Monday, April 23, 2012

Ignorance Is Bliss. Or Is It?

I feel like I need to explain myself a little more about the way I've been feeling in regards to feeling "stuck in between" the person I am and the person I want to be.

You see, for a long time I lived in ignorance. I grew up as a good Christian girl who went to a good Christian school and worked at a good Christian bookstore. I went on to attend a good Christian university and marry a good Christian guy. I had dreams of being a beautiful pastor's wife with a beautiful pastor's family. We would have a beautiful house with the white picket fence, and it would be completely decorated from the Pottery Barn catalog. My kids would be aspiring little preachers and church musicians, like every good Pastor's kid should be. It's was every good Christian girl's fairy tale!

Shortly after my husband and I were married, we both felt like God told us to quit our jobs and go work full-time for an inner-city ministry in one of the worst parts of Atlanta. We even ended a contract mid-construction while building our dream house, with plans to move to the inner-city where we ministered. Even though I was all in, the realities of life and ministry in the inner-city quickly set in, and I started having a pity party for myself and the "pretty life" dream that I had given up. It took a couple of years, but God changed my heart and I grew to love working with that ministry and those kids. We even took guardianship of a teenage boy for a while, and although he didn't stay long, I am grateful for that experience. My eyes were opened in many ways while we were at that church, and I lost a lot of the naivety and ignorance that I had prior to working there. It changed me for the better and I have never looked at ministry the same way again.

Fast forward 9 years and here I am today, living my original "pretty life" dream. We work at a nice large church, make good money, have a beautiful brick home in a nice neighborhood. It's decorated a little more eclectic than Pottery Barn, but I have the playroom and the office and the guest bedroom and the sun porch..

One could say, "Look how God has blessed you! He gave you all of your heart's desires!" And He has, and I am truly grateful. There is never a day that I don't look at my life and thank God for His blessings.

But...

That girl who dreamed about the perfect pretty life is gone. She has been replaced by a woman who's eyes have been opened to many things about faith, ministry, culture, economics, poverty, consumerism, health, etc. On the surface I am your normal suburban mom, taking my kids to the playground in our SUV, eating lunch at Chick-fil-A, stopping by Target to pick up a few things before heading back to our big, nice house where we are always working on a little remodeling project. But on the inside, I am the girl who devours Shane Claiborne books, watches conspiracy documentaries, and can't get enough of Derek Webb. Songs like "I Repent" and "I See Things Upside Down"  and "I Want a Broken Heart" are my silent anthems.

Sometimes I long for those days of ignorance. The days when I ate diet Twinkies and thought I was making a healthier choice. The days when I thought that all God wanted from me was to sing him worship songs with my hands lifted. The days when I thought that wealth and prosperity were God's greatest blessings.

But the ignorance is gone. Knowledge has entered that realm and with that knowledge, I am forced to make decisions.

Do I keep buying more and more stuff because that is what our culture is all about? More clothes, more home decor, more toys, more entertainment. Or do I learn to be content with less and start giving away the things we don't really need?

Do I continue living in a house that is much too big for our small family, and pour money and time into decorating and projects, or do we downsize and give up our dream house? Or, do I open up my home to others who need a place to live?

Do I continue giving my children the "best" by raising them in a nice little bubble where they basically get everything a kid could ever want, or do I raise them to not focus so much on the things they want and teach them how to love and serve "the least of these?"

Do I continue abusing and neglecting my body and the earth by eating unhealthy processed foods and relying too much on disposable items? Or do I take the harder road toward eating local and organic whole foods and adopting a zero waste lifestyle?

I am in the process of reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and it has really messed me up. Warning: if you are in a happy state of blissful ignorance in regards to living less than intentionally in the areas of Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress; this is not the book for you. But if you are ready to take a hard look at your life in light of the less popular aspects of God's Word, then I highly recommend this book!

There is this part of me that desperately just wants to be normal (whatever that means). But I know too much. I have too many convictions that I can't deny.
"What if Jesus knew our Christian culture would design a lovely life template complete with all the privileges and exemptions we want, but even with that widespread approval, He still expected radical simplicity, radical generosity, radical obedience from those with ears to hear, eyes to see?" 
So that's where I am. Somewhere "in between" living the way I was raised and the way most everyone around me lives, and being the weirdo/hippie that makes everyone a little uncomfortable by her alternative choices.

I kind of plateaued a while back in working my way toward living a natural and simple lifestyle, but this book has given me new passion and energy to keep making the necessary steps toward change.
"Stewardship is like that. I won't answer for the way another Christian mismanaged money. I won't be charged with another person's irresponsible consumption. Nor will I get credit for how another faith community shared or sacrificed luxuries for the marginalized. I'll answer for my choices. It won't work to say, 'But the church...' or 'But they...' or 'What about them...' for how we managed our money, our share of the earth. The 'my vote doesn't really count so why bother?' attitude our generation loves won't fly when it's all said and done."
I will end with this one last quote from the book, where Jen is talking to her 2004 self...
"Soon your whole life will be centered on justice. Your're going to walk away from power and reputation, and you'll break bread with the homeless and give away the shoes off your feet. It will be awesome. You'll be free soon. This nagging tension that things aren't right, that life is more than blessing extremely blessed people...that's all true. A torrent of believers are demanding more from the indulged American life, daring to imagine that discipleship is adventurous and risky and sacrificial and powerful. You won't believe how many of them there are. You'll be drawn into a thrilling chapter God is writing in the church..."
I'm ready for real change.

Always,

Amanda