On Learning to Love a Wider World

I am a little naive.

hate saying that, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be perceived as a mature capable grown-up. Leaving aside the silliness of that, in an attempt to make myself feel better I’d like to note that we are all a little naive. We can know that something exists or what it is like, but until we’ve experienced it, we don’t really know. I can tell you that Vegemite is a vile salty spread, but until you put it on a cracker and eat it, you can’t truly understand what a revolting people Australians are.

[just kidding Australians don’t leave please thanks]

After the week or two of crisis I described in my last post, I am finally settling in like I’ve claimed to be doing all along. I’m still squirmy-uncomfortable a great deal of the time, and I still don’t exactly know how to write about that here; but I am finding more and more pockets of homey space. I no longer fear that those don’t exist.

Now instead I have the breathing room to see the squirmy-uncomfortable for the gift that it is, indeed the gift I asked for. Maybe I thought I’d ease in a bit slower, but I knew I was dumping myself into a new culture, new climate, and I knew I was coming alone. I also knew it would hurt and it would make me alive and it would teach me things that aren’t in books or my family or the South – that aren’t in comfortable places.

Now I have jumped sides in the culture war, like some infiltrating spy, except I’m not here to inform for either side but  for myself and whoever else is wandering about no-man’s-land (I know you exist somewhere…). And I really am learning, and listening to people’s stories. I’m empathizing, on the other side, with the same old fears – they’re out to get me; they’re messing with my God. I’m rooting them out in myself, trying to replace them with trust.

Now I find new ways of being happy alone, and I find new ways of accepting others as they are.

Now push comes to shove for all my ideals and ideas and shoulds, here where I make a day-in day-out community, with others I didn’t choose. It is a bit like an arranged marriage, and I expect we could be Tevye and Golde before the end of it.

Now I talk to strangers and I don’t hate it. I’m learning small talk doesn’t physically hurt and sometimes oversharing is better than undersharing anyway.

Now I am still walking through, how I have been, how I said God what am I supposed to do with all this pain and mess and She said walk through it, child. I’m still walking through pain and mess sometimes but more important, I’m getting better at walking through everything else too, feeling this moment in all the weight of its hurt or joy or mundane whatever else. Yesterday I cleaned our bathroom and I smelled Pine Sol, felt my scrubbing arm ache and thought what beauty in the power to reverse the slow decay of days. When I am good at walking through, everything feels new – a good kind of naivete. When I jump in trusting instead of hanging back threatened, everything feels like the opportunity it is.

Now I say to myself once or twice a day, I live in New York! And I savor the adventure, dare even to imagine myself an adventurer. I indulge in a moment to believe I am doing a hard thing. I tell myself “good job!” and then I tell someone else (a habit I’m picking up from my roommate).

Now I pray with urgency but not with haste*, because I pray all the time, because I don’t know another way to live right now. And isn’t that – not adventure, not ethnographic study material, not fulfillment- isn’t that what I really came here looking for. I came following the living God and He is here, and all through theological doubts and self-doubt I don’t have to wonder. He is here like my hands are here, like the wind blows (all the time), like the lectionary keeps going and the seasons keep going and I keep going despite myself (some sick and rainy Fridays). We are here together, in New York, and I begin to see how He loves this place and these people, here and

Now.

——-

*hat-tip to Mumford

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