[This is long… you have been warned.]
I have a lot running through my head right now, so please forgive me if this doesn’t come out in a highly coherent form…
I went to hear Shane Claiborne speak on Wednesday night in Bishopbriggs, which was cool, but it was as much about meeting other people there as it was about hearing Shane. It was encouraging to be reminded that I’m not the only crazy one. I’m not alone. Sometimes this journey is hard and it feels like I’m the only one whose facing these struggles and feeling like giving up… but I’m not. There are so many people in this city who are passionate about trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus in this place, in this time. I’m thankful for people like Chris and Lizzie, like Holly and David, like Paul and Esther… and so many others I haven’t named. (Forgive me if I leave you out… I can’t write a full list of you who inspire me and aid and encourage the Kingdom life in me.)
I am constantly reminded of how eclectic I am. Eclectic is the word I use… some people would call it other things. I’m just off the phone from trying to arrange bagpacking to raise funds for going to East Africa in the summer. I wrestle with how much stuff I have. I question how much of it I really need. I look around my room… and I have so much… why should I have all this? I keep coming back to this idea of gifts, of how nothing I have is my own and it’s all a gift. Life itself is a gift. I stumbled across a book by Lewis Hyde, called The Gift, the other day when I was wandering through Waterstones. In it he talks about the ‘cardinal property of the gift: whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again, not kept.’ He shares some stories from different tribes and how they treat the gift, when he makes this comment:
“The important point is that with them to possess is to give – and here the natives differ notably. A man who owns a thing is naturally expected to share it, to distribute it, to be its trustee and dispenser.”
I keep thinking of things like 1 Chron 29, when David cries out, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” Of Luke, when Jesus says, “If you have two coats, give one away.” (Luke 3:11). Or when Luke tells us, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
Maybe I’m just crazy. But I find it hard to take Jesus seriously on things like ‘tithe your money’ if I don’t also take him seriously when he says things like ‘give it all away’. We have become people with highlighters. We read our bible with highlighters. (I’m not saying this is wrong. I do this. I have lots underlined in my Bible.) But we highlight the bits we like and leave out the rest. We highlight things like “I’ve come to give you life in all it’s fullness,” (John 10:10) but not, “When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.” (Isa 1:15)
And I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. I stumble. I fall. I fail. I’m hypocritical. I’m trying to figure out what it means to live simply and pursue Jesus, and yet I keep buying more stuff and following the crowd instead.
I care about justice. I really do. I long to make a difference in this world. The people who grow my coffee and sew my jeans and make my bed sheets are my brothers and sisters. We are all human. We are in this together. I have the immense privilege of trying to guide GUCU on this journey of caring about social justice. (And on that note, I’m so excited and encouraged by the folks who have been getting involved and speaking up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.) I plan stuff. I have crazy ideas (most of which are not my own, I just facilitate finding them and sharing them). Sometimes people think I’ve got this sorted. How wrong they are.
Sometimes I just want to be a 20-year-old girl who falls in love, goes shopping, and chills out with her friends. I wrestle with the depth of my longing for relationship, to be a wife and a mum. I wrestle with my finances and how I use them. Sometimes I want to be ‘normal’. Sometimes I want to see a pretty top and buy it without thinking, who made this, and how were they treated? Sometimes I wish I could leave this all behind for a weekend and just be silly. Be young. Be carefree.
But I can’t.
The reality is it would never satisfy me. I could never settle for the house in the suburbs, the big car and 2.4 children. There is so much MORE. More to life. I’ll always think about the kids in sweatshops who make the clothes I admire, that are being sold for 100s of times the cost of production. I’ll always remember those stats I heard about coffee… On 2003 prices, Ethiopian coffee farmers got paid about 10 Birr (about 1p) for a kilo of coffee… I can’t ever forget the words of an Ethiopian coffee farmer who said, “50 Birr would change our lives forever”… 50 Birr is about 5p. And you question paying an extra 10p for your Fairtrade coffee?? When I walk through Glasgow city centre and stroll into Cult, and admire that nice £45 Superdry hoodie I like, I will always remember the words of Dorothy Day who said (paraphrasing Jesus), “If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.”
I’m not trying to make myself out to be some superhuman person here. I’m trying to be honest about my struggles. In the summer I wrestled with the surrealness of going from sleeping on a floor to sleeping in a 5-Star hotel. I struggled with going from being with people who have almost nothing materially to being in NYC and almost buying an iPod… for no other reason than because I could. I’m not trying to say having material stuff is wrong. Though I do wrestle with how we highlight ‘you must be born again’, and not ‘sell everything you have and give it to the poor’. I do wrestle with why we take some of Jesus’ words literally and write others off. I’m not trying to say I’m perfect either, because I screw up. I’m messed up. Welcome to the dysfunctional family of Yahweh, as Claiborne says. I’m not trying to say everyone should give away everything they have and move to the poor places. But I’m trying to say, open your eyes. Look around you. I am reminded of the words a wise friend of mine said recently… You can’t love the kids in Africa until you love the kids 2 streets away. It is easy to give to charity sometimes. It removes the need to actually come into contact with any of the broken, bruised, bleeding children of God we want to help. It keeps us safe and clean and at a ‘professional’ distance.
Jesus was no professional.
Jesus got his hands dirty.
Jesus hugged kids, loved the dying, gave direction to the lost.
You don’t need to go to developing nations to find needy people. Go next door. So much can be done in Glasgow. Male life expectancy in Bridgetown is 53.9 years, a full 26 below the Scottish average. Some friends have just moved into Possilpark to do life with that community. I’m getting involved in Maryhill Youth Theatre a bit this year hopefully.
Maybe I’m just a little bit crazy.
But I’m ok with that. They called my hero crazy too.
– – – –
Here’s to the Crazy Ones
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine. They heal.
They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas & see a work of art?
Or, sit in silence & hear a song that’s never been written?
Or, gaze at a red planet & see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they
can change the world, are the ones who do.
[From an old Apple advertising campaign… HT to Douglas.]