It’s not about the money–it’s about the story being told. As with everything since May of last year when I was diagnosed with a tumor in my spine it has always been about a fascinating and wild story that is unfolding from moment to moment.
Today we were overwhelmed by our neighbors again. Three Main Street staples (Vancouver Pizza Co., Compass Church, and Yogurt Time) graciously opened up their doors to gather people together and fund raise to help care for our family. I, in the meantime, hid in my home because I was not feeling good, because I was tired, and because my son was sick. Every Sunday we host the Arnada Community meal where anywhere from fifteen to forty people from the hood come over for lunch–so as the fundraiser was happening many of our community meal folk got their slice and just brought it on down. It was so good to be with them, to be with my people, and to have the freedom to do so in a less-than-healthy and functioning fashion. In the end, however, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to go down to Main street to say hello and to get a little froyo action…and, again, we were overwhelmed by the love and support of our neighbors! There’s no good words to say it but y’all are amazing.
Ok, back to what I was going to say…
Yes, we heard rumors that people gave generously and that lots of pizza and yogurt were purchased…but it’s not about the money! It can’t be. It’s not a good enough story for it to just be about that. The story has grown larger than that. Time and time again the medical bills have been paid. Somehow or another our regular bills and our medical bills get taken care of because we are a part of such a loving, compassionate, and generous community of people. So I can honestly say that I’m not worried about the money. Don’t get me wrong, the money is important and it is a great story and it is a part of the story and I should be using commas in this sentence. But
my story the story that is unfolding through us in our neighborhood is larger than this! Let me see if I can explain it a bit…
The Grassroots Conspiracy movement is defined by experimentally living into a handful of rhythms that we think are transformational for the individual, the family, and the neighborhood. One of these rhythms can be summarized by saying that we try to engage within three circles of activity: inclusive community, worshipful life, and being a blessing.*
Blessing and Responsiveness
Being a blessing can be seen when we mow our neighbors yard, when we volunteer at the soup kitchen, when we scrub graffiti off the local shops walls, when we care for single moms, etc. But being a blessing is not actually about activity–it is all about responsiveness. It is about responding to those around you, which requires listening, which requires showing hospitality, which requires creating space in your life, which requires a posture of openness to others. We can fill our schedule with doing nice things, with volunteerism (which is a good thing), with activity. But this doesn’t mean that we’re truly being a blessing. Responsiveness is all about the other person whereas activity can often become about me. The opportunity to respond rarely happens when we want it to, it happens in the middle of life, in the middle of chaos. Activity happens on my own terms, within my planned schedule, and in a context that I’ve chosen. Responsiveness demands that we’re willing to stop what we’re doing to be present for someone or something else. Being responsive kind of sucks. It’s hard. It requires much.
It’s my belief that we are seeing a movement of responsiveness develop in our downtown neighborhoods. It gets me excited more than you know. I think that what we witnessed today was a community of people who responded quickly, without much fan fare, without much warning, and without much pushiness to a felt need that they observed. It’s not about the money that was fund raised (though we are incredibly grateful in more ways that I can express!!), no, it’s about the developing story of responsiveness that is being told. We, and our neighbors, are learning to be a blessing to others. We are learning to respond to needs when they arise. That’s pretty frickin’ amazing, pretty frickin’ beautiful, and it makes me want to sob like a little baby. Those who follow the ways of Jesus refer to this as gospel living. Jesus referred to this kind of stuff as the kingdom of God breaking into the world. Some just say that we’re learning to be nice. Whatever verbiage you use, the idea is that these moments remind us of how we are intended to live, of who we are intended to be, of what life together is supposed to be like. We get glimpses of it in these kind of Sunday afternoon moments, but in general we live in anticipation of how things should, could, and will one day be!
I personally live in a painful tension. On one side I’m pissed that potentially I won’t be around to see this movement develop. This is what I’ve lived my life for and to think that it could emerge without me makes me incredibly jealous! I want to watch! I want to participate! I want to be a part! While on the other hand, however, I have an incredible sense of peace (and I even feel a bit bad) because while y’all are seeking to live into a reality that will never fully and completely be realized this side of eternity** I will be basking in it fully. I’ll be done waiting, I’ll be done living in anticipation, I’ll be living it up as God originally planned.***
So it’s not about the money–it’s about a new story that is being told. A story that is marked by a way of life that seeks to bless others as we live close enough with them to hear their needs and respond appropriately. It requires much and it might not last, but it’s moments like today where our imaginations no longer need to dream but where we are actually able to see and experience what life together can be like. That’s something to be excited about.
* I won’t ever try to pretend that most everything good is stolen from someone else! We’ve borrowed and adapted this from a book called Tangible Kingdom. Good stuff.
** This blog’s too long already to attempt to flesh out this idea further. The idea here is that the world is broken and messed up (hard to argue with that) but that at different moments we get glimpses of life as God intended for it to be: loving relationships, selfless sacrifice, choosing peace over violence, etc. Those things (and we could list off so many more) are not the norm but Christians believe that when God restores all things to his original purpose and intended beauty those things will become the norm. Until then we keep trying to “usher in” life as it one day will be while knowing that it won’t be a full reality until God does his ultimate restoration thing.
*** I could be way off here. I’m not going to be foolish enough to claim that I’m fully aware of what life after death is going to be like immediately. You may be more aware than I. But I do think that whatever happens post death for me it’s going to be some sort of equivalent to sipping mai tai’s by the beach with a body that doesn’t suck.