Today’s post is a reflection by our friend Adri-Marie. It reflects on her relocation to Cosmo City … hope it will inspire you as it did for me!
It’s a slow change.
I’ve been staying in Cosmo City for a year now and it’s been one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
I’m being changed and am very aware that I can choose how open I am for it. Mostly, the learning is accompanied by emotion, usually laughter or crying. In fact, I’ve learnt if I don’t start laughing more about situations around me, I’ll be miserable. Nothing like a shrug of shoulder, shaking of head and laughter to ease the tension when meetings start late, the neighbour becomes the self-appointed DJ or the poorly-built house floods. I am laughing a lot more, and loving it. I’ve become a lighter person in the midst of suffering around me. I’m embracing all that is upside-down of what was previously familiar, like for example, around here, the dogs bark at white people – I love it!
My new neighbourhood is creeping under my skin and changing the way I feel, relate and see my own, and the skin of others. I thought I was doing ok, but here, I am in the minority, I’m the guest, I’m the one who has to earn trust. I’ve had the wonderful privilege to continuously say sorry for what others, that look like me, have done. I’m sincere when I use the word privilege. The truth is, a lot of suffering, inequality and poverty exists, and what I’ve learned is that the gospel is about running toward those things, fighting against those things, when everyone else doesn’t want to. Taking ownership when it’ll be easier to pretend I have no part. I’m gaining a deeper understanding of what God did, coming to earth. He laid aside his glory, and joined our mess to remind us who we are. I am starting to taste what it means to ‘lay aside your glory’… my education, my wealth, my time, my social status, etc. I’m still daily coming to terms with the true privilege that I’ve grown up with. I am so rich. I remain rich, in skill, exposure, opportunities, salary, confidence and love. You see, I’ve also grown up with my own set of insecurities, but it is truly nothing compared to a broken spirit or lack of worth caused by unemployment, oppression, lack of hope or violence. God made mankind with worth, His image. What a wonderful privilege to be a conveyor of that message by ‘coming alongside’.
But, no doubt, God is already here. I feel that I’m the one that there must be ‘ministered to’. There is a trust, a reckless abandon and sincere, spontaneous love for God around me. Brothers and sisters that’s in love with God, in need of more of His Shalom. We are all in need of more Shalom, we just don’t always realise that we can so easily be the answer to one another’s prayer. Even though it still is hard at times to part from my excess, I am realising that I can get along with much less and that it’s just logical to share my “more”. It’s my privilege to share my wealth. God is a Giver. There are many ways to give.. but there are very obvious ways in which I’m blessed. Every time I share my treasures, I have a part of who God is, and I become more free. I mostly give in relationship or in secret, but I’m shaped the most by the times I’ve given when it was hard.
Here, I’m the one who is suspicious. I have to work to earn trust. There have been many occasions where someone will comment that: “This is the 1st time a white person has been interested in what I have to say”. Taking time to listen is a very small price to pay to restore something about God’s worth in someone. I do struggle putting my own agenda’s aside though… I often still believe I truly do know better or have a cleverer plan, but I’m learning that respect and humility lies in letting another choose the life they value. If God is the giver of free will, I doubt He’ll be pleased if I manipulate my way to solutions nobody wants (whist I believe I’m helping). But again I say, I find it difficult not to share/help in the way I choose to be convenient or best, but to do it with listening hands. I ask a lot for God to change me, and at times when I’m brave enough I add: as He pleases.
I love how greeting is of fundamental importance around here… a real acknowledgement of seeing each other.. I touch your hand and even do a secret hand shake… and we can possibly be friends if I’m not in a hurry.. But it will take time and conversation. No doubt God hides Himself in the present.
All people fear bad guys, worry about their kids, want to be safe, loved, etc. Real liberty is attached to the liberty of others. I’m learning about the Good news to the poor.. and if I jump into it wholeheartedly, my salvation/freedom is thrown in as a bonus.
I’ve become less scared. Less fearful of what man can do to me. The poor still suffers the most in times of recession, price-hikes, and are by far the worst victims of crime. They just don’t have a voice. I’ve heard more sad real life stories (that continues into circumstance) this past year, than all my previous years added up together (and I’ve been a counsellor before). Yet, the hope, the will to continue remains brighter than what I’ve witnessed ever before. At times I feel overwhelmed by the honor I have to be able to witness these stories and get to know these brave souls.
I’ve become aware of how much of my theology is cultural wrongs+rights that I’ve adapted/grown up with. It’s truly wonderful to explore God through another culture’s ‘real life’ eyes. I get to know God better… what could be better? And yes, it’s all mixed up again in our painful history, etc, but you can feel God’s miracle – the hope – the good news – when diversity enhances and submits to mutual dignity found in God. The miracle of getting along – this should not be underestimated in power of witness (same as the rich man parting with his wealth).
I’m in a place where true freedom can be found… where God is revealed and falling in love can’t be helped… He shows Himself as the Rescuer, the Adventurous Hero who loves to fight for the oppressed. He is hidden among innocent pre-schoolers and the unemployed 20 year olds. More than ever I yearn for this courage and story inside myself and my friends (especially my friends that are blessed). God loves being involved in the foolish things. And as I now become more foolish in the world’s eyes, I find Him right beside me. He loves coming through for the oppressed, strengthening those who fight for it. He shows Himself. I am more convinced than ever that we are called, like Israel, to bless others because we are blessed. And that this is a great privilege indeed… to have a part of God’s character to restore and give… to have part of Him… to do it unto Him… to be part of the Rescue mission… what could be more wonderful?
Sure, at times the heart-ache seems to overwhelm: the intensity of need that’s on my doorstep, beautiful, talented kids with no equal opportunity.. with great dreams.. just like me… Sometimes I find myself in no-man’s land, an alien, not fitting in anywhere. At times I get despondent that I’m constantly asked for help instead of friendship (although God quickly shows me that He knows exactly what I’m talking about). Mostly, I’m still just searching, questioning and connecting one dot at a time. But in all of this, the beauty of the gospel has captured my heart so much that I’d rather break my heart, and therefore expand it, than experience the sadness of not feeling.