Two years of my life stand out to me as being especially formational. The first was my freshman year of college, when moving out of the house and navigating life independently for the first time brought plenty of challenges and growth. The second was this past year, 2016.
I have had a difficult time writing anything for a while. Cut me some slack, people – since my last confession, we bought a house, welcomed a puppy into our new home (Monkey, just in case you’re reading this, you’re the most beautiful dog in the world), survived two holiday seasons, joined a new church, and I took a graduate course in theology and applied to grad school. I have also deactivated my Facebook, so there’s a 97% chance that no one is reading this post.
It’s also hard to write because talk is so cheap.
The thought of writing something made my stomach turn a little, because I think of all the times I’ve given advice that I can’t take myself, or shared anecdotes of overcoming things that come right back. The world really doesn’t need another person like me writing blogs or tweeting from an ivory tower while the WORLD BURNS.
But, another thing happens when I don’t write, and it’s that I don’t know what’s going on in my life. I forget to check in and reflect, and things start to feel like they’re just one big blur. I’d like to write something about how this past year has changed me and redirected my life, but it feels absolutely overwhelming to try and begin shaping that story, because I wasn’t writing through it. Here are the main takeaways:
- I read the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and it was the catalyst in helping me understand that I had some serious blindspots and ignorance when it came to the reality of racism in our country and how it affects individuals, families, communities, and our justice system.
- As our country imploded in 2016 with protests, riots, officer-involved shootings, and tons of headed conversation around race, I tried to read a lot and ask better questions to my black friends. And to believe them when they said things like this.
- I came under the personal conviction that my lack of proximity to people who were suffering or on the margins of society wasn’t Christlike. For years I’ve had a “world-changing” attitude that led me to do things like intern with International Justice Mission (the absolute greatest, btw), fundraise for different causes, and lead service trips, but I had very little proximity to people who weren’t white, middle/upper-class, college educated Christians. I should note that I love white, middle/upper-class college educated Christians, and I am one, but the point I’m making here is that being surrounded by one perspective allowed me to easily dismiss other perspectives and stunted my ability to empathize.
- I ALSO came under the personal conviction that my interactions with “the poor and marginalized” were not really compelled by the love and humility of Christ, but were more about making myself feel good and making others think I was a super Christian. I still struggle with this, and probably always will. There have been some very, very good words written about this in Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts, or you can get a general idea by listening to this lecture from Steve Corbett.
- Charlotte ranked dead last in a nationwide study on upward mobility. Out of the 50 largest cities in the USA, Charlotte ranked 50th when it comes to children being born into, and staying in, poverty. I live in Charlotte, and I can’t abide that. I feel a sense of personal responsibility to do something, not just cast a vote or donate money to help someone else do something. You can learn more about the study and what Charlotte is doing about it here. If you live in Charlotte, you should read the whole thing! It is so important and so eye-opening.
- I started asking God to help me know how to respond to all that I was learning, because things are complicated. How do I relate to people when we share no common life experiences? How do I serve people without having a God complex? How do I love people in a way that addresses their physical needs without robbing them of their dignity? Here’s the conclusion I have so far: I don’t know.
So here’s who I am today:
- A member of a multi-ethnic, uncomfortable church plant team that will soon be West Charlotte Church. It has been very cool to see God’s good plan in moving us to West Charlotte and giving us experiences to change our perspective just before we met the McKnight and Martin families, who are planting a church 2 miles from our house.
- Uncomfortable – I mentioned that our church plant team was uncomfortable, and I mean that. I also love it. Forever, I’ve been involved with ministries and churches where I was the majority and found it very easy to relate to and connect with others. On our church plant team, where people come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, it takes some WORK to develop relationships. It is so worth it. I think this is the first community that I’ve been a part of that acknowledges and celebrates its diversity.
- About to be a graduate student (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Heading back to get my Master’s in Social Work in August. Excited to learn and gain a skill set to serve Charlotte better.
- HUMBLED. Like, just very aware that I have no idea what I’m doing. Very aware of my need for God. Very aware of my need for my church family and their wisdom.
I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about the journey I’m on, and at the same time, I feel so vulnerable that sometimes I feel queasy. Here’s to doing hard things!