I feel like something spiritual is bubbling just beneath my surface, but it hasn’t yet exploded into enough to actually affect the way I live.
I should step back and explain. A few years ago — actually, starting in 2000, to be precise — I started praying in the conviction that God somehow, in ways far beyond my comprehension, wanted me to be involved in reaching out to those on the margins. At the time it was the kids in Harvard Square who were the focus of those prayers, and over the next few years I came to be involved in doing a street outreach in that particular setting. At this point I was continuing to pray for the next step, convinced that somehow this sort of thing was my life’s calling.
Then in 2005 I had a profoundly negative experience that we’re not going to discuss here, except to say that I never processed it very well.
So from then, I had a ready excuse for not pursuing that “calling” — now that word was a cruel mockery of my previous naivete, but not nearly as distasteful to me as “ministry”. At first I was recovering from the pain. Then I was in the same geographical location where I’d been hurt, so I didn’t feel that I could start up any sort of “underground” outreach without conflicting with the people who’d hurt me. Then I moved to my hometown, and didn’t know anyone else with interest in brainstorming ways to collaborate to do this sort of project. And now I live in Memphis and am in the same boat.
I already classified these as excuses, but to be honest, I’m not even sure if that’s the best way to describe them, especially that last one. There is some validity there. I really don’t believe that God wants us to be lone rangers, and I really in some sense believe that if I were supposed to be acting on these thoughts and impulses, God would already have put me in a place with people who share these values. I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to work, right? That’s how it worked when I prayed and ended up finding people doing a sort of outreach I didn’t yet even know existed. But so far, despite a couple of forays into building up
[EDIT: I realized months later that I never finished this paragraph. Let's go with this: despite a couple of forays into building up a community, including making some contacts in the state's largest city a couple of hours away, nothing really ever materialized.]
So what brings this to my mind, rather than just retreating into a mundane world where I think about college football or poker or whatever brings some little modicum of excitement to my life, is that I’ve been slowly reading that Tony Jones book I mentioned in my last post. (I’m reading it slowly because frankly, I get more interested in other stupid stuff and don’t think to read it.) To be honest, that book makes me feel wistful, as though I missed out getting in on the ground floor of some huge movement because I just wasn’t creative enough or committed enough to be one of the early adopters. (That’s a silly way to feel, but I feel it about career issues and entrepreneurship so it’s natural I would apply that to spiritual issues too.) Also, yesterday I happened to read a post from Dan Kimball that reminded me how much I enjoy hanging out in certain places and settings with an evangelistic intent, albeit a vaguely-defined one.
I stress that italicized part — though of course, I’m not talking about beat-people-over-the-head evangelism, rather about hanging out with the intent of discussing spirituality in a positive and non-threatening way — because I’ve been hanging out in those places now. I hang out in the hipster coffee shops in the artsy part of town. That’s where I do most of my work! But I’m painfully, excruciatingly aware that I don’t actually know anyone in those settings. It’s not like I’m meeting people and talking about music, or art, or politics, or whatever, much less talking about spirituality.
In any event, ultimately it’s my responsibility to pray about this stuff, not to try to force something into happening.