Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Land of the Living :: Volume I

Each day that begins and ends brings us closer to the day we'll pack up all of our books and dishes and shirts and Legos and move a bit further down the road.

What should have been June might now be July and I'm doing my very best to keep the inner cynic in check, because what I'm thinking on a good day is, "They'll never be done by July." On a drearier day, it's more, "This is never going to happen. Never."

There's a thing inside me that feels so much better when I hold the timeline in my own two hands. I've been reluctant to talk about all of this, because what if I'm wrong? What if we're hours away from the rug being yanked out?

As you already know, I hate being wrong. It's embarrassing. But I'm learning. I'm learning that publicly tip-toeing to the edge of the cliff brings a unique brand of exhilaration. It's possible that I'll be wrong, that I'll have to recant. It seems like it wouldn't be the end of the world after all.

So this is our street. If you walk a few blocks further down, you'll come to the school where the kids will attend.

I've gotta tell you, it looked a bit less depressing back in August. Once the leaves fell and everything got all washed up in gray, the latent doubts came back with a vengeance.

This isn't the life I had pictured for my kids. Or me. I pictured us sitting under shade trees in the back yard, bare-feet explorers. We'd harvest cherry tomatoes and cook them up for dinner, far away from the threat of poverty or crime. Far away from anyone at all. We'd sit on the porch at night and almost never think about brokenness. It wouldn't cross our minds. Come night, we'd sleep with the doors unlocked.

I pictured it all so clearly, the colors fully saturated, because I lived it for four years. Four years isn't a long time, in the scheme of things, but it's plenty long enough to remind me for years to come of all that we lost.

I wonder what life will be like after we climb inside these photos with the cracked up streets and the houses that give me the creeps. I'd be lying if I said I never felt a little scared. People tell us with their eyes that it's dangerous. They dance their way around it - what if this is the beginning of the end for your kids? There are drugs over there. There are gangs. The neighbors might not speak English and who will Calvin play with after school?

I hear it all but I feel it even louder, because most of their words aren't spent in breath. Most of their words fall silent in the deep space between their question and our answer. That's what most people want from us, a tidy explanation. We don't really have one, at least not one that can be said in two clipped soundbites with a wink and a smile. Many seem to want reassurance that just because we're doing something stupid, they won't have to. 

So the best I can do is this: God sent us over there. He directed our hearts in a way that was impossible to ignore. He woke us up to the basic truth that this was an option, and we would have never gotten there on our own. This kind of life wasn't on our radar two years ago. Back then, it might have been me with my eyebrows knit together in the middle, saying all I needed to say in a pause that was a beat too long. You're making a big mistake.

When I picture Jesus these days, I picture Him in Gap jeans and a flannel. His hair is longish. His boots are old. I see Him going to places like these, and places that make this look like Vacation Bible School.  He keeps company with those who mourn. He likes talking to people who don't have all the answers. He goes to where life runs thick and dark and he brings the light. His compass points to the place that is the most dangerous, the least comfortable. Why did I ever think my compass should be any different?

So what we'll do is follow Him there. He leads. We follow. He's more than enough light for all that gray.

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living. 
Psalm 27:13