sometimes people ask me what it is we're doing down here.
i think they mean it more like "what are we actually physically doing with our time," rather than the more abstract meaning that implies more of a "why" question. they are both good questions though, and sometimes i ask them myself.
like say, today. i spent most of the afternoon painting part of the outside of the church that is off one of our little roof sections. it's a little hard to describe but it's this little flat roof area our windows open out onto and the exterior walls were in terrible need of a paint job, which pastor asked us to do. so i took advantage of the wonderful weather and went at it. though i was on the roof it was entirely safe--except for trying to navigate my way around i kid you not like 30 wasps. in fact i wasn't able to finish the job because we are out of wasp spray and there is a giant active nest where i need to paint. suddenly i am more thankful for the bats. do bats eat wasps? i think they do. or at least they should.
so i'm up there painting the day away, listening to some music, enjoying the view behind me that looks out west across the ivanhoe neighborhood, umkc, and the plaza. but something was getting to me. something was stirring in me emotionally as my thoughts went to many different places off the mindless task of the roller. it was more than a few words could express, but it was something like a weird sentiment on my life. how is it that this is where i've ended up? what do the last few years mean and how they've passed? what will this time hold for me?
life just seemed so open at the moment, so unattached or disconnected--whichever way you want to spin it. at the moment it seemed more of a burden than a freedom, but that's been more and more rare lately.
and right about then a siren started to chime. and then another. and another. and i looked down off the roof and saw several police cars speeding around our streets. they eventually settled around the church property, with cars at every corner and more. one pulled into our parking lot and searched under our cars. i ran back inside to watch, where i saw a cop pull his gun and check our dumpster for the suspect. then they went south and searched the brush and woods around the area. the helicopter was all around too. they didn't find him.
apparently though they had already found him. twice. they caught him but he managed to break free and keep running, though he lost his shoes. so they caught him again and tased him, but apparently he rolled onto the cop and took his taser and ran off again. way to go kcmo police.
it was a pretty exciting to watch, not really scary though. all the neighbors were outside. i don't know what the guy did.
maybe it's things like this that make other people ask what we're doing down here. why put yourself in the midst of that? and maybe i think that same way sometimes, but usually i think that's exactly why we're down here--because other people live here too. and they have to live with this going on around them a lot. and we've just marginalized them in so many ways. did you watch that video from my last post? seriously. do it.
so then tonight we had our prayer time as per usual on monday nights, and afterwards things were winding down when tyler got home and said our neighbors asked us to help them move. sure, no problem--when? oh right now. ok. nothing like a little moving at 10pm. so we got tyler's truck and took oh maybe five loads down to their new place. fortunately it's only 2 blocks away so we can stay in relationship with this family, as they've been our best relationship in the neighborhood (the same house from the letter posted awhile back).
of course tyler had worked not only the opening shift this morning, but also the closing shift at another store. so when he got home needless to say he was tired--but he was the guy with the truck, and i guess that's what they were waiting for. he's a trooper. we were happy to help, but it was something i overheard that really struck me. one of them said that everyone else they asked wanted them to pay like 100 bucks for the use of their truck. and i just though, "really?" i mean, i guess i understand--no, i really don't. what creates that attitude in people? what makes no one willing to help? being taken advantage of? i don't know.
but it takes me back to the idea of being good neighbors. sure we'll help our neighbors move until 11 at night, because that's loving your neighbor. what do we do down here? well hopefully some of what we do is make ourselves present and available for things like that. what are we doing here? i don't know, what are you doing where you live? ok yeah there's more to it for us than that, but this is something of what it is--helping neighbors move when no one else will. and it's good to have those things, however random and sporadic they may be. in other words i don't think we're going to start some program for late night moving for families getting evicted from their homes.
why are we here? we're here to be here. and maybe right now that's enough because it hasn't seemed to be the case for many others in quite some time. not that we're all that special, which is exactly part of the point. anyone can love, can give the love of Jesus. it's not easy sometimes, but it is a lot easier when you are present and put yourself in the place to do that--wherever you are.
it was also great to hear sharice (the mom of the family) tell us that all the kids kept telling her that wherever they moved just couldn't be too far away from all of us. it's the little things like that that are the big things. and what make me glad that this is where i am, today, this day, and hopefully for many many days to come.
so i've talked about the wire on here a couple times, and if i haven't convinced you to invest the many hours to watch the whole show, i encourage you to take a little less than an hour to watch this video interview with the show's creator. it is a wonderful discussion on the nature of our country and its cities. i started watching it just thinking i would catch the first bit tonight but i got caught up in it and had to watch the whole thing. it's long, but well worth the time. please watch it. really, please. it is just so fascinating and i think every american should be aware of and considering these things.
"Very few men are sanctified in isolation. Very few become perfect in absolute solitude. Living with other people and learning to lose ourselves in the understanding of their weakness and deficiencies can help us. For there is no better means of getting rid of the rigidity and harshness and coarseness of our ingrained egoism, which is the one insuperable obstacle to the infused light and action of the Spirit of God. Even the courageous acceptance of interior trials in utter solitude cannot altogether compensate for the work of purification accomplished in us by patience and humility in loving other men and sympathizing with their most unreasonable needs and demands."
so all you lost fans should check this out--the namesake of one of your beloved characters, jeremy bentham, is freaking weird.
apparently he was a philospher and social reformer around the turn of the 19th century, most known as a major utilitarian. apparently he had something of an ego because in accordance with his will his body was preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called an "auto-icon" and put on display at university college in london. it's been there for over 150 years, attending two college council meetings, but apparently abstaining from all voting. apparently though his head was badly damaged in the preservation process, so the one in the box is wax. they used to display the original head as well, but it was the subject of several student pranks so they took it out. i wonder why. oh, that's why, because it looks like the spawn of satan.
we don't have any sort of cable tv here at the church, which is by all accounts a good thing. one thing i miss though--watching sports. there is a good side to not being able to watch sports that much at all, as they can certainly be way too consuming. but there are some things i just miss. saturday college football. so many games on with always a couple good ones, usually an upset or two. i know i will miss college basketball big time. and of course the chiefs. i have watched pretty much every chiefs game for about as long as i can remember. even when i was in switzerland i would pay a couple bucks through itunes to get 15 minute long highlights of every game.
of course this year maybe it's a good thing i'm not watching so much. 0-5 is pretty bad, but we knew this would be a rebuilding year. our offensive line is pretty wretched--which is entirely frustrating because without one you really can't do anything. our defense has a lot of potential it's just that they never get to stay off the field for very long. there are some good pieces in place at least though. oh the consolations of a terrible team. is this what lions fans told themselves last year?
for so long the chiefs were our consolation, this poor city. well the royals are awful again but just wait till football season! and we all acknowledge it's a sad day when i admit i think the royals are closer to turning it around than the chiefs. after all, the royals days of trading away all their good players are done--now it's the chief's turn (tony g and jared allen, who by the way had like a 44 yard fumble return for a td today). that's a bad sign.
i got to catch a decent amount of the game today. how awful. to get the ball on the 50 yard line in overtime and not be able to get 20 yards for a field goal to win the game, well it's just pathetic. there's no other word for it. or i suppose i could put it like i did in a text to a friend, "the chiefs suck balls."
a sad and unfortunate thing it is. but i suppose it makes it that much easier to let go a little bit. for my own good. for your own good you poor chiefs. please remember it's just a game. a game that breaks the heart of your city. thanks.
i'm a youngest child. the baby of the family. all you older siblings out there resent us, you look at how we are spoiled and coddled and you take out your jealousy by taking advantage of your age and bullying us, which only upsets us, earns us sympathy from our parents and thus perpetuates your problem--which only adds to your consternation. it's a nasty cycle. there is nothing you can do about it, i'm sorry.
but that's not what i want to talk about. another advantage of being the youngest is that you get to watch your older siblings, often exclaiming subconsciously "boy that didn't work at all" or "what were they honestly thinking?" so when you come to that place in your life, every place that is, you've had a couple of examples of what not to do. and occasionally, you have a few good examples--or that ever-annoying bar of perfection placed at unattainable heights. either way it's usually safe to say that you have the advantage of much greater perspective than your same-generation forebears.
in a sense every generation is somehow reacting to and against the one that came before, or probably more accurately the few before. i don't know who decides these things, but apparently i am pretty much right on the edge of two generations--too young to be part of generation x and on the older end of what they call generation y. i sometimes feel this connection to both sides, their values, their attitudes--especially having older siblings. but more and more i discover the things in me that make me much more a millennial. i wonder if there are different "christian generations." how would those be divided? probably similar and influenced by the standard definitions but expressed differently perhaps.
but that's not what i want to talk about either. not exactly. i want to look more specifically at one thing in particular. family and marriage.
it's nothing all too insightful to say that the younger generation cares more about social justice and public morality than xers. i don't know about the younger side of this generation though--i feel like that might be started to fade. we'll see. but for whatever reason i see a lot of christians my age and a little younger who have seen the selfishness of the boomers (their parent's generation) and the destructiveness of the xer's self pity (see into the wild for a great example) and we've chosen a different route. that may be a gross oversimplification and there are many other factors as well as exceptions, but that's what i've seen a lot of. so how does that affect marriage and family? and why am i drawn to talk about that in particular? no it's not because i'm unmarried--why would you think that?
i think it's because for so long the family was supposed to be the place of establishment and security for people. young people so often oriented so much of their lives around finding that mr/mrs right and getting their life in order through that foundation. a lie, perhaps--but one bought hook line and worm. just watch a chick flick. something like 27 dresses and try not to gag. people still buy into this like crazy, but not as much. a massive example of divorce and separation has given a lot of the younger folks commitment issues. beyond that existential reeling that maybe xers felt a bit more, millenials (ys) maybe have gone a bit deeper into the problem. perhaps the problem isn't marriage or family but where we put it in our lives. is it the absolute thing? is it our entire orientation and goal? then that's a problem.
again nothing all that new as far as thoughts go, but that doesn't mean we live by it. and i also didn't really intend for this post to be so impersonal. it is very personal. i question our priorities. i wonder about where we have put our faith for security and establishment in this life. is it in marriage? is that the foundation? i know i have fallen into making an idol out of it in the past. faith can be shown by asking the question, "what is our ultimate concern?" is it your marriage? your hope of getting married? your hope of having a family? because life isn't really established until you have that, right? or maybe it's just love.
why have we bought into this lie? maybe there is some truth to it--after all, didn't God say it isn't good for man to be alone? never mind how far we run with that. can we find our sense of establishment in something else? in community? in the Holy Spirit? in mission? in the person of Jesus Christ present in our lives? or do we give it up for a marriage? maybe not all of it but how much? how much will we sacrifice in the name of love (how noble/romantic) for our beloved? never mind we are the beloved of another. we have to find ours first. then we can get on with our life and feel more secure, because no matter what happens at least we'll have that other.
if that all seems a bit extreme and maybe you think i exaggerate, most of those thoughts and attitudes are at least something i have felt before. and i have to continue to set those aside as i accept what God has had for me apart from all of that family and love and marriage thing. and i have to learn to realize that this is not lesser. this is not incomplete. but man is that going against so many pervasive values in our culture, christian and otherwise. maybe establishment and security isn't what we should be after anyway. down with the man, right? but it is something we all desire deeply (well most of us), and we aren't really in the habit of allowing for some of our desires to be declared wrong, especially not ones that seem so good and loving. but maybe we can see them all a little differently, a little clearer--hopefully we can with a little better perspective.