As a lot of you know, I was able to take a trip to Portland and Seattle this past September. It's been a dream of mine to see the Northwest since some time in high school when I started reading Don Miller and hearing about how beautiful Oregon was from anyone who had ever been to Oregon.
So naturally, when I got the chance to go, I took it. What ended up happening was that I got to meet so many amazing people and discover another little piece of who I am.
I also ate more food than is necessary or possibly forgivable in Portland. But I'm okay with that.
What I really want to talk about is one of the biggest take home messages that I got out of the trip (it was also really fun and gorgeous and I'd recommend visiting to anyone who has eyes or taste buds). On my last day I was able to attend Imago Dei** which is the church that Don Miller writes about lovingly in many of his books. Also I love visiting churches. It had nothing to do with Don Miller, nothing at all.....
One other piece of background info you should know about me is that my favorite Bible passage is from John 4, the Samaritan woman at the well. You can read it here. I love the beauty of Jesus' gentleness in the woman's moment of vulnerability, the mystery of the timing of the whole thing, Jesus' vulnerability in return, and the incredible change that comes from knowing and being known.
So if you haven't figured it out, the sermon at Imago was on John 4, which was like, really? Really? Yup, really. You wait for years to go do something and then it's more than what you expect. That's really beautiful.
The pastor was basically like "Man! It must have been so awkward all the time to be a disciple of Jesus." He pointed out all the crazy weird things that Jesus did and how awkward it must have been to be there with him when he did stuff like turn water into wine or talk to a Samaritan women and then say he's not hungry even though they just walked all day. Strange, strange man. Basically, the point is, it's not about whether or not you have any idea what's going on or not or why Jesus is spitting into dirt and sticking it in a blind guy's eyes. The point is whether or not you're willing to hang around and engage with what's up.
He went on to further explain that when you do go, he (Jesus, God) will pull you into relationships that are awkward and hard and confusing but ultimately healing and reconciling.
I, and other transplants to Philly like me, can tell you about awkward. Like having a conversation with someone who you know is speaking English but at the end you just have no idea what you're talking about or how you got on this subject, whatever it is. It's trying to tutor middle school girls and not understanding what it means to have actually grown up in this broken, dirty city. It's being surprised that the elementary school kids you're taking on a trip to Lancaster are both excited and terrified by seeing cows in person. It's, for the first time in my life, walking into a grocery store or a church or a workplace and being the only white person. It's attending a church where half the people pray in Spanish, half in English, and there's hardly ever translations.
And I've been, am being, healed. Am learning what a long, hard, complicated journey reconciliation is.
See, where I'm from, you don't really go to Philly because it's supposed to be dangerous and bad. But something occurred to me back in college- people live in Philadelphia. 1.5 million of them, I've since found out. And actually live there- and I figured, hey, they might just be just as much people as the people I know out here in the suburbs with hopes and lives and kids and hobbies. I imagine that Jesus already knew that when he took his besties through Samaria and that was what he wanted to show them. As if he believed that taking them out of their norm, pushing their boundaries, and making them interact with someone new might make them better people in the end. And that's what I've experienced since being here- when I come in contact with the new, it makes me realize how imperfect, judgmental, and broken I am. But through the grace that is necessary in all relationships we are all healed, all a little bit more reconciled, all a little bit more human for it.
I went to the Northwest kind of afraid but mostly excited, kind of hoping that I'd fall in love with it and never want to come back East. Instead, I found the words to help explain another part of my story. And that's why I went to the Northwest, to find out why I really wanted to stay in Philadelphia. A take away message can't be the reason for deciding beforehand to go a trip, can it? Well, maybe time is a little more circular than we think.
**I'm going to summarize what I got out of the sermon but you can check it out for yourself. One of these links should work (It's the Sept 29th 2013 sermon):