New Blog Address

Ryan's blog can now be found HERE.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sometimes I Wonder...

Do I love this neighborhood or do I just love myself? I went to get tags for my soon-to-be-running motorcycle today and I had total distrust (er, disdain?) for the dude at the tags place. I thought, "Is he trying to screw me over? Can I trust him? If I were back home, I know I could trust those people." That set off a chain reaction of thoughts that had me questioning if I really love this place or if I just think I'm cool for moving to the "hood" and making a little life for myself. Sometimes I think there is a fair dose of the latter, but that may just be an accusing voice that tempts me to complacency.

Right now, I seem to be easily annoyed about a lot of things. There are so many small things that grate on your nerves living here. Today I was at the bank and I saw this big plume of smoke. Some kids had dropped some kind of firebomb into a clothing donation recepticle outside of a laundromat. Well, I guess that isn't a small thing, but compared to some other things I've seen, it is. I have to admit that I thought it was a tad funny at first because that's the kind of prank I would have pulled at their age, but that sentiment faded when flames burst out of the box and began to threaten the building.

Fortunately, the fire department arrived just in time. Watching the store owner freak out made me sober up and realize that I am not immune from vandalism. That thought is with me every day. Whenever I leave the house to drive somewhere, the first thing I do is look to see if any of my truck windows are busted. I never had to do that in Indiana. I have three iron rods propped between the garage door and the ceiling joysts to provide extra security because I worry someone will break in and take my motorcycle. Someone did take one of our bicycles from our fenced in and locked back yard a while back. I carry pepper spray with me wherever I go. This is partly because I go to some dangerous places on a regular basis as part of my whole effort to learn about this place and go where Jesus would go, but it is also due to the fact that random violence is a very real possibility. My roommate Wayne got punched in the face one day for no good reason and what's to say that today or tomorrow is not my turn?

I think I'm going through this phase of shedding the romanticism I had when I was renting. I am now beginning to own the flaws of the city and of my neighbors. I never stopped to realize that these flaws came with the mortgage. As a renter, my messed up neighbors were a novelty that intrigued me and spurred new thoughts in my head. As an owner, those are the people who I'm going to live next to for a long time. Their disfunction is not as cute when it is something that will inevitably intersect with my life at some point.

So, what's in it for me? I have a strong belief that people generally act out of self interest. Sure, we'll do something selfless occasionally, but when it comes to the nitty gritty we want to get something out of it. So what am I getting out of this? Is it just the chance to be the Great White Hope? Don't get me wrong, that thought is somewhere in my brain. (A little self-disclosure here - I've actually had the thought that if I could figure out a way to fix all the problems in the park they might name it after me when I die.) Cheap living? That is one huge benefit to living here. Proximity to my friends and my church? Check, that's a plus.

I think the main reason I am here is that I still don't know what I believe about God. I believe in the Bible, but I want to take the whole notion of redemption literally. Is that too much to ask? One of the things that compels me to stay here is that I'm looking for signs of God's redemption. If I can see those signs here, then I can believe the other stuff in the Bible. I don't know if that makes sense. Basically, this neighborhood is a proving ground for the things I hope are true.

Is it then accurate to say that as the neighborhood goes so goes my faith? I don't think so. This is about relationship. I have felt quite strongly that this is where God wants me. So I'm waiting on him to deliver the goods. He may not come like I want or expect him to (sound familiar?) but I'm expecting him to come and I am expecting to know his voice when he does. I don't have a cutoff date, but I do let him know when I'm getting anxious.

I want to see this neighborhood transformed. I'm tired of some of this bullshit. I saw two crack addicts trying to order at Taco Bell today and it broke my heart. I felt bad for the young trainee behind the register and I felt a sort of helpless compassion for the crack addicts. I sat down with my food and tried to ignore what was going on. It suddenly hit me that I live in a place where crack whores walk the streets. I treat my dog better than these women are treated. No human should live like that. And yet this is the image of God. In some ways that makes sense the more I think of how I abuse him every day and I do believe there is a special place in God's heart (and even his Kingdom?) for these women.

So am I here because I love myself? Am I here to save the world? I don't think so. I have more questions than answers. If there is a hero in this story it is God. He created this place and set this story in motion. I believe he will restore Hunting Park back into wholeness through him. If he can keep me sane long enough to see the substance of these things hoped for, I will be eternally grateful. If not, I hope the relationship will carry me through.

p.s. - I feel so emotional lately. WTF?

1 comment:

wilsonian said...

This is an amazing post, Ryan.

Just a friendly reminder... we're all dysfunctional on some level. As you are looking for signs of redemption, looking for opportunities to share the love of Christ... what makes you think God's not doing the same thing? Don't you think he could love you through this neighourhood, and bring healing.

Btw... there's nothing wrong with being emotional :)