My world is a small one.
It’s made up of a few streets, one elementary school, one yard with patchy landscaping and lots of litter, a Wal-Mart, a Piggly Wiggly, one coffee shop, and a few fists full of in real life people.
I rarely drive more than fifteen minutes to go anywhere. I’m committed to my place and what my place has to offer, so except for the quarterly Stitch Fix box, paid for by you fine folks, and the occasional Ebay win, I get everything I need right here. I make three trips a year to the big city and when I do, I feel like my insides are climbing the wall. The stuff crammed in-between more stuff and all the twinkly lights, wrecks all the things that Jesus has been doing with my heart pertaining to my love of pretty things. So I avoid the big city.
I just choose to be satisfied here. In Rocky Mount. On Avent street. And always in Christ.
If I’m honest with you, my life has become so small that I rarely look above the fray that isn’t zip coded in 27804.
When I tell you that I’m all in here, I mean I am so far in that I forget there is a big ol’ world out there dealing with big ol’ world things. I feel a smidgen of shame as I write that. The Man and I chose our seminary because of its big world appeal. The multi-ethnic body, the different denominations, the abundance of expressions of worship, the diversity in professors and languages and skin colors intrigued us and woke us up to our creative God.
But we’ve been out of school for nearly three years now, and for nearly three years we’ve been saying yes to this small world. We’ve been waking up and putting on blinders and seeing Avent Street and Rocky Mount and Nash County. We’ve been hunkering down and going to school on our people and our place. We’ve wrestled with racism and poverty and good ol’ boy theology as they pertained to our city and along the way, I’ve lost the desire to change the whole world.
Who can entertain changing the whole world when the groaning on one’s own street is loud enough to make one’s head spin?
When the Man came home early tonight, I slipped out the door to pick up our weekly $5 pizzas from Little Caesars. We always get four: two cheese, one sausage, and one pepperoni and we usually get two meals from the four pizza deal. Every Thursday, this is our dinner plan.
I love Thursdays.
The yard was full, as usual, and all the kids were streaked in something that could only be a mixture of dirt and sweat. I counted the number of kids and came up with eleven: eight white kids and three black kids.
Usually, we have about ten white kids and five black kids. This is just how it is here on my street. The poor white kids outnumber the poor black kids and the distinction between the two groups of kids, other than skin color, is scarcely worth mentioning.
But I am mentioning it because, well, the whole world is talking about race and race is a big deal in my place.
And to not mention race would be negligent because everything I do or say or think or write is framed within the context of my understanding of the racial tension in my city.
Sadly, my understanding amounts to not much more than a hill of beans and a stack of books with statistics and and laws and injustices that I can’t wrap my mind around.
The fact that I can’t wrap my mind around all the things I see and read and feel bothers me to no end. My lack of understanding causes me to feel like an uncaring, unloving, apathetic white woman living in the ghetto pretending to get what’s what out here in poor man’s land.
For days now, I’ve been unable to find my words in regards to what is happening to all over God’s green earth. I’ve shrugged off my address and my daily happenings and my heart for my city because I’m a white, evangelical woman, married to a church planting, grace preaching man, with a slew of kids who have chosen to live in the ‘hood. No one forced us into this life but Jesus and everybody knows that Jesus forces Himself on no one.
We chose this life and we have staked our claim on this patch of asphalt and jacked up sidewalk. We bleed Avent and Grace and we gladly do so. But to bleed for Ferguson or our family in Iraq or for the injustices shown to every mentally ill person that has ever contemplated ending their life, is a whole other world and a whole other story that I have no idea how to engage.
Jesus has planted my feet and my heart at 554 Avent and the whole other world seems just that: a whole other world.
I have no leg to stand on or soapbox to preach from because out here in no man’s land, where no one has access to the internet or television or newspapers, the only thing people care about is their unpaid light bill or grumbling belly.
So I am moved to suspending time and internet and the nightly news to feed empty tummies and give rides to the store and chat on the front porch.
I am moved to swinging little boys on the horse swing from the big oak and passing out Kool-Aid and Little Debbies to the half dozen extra kids piled into my yard.
I am moved to braiding lengths of hair and bandaging boo-boos and laughing over the newest slang.
I am moved to dreaming big dreams with the people in my city who long to see Jesus eradicate poverty and racism and the segregated 11 o’clock hour of worship.
But mostly, I am moved to replicate the small acts of Jesus as the great big world outside of Rocky Mount fights a battle I have no idea how to fight.
And late at night, when the rest of my place sleeps, I troll social media and catch up on the rest of the world and I fall on my face and confess my ignorance and my small world view and my lack of fight for the rest of the world.
And I beg Jesus to move His people to fill the gaps that I can’t even imagine.
And I tremble as I ask Him to come quickly.
This is my humble, small minded offering to the community of other writers committed to #GoingThere with Deidra Riggs. Deidra says that going there is messy and ugly and everyone’s toes get trampled on in the process. But she says it is necessary for the body of Christ and in the fullness of Christ, I agree with her. But tonight, in the fullness of my white, middle class skin, I wonder. I pray my words here are received as they have been given, for I am but a work in progress and I fail more than I succeed. Please respond gracefully.
And Deidra- thank you for calling the church to be the Church. You inspire and teach and call me into different living.