Monday, October 10, 2011

Living in the White, White Suburbs, Part 1

Elliott and I have always been open to being elsewhere.
We have always lived with the attitude, "Here we are, Lord.  Send us."
And month by month, year by year, we wait to see where the Lord will send us.
Month by month, year by year, the Lord has made it very clear He's not sending us anywhere.

As my husband said, "There are some very supernatural reasons we have stayed exactly where we are."

Every time we sort of get an itch to go, God does something so crazy that we know, without a doubt, that He wants us to stay.  (1) It all started when Elliott got the job at the church (through the CCO.  Yay, partnerships!).  He came into the hiring process really late in the game, and this church really wanted him and only him.  (2) Then a year and a half into the ministry, our car was totaled.  Without any money for a new car (and a heart aching for the people in Haiti devastated by the earthquake), we basically told God we were going to Haiti.  A week later, we were given a free car.  (3) Over the last year, we were certain that the church would not have the funds to keep Elliott on staff, and started looking for employment elsewhere.  In a flat-out miracle, the church found the money to keep Elliott on for another year.  (4) Another free car.  (5) And now with an amazing house to settle into -- well, there is no reason we should have this house -- but here we are.  Yup.  We're certain God wants us exactly where He has us.

And that's a lovely thing.  It's beyond comforting and affirming.  But you know what?  I'm extremely uncomfortable at how comfortable I am in this place.

You see, I had a wake up call in the last year about the way I lived my life in relationship to the way I approached race.  The problem basically stemmed from the lie that I believed I didn't see color, and that that was an okay way for me to live.  My entire life (growing up in an affluent white suburb surrounded by other well-meaning people who didn't "see" color), I lived in ignorant white "bliss."

And I repented.  I asked forgiveness -- from the Lord, and from my brothers and sisters of color.  And I started asking God to use me in His plan to bring full racial reconciliation to His church.

So imagine my confusion when we moved into the white (and I mean, WHITE) suburbs.

When I found out this was happening, I brought it up to my friend (I'll call her "A"), a woman of color (with whom I have a very close, borderline scary (in a good way), spiritual bond).  I think I said something along the lines of, "We have such a heart for racial reconciliation, that I always thought we'd end up in an urban setting," to which A responded, "You know, we've got it covered in the city.  We're doing okay.  I know it doesn't look like it on the outside, but we're really doing okay."  And that's when I had the epiphany (DUH): The last thing the city needs is another white couple from the suburbs wanting to come in and make things right.  (As if WE know what to do!  HA!)  What the kingdom of God needs is a white couple, with a background in the affluent white suburbs, to go back into their context and change it.

That's where we come in.

We both come from very affluent, white, suburban neighborhoods (although neither of us were particularly wealthy growing up), and so we understand the context.  We can really relate to these people because they are the people we grew up with -- the kids we played with, the houses we slept over in, the meals we ate with the people that made them.  This is our context.

And yet we feel very alien, because we have been out of this context for over two years (Personally, it's been almost 4 years since I've lived in a white neighborhood.  I'm going through a bit of culture shock.).  We have lived in the city and in an incredibly diverse urban-suburban neighborhood.  We have lived simply and rejected The American Dream.  Yet God put us smack in the middle of the place where The American Dream is golden.

Walking around the other day to the library, we were admiring the beautiful houses (and these houses, it should be mentioned, could eat at least three or four of our little carriage house), and Elliott said, "I wonder when our neighbors are gonna realize we really don't belong here."  And it's so true, in a sense.  Our hearts don't really belong here -- our lifestyle does not belong here -- and yet this is the exact place where God wants us to do ministry.

So.  Okay.  God wants us here.

But my insides are squirmy -- not only because I feel like a fish out of water who had gotten used to the land but is now thrown back into the water -- but also because I'm finding that (UGH) I like the water.

I'm so comfortable here.

And that makes me so, so, so uncomfortable.

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