Living in a Place

Lately I’ve been trying to take some hard looks at my life to eliminate the difference between how I’m living and how I’d like to be living. This post might be more thinking out loud than making any definite point about. I just want to put to words to my thoughts.

The pastor of the church I attended in Virginia recently wrote a blog post about belonging. He quotes the author Wendell Berry about a community in one of Berry’s books. Berry says,

“Members of Port William aren’t trying to ‘get someplace.’ They think they are someplace.”

That stood out to me, because I think I’ve always been trying to get someplace. In high school and even before, I wanted out of my town. In college, I wanted out of my state. Most things I spent my time with were a means to an end.

This isn’t to say that moving is a bad thing. We don’t all need to stay in the same place forever, and I think sometimes we need to go somewhere else to learn something new. But I also think there’s something to say for treating the place you’re in like you want to be there. Every place has something to offer–land, people, history. There’s beauty in landscape, whether it’s mountains, oceans, or just fields and open skies. Some of it takes looking harder, but it’s there. And there is beauty certainly in the faces of everyone around you. There’s beauty in their stories and the stories of everyone who came before.

I’ve spent too much of my life ignoring all of that. I want to live well in the place that I’m in. I want to be present and invested and contributing to its life. I don’t want to just be using it to get somewhere else.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus and how he calls us to live as God’s children. A lot of times, I’m not sure what that means. The words we take as instructions for living in the Bible seem a bit abstract.

In Luke 4, Jesus proclaims his purpose by reading a passage out of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

I think all that seems pretty consistent with Micah 6:8:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

I  like this verse because it’s simple. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God seems like a good life mantra to adopt. But as catchy as it is, if it doesn’t change the way I live, it doesn’t mean anything. So I’m trying to break it down.

Justice seems like the most complicated one. It seems like something that more easy applied by a lawyer or lawmaker, but I think we are all called to small acts of justice. I think it has something to do with recognizing the power structures in our communities and seeing who gets left behind and disadvantaged. Speaking out and elevating their voices. Recognizing injustice and fighting against it. I think doing justice is going to take some intentional digging, learning about my community, and acting on those findings.

Loving kindness sounds simpler. I think most people would describe themselves as kind, but we’re not always very active about it. Kindness is more than just avoiding unkindness. I think it’s a lot of things. Providing for others with time and money as we are able, being patient and encouraging, reminding others that they hold the sacred image of God and were created with purpose. Kindness is a pretty broad word, so I think the key is finding ways to use our individual skills to be kind.

For me, I want to use my writing to be kind. I think words are powerful and stories are powerful. I feel so privileged when I have interviewed people for different articles and can piece together the different parts of their life into a story. So many odd coincidences and get us to where we end up. Small moments lead to big ones. I think there is grace in that. There is kindness and divine love.

Walking humbly with your God is another of these phrases that sounds easy, but I think it takes discipline. To walk with someone, you can’t just veer off your own way. You have to stay in step. You have to pay attention. I want to walk humbly by accepting my smallness and the vastness of God, by spending time in prayer both speaking and listening, by recognizing God’s constant provision, and taking time to wonder at the marvels of creation.

I want to find more ways to structure my life around these ideas. I don’t want to wait until I get someplace. I already am someplace.

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One thought on “Living in a Place

  1. Pingback: Longing, belonging | Scatterthought

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