Biking across North Minneapolis, for the second time that day, I remembered: how much I Love my neighborhood, how much I love my job, and just how GOOD GOD is.
I have not always had the privilege of living and working in the comforts and security of a place like North Minneapolis. As I child I knew the comforts of a tight-knit community (sometimes a tight-knot) but usually it was a good life. But because everyone was so much the “same” being accepted was often more important than being right or even happy with who you were. It’s like the “standard deviation” was so small, the pressures to conform were even greater.
North Minneapolis showed me community and security in a new way. With the “standard-deviations” being larger – the need to conform was smaller – and the ability to “be” was greater. My neighborhood has been a fun and safe space to raise a family. Some folks think of safety only physically, but I’d say spiritual and emotional safety are more significant. We have found a space that is safe, because we are part of a community that embraces and supports one another in the midst of real life and real struggle.
During the past 5 years, financial needs (and probably it was God – forcing me out of my comfort zone) pushed me to take employment outside of the comforts of the Northside community. I had to actually work with people who believed my worth as a person and the value of my opinion, depended on how many years I had gone to college. I had to act like I understood the stories and jokes of people who thought they were “middle-class”, when I knew that by any statistical measure they were in the upper 20% of the wealthiest Americans (and in the wealthiest 1% of the world).
It was during this time I realized how safe and comfortable North Minneapolis was. At work each day I would feel the crap of the “corporate world” married to “institutional christianity” begin to choke my faith and twist my values. My ride home would be an opportunity to purge my self of this dangerous toxin. As I crossed the bridge and headed into North Minneapolis, the sounds of sirens and sights of trash, would be a welcomed reminder that Jesus is not a commodity to sell and market – but a savior and friend in a very real time of trouble.
True, troubles are real everywhere, but in some places we are able to bury and avoid them because of the “props” and externals money can buy. To me this façade of “life, beautiful” – is much more dangerous that the ugliness some see in my neighborhood. In my neighborhood you will probably see much of the garbage and danger of life, right out front. But you will also see love and grace, truth and forgiveness at work. To me this is a much more comfortable and safe place to live and work than where the facade is more important than substance.
I get to go to schools, help teachers, train tutors and mentors, and just “kick-it” – all in the name of Jesus. I know my block(s) – and my block(s) know me. I wouldn’t trade the safety and comforts of my community for the dangers of Roseville or Waconia. I’m glad there are people called to those communities, but to follow Christ consistently in a community cluttered by so much commercialism, and avoid the dangers of consumeristic-christology … requires a great deal of discernment. For me, this is the good life!