Many years from now I suspect that I will look back on this place of life with a mixture of emotions not unlike the ones I have traversing it. The freedom of this place is intoxicating, so too the fear of flying. In the rearview mirror, I suspect that much of it will have more clarity than I have in the moment. Which is humbling.
Yesterday I preached on the conception of Jesus, the scandal of the pregnancy, the sacred borning outside our culturally acceptable boxes. It wasn’t a sermon that felt right on Saturday, but it was fun to deliver, the feedback was encouraging, and it felt very good at noon on Sunday. I was able to speak my truth, offer what is to me important critique, share vulnerability, and maybe even offer a word of inspiration and/or encouragement. As preaching goes, it’s just about as good as it gets. I am grateful for these moments.
Today I have an interview with an urban outreach center hiring math tutors. It’s a juxtaposition to move from the seat of privilege, of which a suburban church surely is, to a place of absolute need. I am not sure I have what is needed, am not sure it is my call at the moment. Excited about the position when I applied a week ago, I have a myriad of hesitancies as I approach the interview. Mostly my cautions are that that work is very part time and I am loathe to make a commitment of my emotional resources in this context. Still, the position has much appeal and I am grateful for the chance to interview.
After the interview, I will jump back on the interstate and return to suburbia with a meeting about our church’s new website. Dawning slowly is another piece of the puzzle of this shift in my life.
At the outset of ministry, I carried a passion for social (read: economic, racial, political, lgbt) justice. My reading and writing, preaching and teaching, were grounded in this passion. Slowly but surely as I swam in the waters of suburbia, I became one with the water. I began to want what other suburban mothers want, I began to fashion a ministry that might have some appeal to suburban families in the neighborhood. To be sure my sermons are still peppered with the passion of my youth, but in a land of affluence I have been cautious in speaking truth to justice. Quite frankly, it doesn’t pay or play.
As I become aware of where I feel called in this season of life, it is consistently to places apart from the privilege of the suburb that has been my place of life and ministry for many years. The large lawns and gracious front porches are no doubt compelling, but they hide the more sinister truth of the classism that is fundamental to their existence. For someone to live in the big house, another someone lives in service to it. Rather than feeling comforted by the beauty of tree lined streets, I am increasingly agitated. I recognize that the agitation is an internal piece calling me back to a place that is more in line with my core values. Judgment of the suburb is misplaced, the dissonance is not external but rather a witness to my own misplaced energy.
When my beloved and I married just over a year ago, we moved into what had been her home on the edge of the city. Just a couple of miles from suburbia, the air here is markedly different. The expectations, the class lines, the storefronts, even the trees that line the streets. It’s grittier some might say and I can’t disagree. But it is unmistakably home to me and the move has been significant in resetting my center. Walking to the K-Mart rather than driving to the Target, my choices are fewer and the prices comparable. Both clientel and staff appear to be doing more with less, and it feels like a right-sizing of the consumerism that had too long held me hostage. There is freedom on the other side of suburbia and it calls to me.
It is Monday and I hold the pieces lightly, gingerly even, as I prepare for my day. Grateful I am for yesterday, hopeful for the gentleness of this new day. All is well even as it is unsettled. And for this awareness most of all I give thanks.