Sunday night Andrew and I were sitting with some colorful characters in a restaurant that I will not name, recommend, or revisit due to its pandering to an unwholesome male clientele; however, as I looked around and listened to the slightly crusty conversation going on around me I thought, So many people don't get to live my life.
In the course of 24 hours we had spent time with Moody seminary students as they volunteered their time at World Impact; we had taken a friend and neighbor to lunch for his birthday where we had a few candid conversations about life and race; we had spent time sitting on our porch with some neighborhood kids; and then we were in a ritzy area of St. Louis at an unexpectedly risque restaurant with guys who some people would get a little nervous about if they passed them on the street.
I love the fact that God has blessed us with the opportunity to have such diversity in our lives and what those opportunities mean for how we get to see the world. Most people live in a neighborhood with people who generally live and look like them, they go to work with people with whom they have a great deal in common, and spend time with friends who reflect the same culture and values as they have. But our lives look a little bit different than that.
I have been told that I am a pessimist, and it's true, I generally see the fact that the glass is half empty before I notice that it is also half full. Being in inner city ministry can be very hard, and it is easy to focus on those hardships, but the last few days God has given me a joy in the uniqueness of my experiences.
One of the conversations we had over our friend's birthday lunch was the use of identifying with those of your own race as "my people." Now, I have nothing against identifying with a culture or race as part of your life and heritage, but "my people" shouldn't be white people or middle-class people, "my people" should be God's people...which is ALL people. So, I can say without any hesitation that in Christ, my white-suburban family members are "my people," the kids I love and play with on our porch in North St. Louis are "my people," and those rough-around-the-edges guys we had Sunday dinner with are "my people" too.
I feel so blessed to live a life that encounters so many of God's unique people. I have learned that how you see the world partially depends on how much you are exposed to it and not everyone has the opportunity so readily available to them. As an inner-city missionary I have the privilege of coming from a comfortable, Christian, background, yet I am also privileged to live in a black community and a neighborhood that knows poverty. I get to claim wonderful Christians around the U.S. as family and partners in ministry and I get to live in a neighborhood and culture that would otherwise be foreign to me. I can have just as comfortable a conversation with a seminary student as with a guy who wears Mr. T necklaces, shades, and has a creepy tattoo on the back of his bald head, and I think that's just how Jesus would want it.
I love my life.