Friday, September 10, 2010

the busy-ness of bees...

it's probably a very good thing that i've been too busy to blog these days, but it's also been hard since, as per usual, i have a lot to say.

this summer (and the beginning of this school year) have brought some radical shifts in life, perception, and spiritual growth.

life in community has been more challenging and more wonderful than i'd expected. i live with people i truly adore and we function, in our best times, as a well-ordered machine. and, in our worst times, we function just like any other fake-family might. i was drawn to community, in part, because i wanted to challenge myself in my interpersonal relationship skills. coming face-to-face with my own brokenness, my tendency towards judgement, and other completely irritating qualities has been hard. having those lovingly exposed and just as lovingly explored has been humbling in the extreme.

i've also begun an internship that i love. i actually (for the first time) can call it life-changing without any fear of hyperbole. i spend my days working with teens who are trying to change the culture of their school through nonviolent conflict resolution and restorative justice. these teens, having seen violence in their peers AND in the adults around them, are trying to make things right. and it works sometimes, and it doesn't others. but it's such incredibly important work being done by some truly amazing individuals.

the school where i work is by far not the worst in Chicago (nor even the worst on the northside of Chicago). but dropouts are high, college-attendance is low, and there is a police booking station inside the school. we've seen young kids taken out of the school in handcuffs or locked in a room until the police arrive. fights break out in classrooms and no one knows how to intervene. rival gang members show up with weapons and jump kids after school. and all of that leads some members of this community to blame and fear youth, instead of asking youth what the solutions might be. i love that i work with an organization that thinks youth voices are just as important as ours. but this work reminds me daily that i am not in the Great White North, as it were. the effects of violence and oppression in the lives of these youth is already apparent two weeks into this internship. I'm sure it will increase as I continue this work, which means that the potential for heartbreak and fear and my own oppression and stereotypes to surface is HIGH. i'm glad for that opportunity but also very afraid.

because i live in a community that provides spiritual support on a regular basis, and because my work and heart are turned more towards violence than before, i find my prayer life shifting, which is a welcome relief. for so long, my prayers had been small, inward, mostly-selfish prayers about the future. "give me this" "help me understand that" "why don't You..."

it was my turn to lead our spirituality morning (at 7am. THAT'S how much i love my community!) and i decided to do lectio divina on Matthew 6:25-34. it provided a much-needed re-orientation of my prayer life. i decided to stop focusing so much on this area of future that i can't control (namely, romantic relationships and having kiddos) to focus on those larger issues i can control, like whether i do enough to love my neighbor each day. actually, without knowing it, my communitymate John helped me immensely. in reflecting on this reading, he noted that there were people who were suffering that "God wants to help." I was struck immediately by the fact that all those people who suffer for want of food, clothing, etc. do so because, very literally, human institutions are blocking the love of God. every unjust policy, every deeply-rooted fear and hatred of "the other", every unnecessary consumer good i buy, every dollar i could donate but don't- all these things build impenetrable walls that keep out the love of God. this is all stuff i knew intellectually, of course. but picturing a wall every time i see oppression or feel it in myself is a totally different, more heart-centered perspective, which has really helped me evaluate how i live my values, and how i don't.

i've also been working at discovering things that give me not just a spiritual "high" but that awaken that deep-in-my-bones contentedness. i spent so long expecting that the love of God would be like lightning. but it's more like Portland fall rains when you're inside, warm and safe. it's a much, much better place to be, though i'm sure i'll need lightning again soon...