Tuesday, May 23, 2006

where you are, ain’t where you wished you would be…

over the last couple of days i’ve felt a strong leading to spend time praying over, listening to and walking the diz through the crossing, which isn’t exactly compton but is one of the rougher neighborhoods in beverly. on account of my association with bootstraps i know quite a few people, most of them kids, in the neighborhood so i usually don’t find this five block area as unsettling as some.

however, yesterday when the kids i’ve known for years either blatantly ignored the sight of me or opened with the question “what are you doing down here?,” and one of the guys that keeps his office on one of the street corners said something that suggested he was more hostile towards than interested in the diz, i realized how much of a stranger i really was. the crossing may be only six blocks from the house, but in some ways i am a complete stranger in those environs.

this feeling of displacement that clung to me like smoke made me wonder how my after school kids feel when they are bussed over to complete their homework in the damp, cool basement of the big white church. as they practice their multiplication tables with moonlighting private school teachers and receive frequent admonitions from middle class strangers such as myself do they feel as displaced as i do as i traverse their streets? moreover, when the older kids venture through the upper middle class neighborhood on the east side of town as they make their way to the beach, do they feel as alien as i do when someone pulls back their paper thin curtain to take a cursory peek?

although the few moments i have spent in the crossing as of late have been charged with internal dissonance and a strong sense of displacement, i suspect that it is in the midst of such awkward environs that God really molds me. perhaps, instead of shying away from the crossing in order to spend more time in my safe, middle class context, or, on an even more practical level, instead of intellectually, emotionally and relationally disassociating myself from my awkward and taught with tension work environment, I need to lean into these experiences and let the Spirit shape me in the midst. i have a strong, growing suspicion that it is in the midst of displacement that i’ll hear God speak, see the divergent strands start to converge and feel all of creation trembling with God’s redemption.

i don’t know…much of anything, actually. furthermore, i am far from the first to suspect or say such things. but that’s where i’m at right now.


Rick said...

good word. I have felt those things many times, as has Kristi. We see these as bestowments of grace from God in our formation.

Whether it was in the ghetto of Boston riding a subway and being spoken to harshly or eating at a great sould food place and encouraged to take my food "to go," we have a choice at these times to respond in the way of Jesus, who felt displacement for 32 years.

Agent B said...

Good post.

Yeah, I hate that displacement feeling. And I'd bet you're right about the kids feeling the same displacement in the church basement.

In January I began spending my Fridays at the baptist beachhead downtown (where the Librarian is associated, but not for long). It was fine for a couple of weeks, but man...that displacement...

I quit going after about 2-3 months. There's many reasons for this, all of which I'm fine with. Except the displacement reason. I'm ashamed of that one being my partial excuse.

ahbahsean said...

This happens pretty much every day I counsel the kids in the city. It's gotten a lot better over the semester but honestly, if I worked even one block over, given the unfamilarity of it all I'd probably have all those same feelings again.

I am glad to have had the experience though. I think it's changed me in many ways I don't yet quite understand.