Saturday, September 13, 2008

Swim at your own risk

After watching Darfur Now the other day, while the credits scrolled up the screen, Andrew said, "I just got the strong sense that I'm supposed to die with nothing. If I've hoarded possessions, then to some extent I've failed." This is the heartbeat of our lives. Be willing to part with anything and everything if someone else needs it more. We came into this world with nothing, and we can't take anything material with us.

This concept, however, would have been foreign and a little scary to the Andrew and Sarah of 8 years ago. When we were first getting to know each other, we both gave the impression with or without words that we wanted a quiet life working, supporting a family, and living in one house for the rest of our lives. Now something's awakened in us. Something that yearns for that radical existence Jesus talked about when he said, "If you cling to your life you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it." I don't know for sure when and how it changed. But somewhere we were spoiled for the ordinary.

There's a bumper sticker or flair on Facebook that is popular among girls. It says: "Well-behaved women rarely make history." There is something in Andrew and I that wants to "misbehave," not in the sense of breaking the law, or rebelling against anyone in particular. But in a way that our lives wouldn't make sense to the play-it-safers. "Why would you purposely buy a junky car?" "Why wouldn't you buy a house, especially in this market?" "Why would you let someone live in your second bedroom when all you have is an apartment to share?" "Why would you give away more than the obligatory 10%?" "Why would you want to move closer to the city, where it's not as 'safe' as it is here?"

Andrew and I cringe at the word "safe." It's an illusion! When people say "safe" they're referring to the external comfort factor in which they've put their faith. A big car. A nice house in a nice subdivision. An alarm system. Nobody with a different skin color nearby. A strong military. A wall between the U.S. and Mexico. To Andrew and I, "safe" means essentially walking dead. This is real safety: "Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. ... For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God." For this reason, "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going." Real safety is knowing that this empowers you to take risks, be generous, step into an abyss when you can't see the bridge, and love without strings attached, all because this life isn't all there is.

External comfort factors are not safety. They are not all bad, but they are not safety. And safety isn't all good, either. I would rather live a grand adventure and have an impact in the world than fabricate a comfortable, quiet existence where the biggest difference I make is in what color I paint the livingroom wall.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Information Overload!

One of my strengths, according to the Strengths Finder test, is Input. I gather and assimilate all kinds of information, making connections, and sharing them with others. Sometimes I haven't thought of something I've read for years, then it comes up in conversation and I'm like, "Yeah! I read that...(yadda yadda yadda)." People say, "How do you know that?" I couldn't tell you where I learned it, I just know.

Obviously, this can be a curse, too. People want cold, hard evidence to back up opinions. I can say "I read it somewhere," "I heard several different sources say it," or "I thought everybody knew that," but it doesn't hold a grain of sand. Debaters want verbal APA and MLA citations. Well if I carried around the internet with me, I could probably figure out where I read or heard something. But that doesn't happen, and I read, watch, listen, and learn A LOT!

Lately I've been reading a book called The Tangible Kingdom, about becoming a church without four walls, programs, and the five-step model to "getting saved." Am I the kind of person who will step out and form community outside what is traditionally known as "the church," or do I just like to talk about the idea of it? I am challenged, not only personally, but corporately. What part do Andrew and I play in bringing this kind of vision to our own "church," who may or may not receive it well? Maybe they will be ready for baby steps, though. I will just wait, watch, listen, and act when given the opportunity.

I've also been following politics. I watch television, movies, YouTube videos, I read articles, blogs, magazines, books, and I try to decipher what is true. I try to see through emotionalism, spin, partisanship, and pandering to constituents. And I have to say, people make a living trying to do this, spending all day all week following, studying, deconstructing, analyzing the candidates. And I think I can do this as a free-time hobby? What is free-time, anyway? I'm supposed to be studying for the GRE and writing a portfolio! I just have to keep synthesizing what the experts say about the candidates and draw my own conclusion. Hopefully I'll have one by November 4th.

Just a couple hours ago, Andrew and I finished watching the movie "Darfur Now." To say it was enlightening, amazing, inspiring, etc, is to sell it short on a few limited words. Just see it for yourself. I sit back and think, there are hundreds of stories like this one all over the world. What can I do for just one of them? How do I fully help, while not ignoring all the other places where injustice, poverty, and war reign supreme? I will do what I can for what I know. And I will always be gathering more information, learning more. But there is not enough time in the world for one person to make a difference. That is why I have to trust that drop by drop, the bucket will be filled.

I definitely have my times of "information overload," but I wouldn't trade it for an isolated bubble of an existence. I wrote an essay about specialists and generalists once, and in it I argued that generalists assimilate information from the specialists and provide broader perspectives that in turn help focus and unify the specialists. I can't bemoan the fact that I don't have enough time to deeply study everything I'm interested in. If I can use my strength of "Input" then I can contribute to the education and awareness of others. For instance, I can show how being a true Christian means also being concerned about "the least of these;" and how that concern can flow outward using the privilege of voting to effect law and policy that can help those in need; but most importantly, how that concern can flow outward from our own hands, feet, words, and wallets.