the best ship of all

Spending a week alone has been a very good thing for this intern.  I didn’t tell you I was alone before because you’d come find me and murder me in my sleep. Clearly. Now my roommate returns and I can sleep without the frying pan near my side.  It really is not scary to live and sleep here, it is only that old houses make creepy noises—and this house is well beyond one hundred years.

I was hardly lonely. Rarely was I ever alone for more than an hour or so.  Today was the first day I spent several hours in alone-bliss, in which I finally cleaned up from our spring party two weeks ago.  Now I am writing…what could be better? The only way it could have gotten better was if I had spent the morning at the lake front. Soon enough it will be warm to do just that.

Though my mind drifts to quiet, peaceful places, spaces and time, there is something better, perhaps, than even all these I treasure.  Friendship and community.  Both of these, before this year, have been a built-in part of my life because I have been in school, sports, choir, etc, etc.  The list of social activities is endless for most of us, the one that has changed the most is that I am out of school, graduated from college and no one from school is in my neighborhood. They are not too far, but three or four miles in the city is truly so much greater than in the suburbs or country.

For the past year I have poured myself into a community far different than any other I have ever experienced or lived in.  This is why I came to Uptown.  The beginnings of friendship on the streets were hitting a wall, there was a deep place I could not get to—I wanted to call these people my friends, but how? Is it possible?

Just in this past week it has hit me who my community, who my friends are here.  Across the street, where bed bugs, cockroaches, and spiders crawl; where addiction and mental illness is inevitable, where men and women live whom others are literally frightened of, this is my community, these are my friends.  Not all of them, of course. Only a few, really.  Trust is not quickly gained in a person who has been left, abused, abandoned, despised and alone their whole lives.

You see, God is still transforming my heart; I am far from understanding what it means to be a friend, to be a sister in this community. I know it is possible, and I know He has called me to it. I know it is painful, confusing, and sometimes scary.  And yet, God is literally showing me a New Kingdom developing before my eyes. I can not, and I do not want to fix others through isolated programs, preaching or even parties; true friendships come only through long, committed relationship. And where have we seen tremendous growth? In the people we have been able to become friends with, who have graciously welcomed us into their world.

Now they are more to me than the person living in the slum across the street, and I am more to them than the privileged white girl across the street. We have literally met in the streets and broken down barriers that though are not seen, are felt among every single one of us. We have realized that what we have assumed about each other, even if it is true, does not matter, does not change the fact that we are brother and sister, friend and neighbor.

Christian communities are popping up all around the city with the intent to reach out to their neighbors, and it is good. But I can’t help but think… who are my brothers and sisters? What will heaven really look like? What does His Kingdom look like here? Aren’t my poor, unknown, and unloved neighbors there? If you are doubting, trust me, many have deep, wise relationships with Our God.

Close your eyes and imagine every knee bowed, every tongue confessing the Lord is God, High and Lifted Up, Worthy to be Praised. Who do you see?

I am starting to see friends finally beloved by a God who never abandons, who is always faithful, and who loves us because He created us in His image. All of us. I can only pray that a meal at our table with my community is a small foretaste of what is to come.