Us Versus Them: A Problem of Self Righteousness
your words are water to this desert
You’ve been on the road for three weeks?! You don’t look like it at all!
He can’t see my bug bites. We won’t tell him about the nearly untouched bottles of shampoo.
If only he knew.
Three weeks will take the enigma out of anything. The long term road trip is a world of its’ own. We may be young but we’re not untravelled. We’ve touched 6 continents and over 40 countries between the four of us. Roommates, siblings and missions trips have nothing on 12,000 miles in a Jeep with your best friends.
I can tell you what Rachel had for breakfast, the last time Jordan shampooed his hair and when David woke up this morning. What they’re reading, who they’re texting, and the last time they phoned their mother.
Jordan can’t eat breakfast, David has to. David can’t drink coffee in the morning, Jordan has to. He hates mayonnaise, she can’t eat dairy and I hate grocery shopping. We share a bank account.
Three weeks also goes by incredibly quickly. I’m sitting on a bunk bed in New Orleans and I haven’t even told you about Phoenix.
If you want to know what it felt like, step into a sauna. If you want to know what it looked like, take a trip to Anthropologie. Adorable never found a better suitor than in Meghan Wise. Chalk art, antlers, books, clocks, pillows, popcorn machines…you name it, she had it.
Posters made, coolant changed, barbecue eaten and we were off to Albuquerque. Seven hours turned into eleven hours as heat turned into swelter. Arriving three hours late to our dinner date, we found ourselves pulling up to the home of Matthew and Carolyn Tobias.
Friends of a friend of a friend. It was blind date night with the Tobias family. With the New Mexico heat wearing heavily, we arrived to find children on the lawn and chicken on the grill.
Matthew is a drummer from Nebraska, Carolyn a writer from Australia. They met in Hawaii. After working with YWAM for several years they relocated from Omaha to Albuquerque this past year. Their children are the most delightful people we have ever met. They spoke in a words well beyond their years, with manners to match. I have a passion for dancing and I would like to pursue it as a career someday. These children could articulate their passions better than most adults. Even their concern for the Albuquerque education system was as profound as their parents. The conversation went from arts education to drum kits and took a sharp turn toward community. Community isn’t something you go looking for. It’s something you create. It takes sacrifice. You can’t be at a different Bible study every night of the week and still be a part of a community, Carolyn explained. Woah…talk about conviction. Albuquerque is one of those cities where people come to do outreach because of the thriving arts scene. Churches put on community art events. But what happens Monday morning? Where are the people living in the middle of it. Matthew and Carolyn moved to Albuquerque to do just that. They didn’t come with a five step program or a preconceived agenda. They are choosing to listen first, act second.
I wish I could recount every detail of the conversation. For it was one of those evenings that leave you pining for more. Wrestling over the words for weeks to come. I want to share a snapshot with you. A theme has arisen among conversations over the last couple of weeks. It’s one of humanity and a story that’s bigger than heaven and hell.
My intent is not to speak ill of the Church. I love the Church. God loves the church. But we are imperfect and it has been my experience, naive as it is, that pretending we are doesn’t help anyone. Take it as you will, but I’ve seen megaphones and crusades hurt more often than they heal.
Community is not affinity, Matthew always says. Ugh…that’s a hard pill to swallow. I dream of artist communities where diversity means that you paint and I dance. But is that really community? Isn’t relationship about the fact that you have what I don’t? And visa versa? Hey Mr. Accountant, what can I learn from you? A place where wisdom meets innocence and vision convicts complacency. A place where your story heals my heart.
And then we further dissociate ourselves from people who aren’t “saved”. As if we didn’t have the same struggles, wage the same wars.
We tell people they are going to hell and leave them to sort out the rest? Matthew questioned.
What about the rest of life? A thirteen year old girl who spent the morning throwing up in the cafeteria bathroom doesn’t need to hear she’s going to hell. She knows more of hell than those empty words ever will. A young man fighting for his marriage doesn’t care about heaven, he cares about today. We strategize and we sandwich board. Why don’t we listen? We search far and wide for “relevance”. Always looking to make the message “hip”.
But am I so different than the stripper on Bourbon Street? That homeless man is just as human as you are. I have clothes on my back and I can afford rent. I have some money and I’ve read a few books. I don’t have to sell my body to buy groceries. I’m not better because of it.
Self righteousness is a deadly giant. There are enough stones being thrown.
So what do I say to that thirteen year old girl? I’ll tell her that Jesus loves her, yes. But maybe first I’ll tell her that I’ve been there. That I know what it’s like to weigh yourself ten times a day. That I know what crying yourself to sleep at night feels like. Maybe I’ll tell her that I’m not healed, that I still struggle. But that I’m healing….