Thought I’d let you in on some personal news – we are moving. To a neighborhood referred by our friends as the “Shartel neighborhood”, known in other circles as “The Jungle.” Blocks away from the OKC’s downtown homeless shelter, the Shartel neighborhood is home to crackpots, prostitutes and drug dealers. It’s what author Shane Claiborne would call, “an abandoned place of empire” – neglected by the city and forgotten.
I’ve had this up on my chalkboard wall for some time now. And I imagine if Jesus were to walk in my living room and tell me to come follow him, he would most likely take me to a place like Shartel. But I’m getting ahead of myself – here is how it all went down.
I can only explain it as a call. One that I wasn’t expecting nor did I really welcome at the time. For a few years I have been challenged in my thinking of what it means to be a Christian. And I have a confession. I’ve grown pretty tired of mainstream American, evangelical Christianity. Maybe it’s how safe and boring we are. Maybe it’s because we don’t really live out the Gospel. Maybe it’s just because we don’t really know Jesus, or maybe it’s because we don’t want to give up anything to do what He says.
If we read the Bible, we see that He was kind of a wild man – he took risks, he was a friend of sinners, he met the needs of the poor and oppressed, he rebuked religious people, he told stories, he was radical. And, in the words of Rich Mullins, “I think when we identify with Christ, when we take on the name of Christ, when we become a Christian, I think that means that our lives should be infused with the character of Christ. And the character of Christ is that of a wildly, ridiculously generous and compassionate Man.”
The moment I knew we were supposed to move in the little, rundown, ugly 750 sq. foot house, I immediately began a dialogue in my head of all the reasons why we couldn’t, shouldn’t, and why I just plain didn’t want to. I’d grown comfortable in our beautiful mid-town home and didn’t have any intention of leaving. I didn’t share any of this with my husband until a week later.
Well, I couldn’t shake it, so I let the cat out of the bag and told him what I was feeling. Let’s just say about 36 hours later he was telling me, yes, we should do it. I began to regret sharing it and proceeded to have about 24 hours of complete crazy talk in my head – questioning the very basis of my faith, wondering what in the world we were getting ourselves into, knowing our friends, and quite possibly our family might think we are insane. I felt depressed and completely wanted to shoo the whole idea off a cliff and forget the whole thing ever happened. I prayed. I wrestled with God in my prayers. I asked for confirmation. Anything. And after I’d said all I could, I felt that we should just simply, come.
That’s all I needed. It reminded me of a verse and some words that resonated with me months ago -
Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured. Hebrews 13:13
Jesus is not standing back saying, “Go there.” He’s saying, I’m out here! You’re in there where it’s so comfortable. It’s so safe inside the church, inside your house. I’m out here! Come to me. -John Piper
I could cry writing this, because now I’m so eager to just sell all my stuff and go. I know it will only be a step on a long journey. I know we will make mistakes. I know we are going into this naive and unprepared. But like Abraham, he had faith in God that when He called him into “a land he knew not,” he would provide.
We won’t be doing this alone. For at least a year I’ve been hungry for that biblical community that is mentioned in Acts 2 and 4. I’ve never truly experienced it before in my decades in the church. God has led us to a community of people – at least 50 of them – young families, singles, entrepreneurs, business people – people that are crazy enough to live like Jesus. With the same goals and passions – living in biblical community, loving and building relationships with people, seeking after peace in the city, restoring the broken places, creating beauty, pointing people to the true Rescuer.
But to be honest, I’m simply going to meet Jesus. Because the call is to come, and I know I will find Him there. And most likely I will meet Him in disguises, much like I’ve found Him in the homeless that I’ve encountered here in mid-town.
Bottom line, I can’t continue life the way I have been for the last 20 years. Because the life I imagine worthwhile, is the one where I give it away. And I don’t think it’s any accident that this is all coming about before my 30th birthday. It feels like a new time. New faith, new adventure, and a new calling.
I leave you with some quotes that have fueled my quest and journey for the last year, and I hope that maybe, just maybe you might also hear the call to “come.”
My desire and prayer for you is that your life have a radical flavor. A risk-taking flavor. A gutsy, counter-cultural, flavor to it that makes the average, prosperous, Americans in your church feel uncomfortable. A pervasive summons to something more and something hazardous and something wonderful. A saltiness and brightness, something like the life of Jesus.
- John Piper
Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.
- Rich Mullins
We are called by Jesus to give up everything. His call is to come. When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is doing much more than calling us to endure the daily, circumstantial troubles of life. It is a call to radical faith. Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the Gospel. To consider everything a loss for his sake.
- Francis Chan
It’s about learning to live the kingdom and to create pathways for others to experience it with you. Throughout the scriptures, we see God calling his followers to live a life of “sentness.” Stability, social comfort, relational control, safety, success, respect, or clarity were not expected. Outcome didn’t matter: faithfulness did.
(from the book, The Tangible Kingdom)
Being a Christian is about choosing Jesus and deciding to do something incredibly daring with your life. // Rather than waiting around for God’s special plan for your life, you should just go find where God is at work and join in. // Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity, but concrete acts of love. // While the ghettos have their share of violence and crime, the suburbs are the home of more subtle demonic forces – numbness, complacency, comfort – that can eat away at our souls. // It is risky but we are people of faith, believing that giving is more contagious than hoarding, that love can cover hatred, light can overcome darkness, grass can pierce concrete. This is precisely what we commit our lives to. // He dares and woos us to come and follow, take up our cross, to lose your life to find it.
- Shane Claiborne
Calcuttas are everywhere if we only have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.
- Mother Teresa
Cruelty, devastation, death – this is what happens when God’s compassion and love leave a place. It is when people do not allow God to show up through them, that the world collapses in on itself.
- Don Miller
I’ve realised, that it’s not at all, and never was, about how much you have. Because in actual fact it means nothing at all. Nothing, nothing, nothing at all. It doesn’t add to your peace or your joy or your love. And that’s all that matters. To live selflessly, to live for another is not only so fulfilling but just so FUN.