Friday, March 16, 2012

The Hard Middle Ground

The biggest thing I learned in college is that there are a lot of bad things going on in the world and a lot of good people trying to change that.  I grew up in small-town Missouri, and sure, I knew bad things existed.  I saw the children on TV and sponsored a child for a few years when I was a preteen.  But for better or for worse, I was also incredibly sheltered from real injustices.

My town had (has?) an active KKK clan that sent a threatening letter to our high school band director after he paid tribute to Rosa Parks during a concert.  Needless to say, I had zero friends growing up who weren’t from white, middle-class families.  All the bad things on the local news happened in Kansas City, a good 35+ minutes away, and were therefore of no concern.  My youth group participated in the 30-Hour Famine, but I only went to play games and flirt with boys.

Then I moved to Chicago, more specifically to Albany Park, one of the most diverse areas in the entire nation.  I learned about human trafficking not just overseas but here in the US, about homelessness and political wars and racial/economic injustice.  I was overwhelmed with information and overwhelmed by a desire to help.

My dream was to go serve in an orphanage after I graduated.  I loved kids, and wanted to be somewhere where my actions could be most useful.  The college even linked to a 6 month internship at an orphanage in Zambia, and I was sure that was where I was headed.  Then I fell in love. 

As things got more serious between me and the HH (handsome hubbeeeee), I slowly realized my dreams needed to change.  He didn’t want to go to Africa; he wanted to go to Portland.  He wanted a big house with a nice yard, nice cars, and nice things, while I felt all of those things were inherently evil in some way. 

Fast forward and here I am, living in Portland, occasionally catching myself dreaming about the house I’ll someday own.   I work at a job I hate just to bring home a paycheck so I can pay off debt and go out to eat every once in a while.  My education pushes me to be revolutionary, while society pushes me to just blend in, and it is incredibly hard for me to live in the tension.

The sad truth is, I don’t think I would have been any happier in that orphanage.  I would have gained life experiences and perspective, sure, but joy?  I doubt it, simply because it’s not where God was really calling me, I only wanted to go so everyone (including God) would see how helpful I was and how much I loved them/Him.

It’s so much harder to love people from my comfort zone.  I feel like if I was shoved into the unknown, I would love and depend on people because I had nowhere else to turn.  But now I have a TV, a constant companion, even a cat for goodness sake.  Instead of inviting people over for dinner, I can watch reruns.  Instead of volunteering downtown, I could go for a hike or write a blog post (ha). 

It’s something I struggle with every single day.  I feel like I either can’t or don’t love Jesus enough when I’m stuck in my comfortable bubble.  Sometimes I get mad at God because He called us here and I don’t know what to do with the calling. 

But I know He’s here, teaching me something.  I have a feeling it has a little something to do with patience, politics, and money, and a lot to do with faith.  For now, I’m trying to find peace with Him in the midst of consumer chaos and trying to find the courage to believe He’s got something worthwhile up ahead.

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