On stories

These are not the answers. I’ve only been here a month. Inserted myself into someone else’s story. HIS and all those who came before me. All those who walked these streets. Slept in my room. Wrestled. Cried out. Toiled. Built relationships. Broke relationship. All those who sought to change and were changed and all those who somehow managed to bring change to others. I’ve inserted myself into a story that dates back 13 years. And further. Back to the days when this area was vibrant with factories, business’, jobs and families. A little further on to the “white exodus”: the years when factories closed, businesses relocated, jobs were cut off, and families drifted on and apart. I don’t understand this part of the story. I don’t even understand or grasp the part of the story that begins 13 years ago. I certainly don’t understand in its fullness the part I find myself immersed in now. So these are not the answers. Not after a month. As if a lifetime could give them.

No, these are the questions. My thoughts. My struggles, my dreams. My wrestlings and crying out. My toiling, my seeking and my changing. I tend to write romantically. I live practically. Immersed. The writing is the listening to Josh Garrels through my earphones. The living is the hearing fights and children and police sirens and drug dealers breaking through. Hear them both; they’re both important. I must live as though I am here. Present. I must dream as though I’m not. Future. I must understand as one who was. Past. And I must hope that Christ breaks in. On me. On this neighborhood. On our lives. Present-continuous.

This is the story. About liturgy in the morning with visitors and community and strangers. All of us with one thing in common: Jesus Christ. About evening prayer in the basement. Surrounded by clothes and food and tools and toys and stationary and ice-cream and prayers which span 13 years and beyond – deaths and lives and addictions and marches  and subversion and holy mischief and small acts of great love. It is about living intentionally in a community house with 4 other people. About frustrations and different interpretations of cleanliness and moods and personalities and strengths and weaknesses and how to share the bathroom in the morning and the washing machine in the afternoon and graciously accepting tofu. It is about intentionally living in geographic community in a neighborhood that is loud and many times angry. Where children and people in need and pilgrims knock on our door – seemingly unceasingly. It is about learning to live and most especially to live well amidst drugs and addictions and anger and hurt and seeming confusion. It is about boundaries. It is about realizing that we are not the only ones who bring good here and recognizing it in the lives of our neighbors and friends – not our social “projects”. It is about struggling with how best to relate to the drug dealers who sit on our step turning thousands of dollars of despair a night. It is about how to maintain a marriage amidst competing demands and other covenant commitments.

It is about making sure to place Jesus back into the center of the gospel of social justice every time I am tempted by my own pride and naivety to relegate Him to the back seat.

It is about going about our daily lives aware, intentional, full of grace and mercy and love. It is about not just going about.

“I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good.

It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about.”

Toyohiko Kagawa


3 thoughts on “On stories

  1. bit about living well reminded me of a farewell a boss used to say to us “go well” which I think comes from a Brownie song : go well and safely, the Lord be ever with you,..stay well and safely …”, hope this encourages, God bless in your no doubt topsy-turvy community life! (reminds me a little of life of Keith and Melody Green described in No compromise) x

  2. Valerie, Your writing is so beautiful but more than that is the beauty of the truth in the writing. I am a volunteer at an outreach in Melbourne, Australia and I am reminded every day that I am “Johnny come lately” in someone else’s story…. most of the time you feel like you have no idea what you are doing and then sometimes you are overwhelmed to realise you have become part of all these people’s stories and they a part of yours. I hope you and Brett keep writing, you are both the only Christian blogs my agnostic and atheist friends find common ground in….

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