbs are seeping into my soul, and quite frankly, will steal it if I'm not careful. It's too easy to be comfortable there. I have a great pool, new flooring. I'm not killing roaches every day like I was in Kankakee. I haven't seen people selling drugs in my front lawn like I used to. The cops have yet to knock on my door looking for someone. ... so... I lay by my pool, instead of picking up trash in my neighborhood.... Not that the things I do are inherently bad, but it is becoming so easy to forget where my dependency must lie. It's getting easy to close myself into my cubicle apartment, and forget that just above me is someone who needs the grace of Christ. I've done little to reach to my neighbors. Little outside of my little comfort zone.
Shame on me! My best friend always says that people move to the suburbs to forget. Forget that people have real needs. Forget that God is the one who provides everything for us. Forget that we must be thankful for every crumb we receive. Forget that the sole reason we are blessed is to bless others. Forget that it is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. To forget what it's like to be uncomfortable.
I think I forget sometimes, whose I am. That my life is not my own, but to be spent on others. I think I forget to reach out sometimes, that my hands and feet are not my own. I think I forget to be bold sometimes, because it will so upset the comfortable nature of the world I currently reside in.
However, like we talked about in class today, we aren't called to comfortable faith. We aren't called to stay in an infancy level of relationship with Christ, we are called to trust God, to question the constructs around us, and to have the wisdom to tear down the evil constructs around us, even if for most of our lives we saw that evil as Christian. (I know... I'm stepping on toes... hey I could come out and name things... leaving it obscure for a reason :)
It was a sad day when the church of the Nazarene forgot it's heart and moved to the suburbs, I just pray that I don't forget mine. It has to be possible to still remember, in spite of location... just have to learn how.

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