It is Monday and it is raining. Again. I cut flowers from the garden before the downpour and I feel foolish. I feel foolish because my neighbor across the street is sitting on her porch scrolling her phone and I feel on display. The four adults in the house have three kids under the age of four and two dogs and there is scarcely a time when someone is not sitting on the stoop. Most times, they all sit out there for hours and hours, chain smoking and dropping f-bombs and staring into my space and sometimes, I just want to be alone in the front yard.
Today is a day I want to be alone in the front yard.
Yesterday was a day I wanted to be alone in the front yard.
And this is how I know I am becoming the neighbor who would overlook the man on the side of the road, not because she does not care, but because she is weary from caring.
I am the poster child of Move Into the Neighborhood Movement and all I want is zero neighbors I can see or hear or smell or touch.
I am upside down in my life and it is not because I am kingdom oriented.
It is a upside down because I am a contradiction.
This is not sitting well with me.
It is Tuesday and my day is cut into four, unequal parts which provide me only snippets of time to accomplish anything meaningful. The first part includes a trip to our elementary school for a year end performance. It is raining because raining is what it does here. My last baby and I make the trip across the tracks and then paddle into the old school building and we are overwhelmed with chaos and chatty parents and crying children and dozens of cell phones dinging.
Why is it so loud and why is the air full of tension and why are we being shuffled around like cattle and why are two armed sheriff deputies patrolling in the gym?
My mind and body are flooded with a flight response and yet, I am frozen in my chair.
I catch my second grader’s eye and she’s teary because she’s a homebody and because I know she can’t breathe. And I remember the thing she said three weeks ago when we were doing our nightly check in around the table: Sometimes I wish I wasn’t the only white kid.
I turn my eyes to the stage and wait for my fourth grader. They’re singing a Disney montage and he’s stoked because I was forced to buy a new pair of pants for his eight minutes of fame. There are three songs on the program, but after song number two, we are dismissed. I am confused but not surprised. We have learned to roll with the punches and not get our hopes up too high. We have learned to be pleasantly surprised by follow through and to not to be disappointed when poorly laid plans are never executed because great schools cannot be built on the backs of well qualified staff. It takes parents and staff and a supportive community.
Just like neighborhoods cannot be transformed by one family, I think to myself. It takes multiple families, over time, putting down deep roots.
I cannot escape the school fast enough. I am relieved by the rain hitting me in the face.
And this is how I know I am becoming the public school advocate who wants to quit public school because I am tired of fighting the good losing fight.
I am the woman beating the verbal drum of equal education for ALL God’s kids and I am the woman knowing there’s no chance in hell all God’s kids are going to get it because the deck is stacked against the public school and not because the government has failed us. The Church has failed us.
But I can rescue my kids and I want to.
I am a contradiction.
This is not sitting well with me.
It is Wednesday. The weatherman says the rain is coming this afternoon. I know he is forecasting the truth. I clean the house and pick up rotisserie chicken for the peach and arugula flatbreads I’m making for company. I waste time over the kitchen sink and I listen to the podcast I co-host with friends. The episode is on the Church and I am not in this conversation. The day it was recorded was the same day Thad’s therapist had laid down some hard truth about our future and the same day that truth began to cause me to question everything I thought I knew about the Church. I bowed out at the last minute because I could not fake my way through a live conversation by holding firmly to a set of certain beliefs when my beliefs were being called into question, deep within my soul.
I listen to the virtual chatter and pull chicken from the bone and my heart wells up behind my rib cage, my soul beats within the confines of my tired body and I question everything.
I question tent making church planting. I question bi-vocational pastoral ministry. I question over staffed churches with budgets heavy on salary and light on mission. I question the longevity of unpaid pastors in urban contexts where the community need is greater than the church’s resources. I question the so-called impending death of the mega church and the resurrection of the neighborhood model for church planting. I question the influence of the Church at the local level when she must retain enough resources to pay her staff.
And I question how a pastor working a full time job to meet the needs of his family can pastor a growing church that aims to reach the lost and broken and still care for his own body and soul and family. I question how one family trying to love their marginalized neighbors with great needs can still shepherd a congregation in need of discipling, counseling, care, and leadership.
I question all of this because my head cannot reconcile what my spirit already knows.
And this is how I know I am unbecoming an urban missionary, church planter in my innermost parts.
But I look out the window and I am slapped in the face with this truth:
My community is in dire need of a next-door-neighbor, full-time pastor who can do front porch counseling, after school tutoring, and soul care. Our neighborhood is in dire need of our family and our family has been strategically placed here, by God, for a purpose.
But our family needs a healthy, whole Thad who was created for the Church.
I cannot reconcile both truths. I cannot ascribe to one and give up the other, but I cannot hold both.
Inconsistency eats at me and I am in denial.
I am a contradiction.
This is not just not sitting well with me. I am sick.
I leave early to go pick up my oldest from our beloved high school, who as of a few hours ago, lost their tennis coach to a Christian school, and I drive around downtown until the bitterness washes away. I turn my thoughts inward.
I am a blogger who doesn’t read blogs.
I am a Shop Local advocate who will drive an hour to Raleigh for groceries.
I am a small town girl who craves the anonymity and diversity of a big city.
I am a deeply rooted person who believes in seeking the welfare of her city who would uproot and travel for years.
I am lover of things who owns nothing she wouldn’t give up.
I am flesh and spirit.
I am sinner and saint.
I am beloved and wretch.
I ruminate on these truths about myself.
I imagine they could set me free if I would own my humanity as the very thing I stumble over on my way to Jesus and know that grace abounds with every fall.
This is what it means to be human.
I know this.
To be human is to be tendon and sinew and muscle and bone and blood formed together into one glorious body that holds every other mysterious thing called the soul. And from birth to the grave, the body and soul war against one another, each one winning daily battles against the other. I don’t have eyes to see my own soul. I don’t know my own depravity or my own righteousness. My finite mind cannot bear to know either.
But I can reconcile my contradictory thinking to living in skin that is prone to wander far from God.
And I can make space for Jesus to either turn my world upside down again or teach me how to live my upside down life here differently.