Monday, May 27, 2013

Why City Living is Beautiful, Too

It's Memorial Day. We hung our flag and ate the requisite hamburger. I wiped my eyes when the wrinkled veterans stood in church and for all of the conflict I feel these days about this world, it's true - I was sitting on that pew because of the sacrifice of others.

We partied all weekend. I baked this coffee cake last night after midnight. (Also, this and this. It was a good night.)

Somewhere around 4pm today, we lost our steam. We lost it all. Poof. Gone. Fork. Done. Etc...
The gray skies and rain didn't help. So we did what any sensible family would do. We bathed the kids at 4:30, Ramen noodles at 5, Silas to bed at 6, Biggers at 6:30. I AM SO FOR REAL.

And this, friends, is me in a nut-shell. Give me 3 late nights in a row and extra sweets in between. Sit me at a table with friends for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But on the 4th day? I'll get a far-away look in my eyes and pretend not to hear you when you speak.

I'm an introvert.

Some of my friends don't believe me, but it's true. I'm a hybrid, you know. A solid 65:35.

So of course, I was always meant to live in the country. Perhaps even the prairie, although I hear it's hard to come by authentic Mexican food on the prairie, so maybe not.

I thought any town with more than one stoplight was engineered by sadists.

All I wanted, all my life, was a big white farmhouse at the end of a medium-long lane.

Something like this.

I wanted to mind my own business and I thought it'd be great if everyone else did the same.

I wanted family dinner 6 nights out of 7, and I when I said "family", I only counted 5.

I wanted just me, just my people, just my own garden and my own peonies and my own clean fences (make them picket).

I wanted the simple life.

Imagine my surprise when I got all of those things and realized it was only chapter 1.

I don't remember exactly what I thought city living would be like, but I knew it would be a tight fit. We could do it, I could suffer for the cause (what exactly was the cause???) but I wouldn't do it happy. There'd be no more pictures to take. The fields that surrounded us like a hug would be long-gone.

Noise - there'd be lots of noise. And people.

It wouldn't be pretty.

It turns out, I was right about the noise and the people. Wrong about the beauty.
It turns out, the rumble of a train and a knock on our door are more beautiful than a quiet line of nights spent turned inward.

I understand the Suburban urge to retreat to the country, where the clock ticks slower and the cookies never burn. I framed the idea of peaceful solitude and nailed it to my heart. I equated stillness with rest and rest with God. I believed in my soul that I would find more of Him between trips to my raspberry bushes, our sheets flapping in the breeze.

I didn't know I'd find him in faces and scars.
I didn't know what I didn't know.
It seems pretty dang obvious now.

His hand is on this land, and because this is where He sent us, we feel it stronger here. We watch strangers become kin and we find Him. We turn away, swear that we need a break, feel that pang of guilt, and we find Him there, showing us our own messed-up hearts while He keeps on loving us anyway.

He was never hidden in the flowers and fruit of the life I lived then. I saw Him in creation, all around me, very sure I stood in His palm. And I did. But He's here, too. I couldn't trust it until I saw it for myself.

What I know now is that His beauty is everywhere. Hayfields and painted barns don't own the rights. It's etched on brick and sprayed on steel.

I don't have to look past the city-ness of the city to find it. The city-ness IS the gift. Where His children are multiplied, so is His grace. And that's here, where kids cast and reel hurt and affection, where they scream down the sidewalks after dark, where they knock on my door when I'm tired.

This is the simple life, where people are immune to being impressed, where the hardest work required is the turning of a knob.

This is His wit and charm, His perfect winsomeness and His clever way of turning my stubborn shoulders around so I can see the fullness of context, contrast, community.

So I can see more of Him.

"The city is making us realize that sameness is a failure...Maybe, just maybe, God will use the city to remind us that all his unique individual masterpieces clustered together in high rises and housing projects and neighborhoods bear a reflection of his original design. Perhaps it will be in the city that the church will rediscover the richness of diversity interacting in hard-earned unity."
- Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America by Robert D. Lupton

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