Sunday, May 27, 2012

Home Body

The words "Home Body" evoke in my mind images of frumpy middle-aged women in muumuu's with excessive amounts of cats and Snackwells cookies. We tend to think of staying at home on a Saturday night as something kind of sad, boring, even lonely-- something reserved for old, out of touch people. But I'll go right ahead and say it: I love being at home.

From the time that I was eight years old until I went away to college, I moved every day. Every day. My parents were divorced, and lived only a few minutes away from each other, and so rather than spending a whole week at one parent's house, and then a week at the other, my brother and I simply packed our bags: Mondays, Wednesdays and every other weekend with Mom; Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend with Dad. And for some reason that God only knows, I have chosen a profession that keeps this home-body away from home several months out of the year.

I married a man who had seen more of the world by age 16 than most people could ever dream. When we were engaged, he talked about being "travel buddies", and on our wedding night, he gave me a set of vintage suitcases, and we dreamed together of the adventures we would have, and the places we would go. And while some of those travels have brought us, side-by-side, to mud huts, wine-country mansions, remote cabins in the woods, and high-rise hotels, most of our traveling consists of conference rooms, meetings, and eating at chain restaurants.

To be honest, when I look back at the last two months, and see how little we have been home, it makes my heart heavy. And when I look forward to the next few months, it gives me little knots in my stomach. But really, what can you do? There are certain aspects in most of our lives that simply go against the way that we are wired. There are elements to life that seem to take away life; things that we have to push through, tolerate, endure, and figure out a way to survive.

There are moments when we are at our worst-- when we are raw, worn out, unfiltered, and red-lining-- and we simply have to keep pushing and do our best. And there is also this idea that following Jesus somehow means that we have a mysterious abundance, an overflow of love, grace, & kindness, with warm-fuzzies, and pearly-white smiles. Some people, Lord love 'em, experience that in their lives, but let me be the first to admit that I am sometimes drained, complaining, martyred, and ache for home-- not in some spiritual heavenly sense, but I just want to sit in my living room with the front door closed, and my suitcases far from sight, and simply take a deep breath.

I don't pretend to comprehend (let alone live out) Jesus' words about living water that causes us to never be thirsty. I get "thirsty" all the time. But one thing that resonates with me is this:

"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you... I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love... I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you."
-John 15 (The Message)

For someone constantly aching for home, these words are a mantra-- something I breathe in and out as I fall asleep at night, an anchor that keeps me centered, and a compass that orients me. Make your home in me, as I make my home in you. Make yourself at home in my love. I sink into those words, and something seems to settle inside of me... if I will allow myself.

So often, when I am traveling (and traveling, and traveling), all I want is my own space, my own time to sit with my thoughts (or without them), and to not have to acknowledge human presence for a while. That’s the thing about traveling, is that you never really get your own space, routine, food, bed, or much of anything you can claim as your own.

But the interesting thing about this invitation to be At Home is that it all seems to revolve around loving people. I don’t quite understand how that works-- how being at home in my Creator, and being at home in his love is connected with loving other people. When did they come into the equation? I was just sitting at home, in this love, and joy, and intimacy, breathing deeply and feeling centered, and my zen got interrupted by all these other people.

In fact, I’ve never really thought about the connection until just now. I have always used this passage as an invitation to close the door, take off my shoes, put on my PJ’s and get comfortable with God in some imaginary, clean & quiet retreat center for my soul (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it sounds nice, and if I’m honest, it is bit of a picture of what I imagine as “being at home” with Jesus).

But when I really look at that invitation, the two themes that he keeps returning to are being at home (abiding, if you will), and loving one another. It seems like the two ideas are inseparable. And, if I’m really going to be honest, that’s kind of a bummer, because when I am worn out & home sick, I would much rather focus on centering myself than intentionally loving the people around me.

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t unwind, re-charge, or even crave quiet alone time. But it seems like the key to really feeling at Home (even when I can’t be at home) might lie somewhere in the act of loving other people. Perhaps that’s why God drags me out of the comfort of my own four walls so often, and why it seems difficult to find time alone. Maybe I need an extra little nudge out the door.

I’m not sure what this looks like on a practical level-- what it means to be at home through the act of loving others. Oftentimes, love is risky & uncomfortable, which to me sounds like the opposite of being at home. But I also know that some of the moments when I have felt the most alive, and the most comfortable in my own skin have been when I have entered deeply into life with someone else, loving sacrificially and taking the focus off of myself. I suppose that is a bit of what being at Home looks like...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Cost

During the Holocaust in France, in a tiny mountain Huguenot village 350 miles from Paris called Le Chambon-sur-lignon, 5,000 Jews, mostly children, found shelter with 5,000 Christians, almost the entire population of the village.

As followers of Jesus, the Huguenot villagers never thought of their acts against the Nazis as heroic, but simply a living out of their faith. When they were faced with injustice & need like that of the Holocaust, it was only natural for them to respond with love & compassion that risked not only their own lives, but the lives of their children, neighbors, and their entire village.

When I hear stories like this one, I am deeply moved. I've always been a sucker for those selfless acts of heroism; an idealist of sorts that still believes one person can (and should) change the world.

It's a difficult thing, though: changing the world. It's never as cut & dry as one would like it to be. If only these things were a little more straight forward; if only there were little instruction manuals that helped you with the tough decisions, and could assure you that it was all going to work out in the end.

Right now, we are entering into the process of adopting through foster care. Chris & I decided, when we first got married, that there are far too many children out there who will never have a family, and that we could (and should) be part of the solution to that problem. And as we have heard about the problems within the foster care system, and the kids right in our own neighborhood that need a home, we have felt very compelled to live out our faith by adopting one of these little guys.

It seems to me that following Jesus involves self-sacrifice, giving generously to those on the margins, on the outside, those in need. It seems to me that acts of heroism, like those of the Huguenots during the Holocaust, should be a lifestyle rather than a notable exception from the norm. I'm not saying that any of this self-sacrifice is easy or natural, or even that I am any good at it... but it does seem that it should be a defining characteristic of a life of faith.

Now, here's the thing: Not everyone is in a place to adopt a child. Not everyone is suited to rescue sex slaves from brothels, or move to the inner city & work with gang members. Not everyone has the opportunity or capacity to rescue 5,000 Jews from the Holocaust, or lead a Civil Rights movement, bring clean water to Africa, or meet any one of the millions of heart-breaking needs out there in the world around us.

Here's the other thing: As obvious as it sounds, there is a great deal of risk in self-sacrifice... and the risk isn't always our own.

It sounds good & noble to adopt a child through foster care, and I believe that it is the right thing for us to do. But I also know that it will be incredibly difficult-- not only for Chris & myself, but for Nolan. It's a heart-wrenching, emotional process to work through a broken foster care system, and my sweet little toddler will have to pay some of that cost.

I hate that my decision to care for the marginalized will hurt my baby. I can only anticipate the things we will walk through together as a family as we welcome a new member into our home. And yet, my job as a mother is not necessarily to protect my son from pain, but to prepare him for life; to do my best to model love, generosity, faith & courage. Obviously that doesn't mean that I throw him in the deep end to teach him to swim, but I believe that it sometimes means walking together down difficult paths for the sake of others.

Those things that sounded so noble-- so obvious-- when I was in college feel different now walking through them than they seemed from a distance. It's one thing to count the cost of selfless service, but it's another thing entirely to pay it.

I don't know where the balance lies when it comes to caring for your own children and serving others'. It seems like something you carefully weigh out day by day & moment by moment, rather than a line drawn in the sand. I think of all the beautiful acts of heroism throughout history and am so grateful that there are people who chose to risk their own family's security for the sake of others... but I also wonder what their families were thinking & feeling in the moment, and if they believed it was worth it.

I'm not claiming any act of heroism in my own life, but I know that what we are entering into will be difficult & costly. I wish that I could absorb all of that cost into myself, and yet at the same time, I know the depth, richness, and even privilege it can be to love sacrificially, and I don't want to take that opportunity away from my little boy. My hope is that we would live a life of daily, hourly generosity in the big things and in the everyday moments. I wish that I was more natural, more consistent in living out my values & beliefs, and I hope that this next step would simply be in line with those of my Creator.