A friend of mine, Vicki, and her one year old daughter came to town this week. Her sister in Redwood City had just given birth to her first child and Vicki came to support her.
Vicki is married to my friend Brian, whom I seem to write about often (maybe it’s the cute way he wears his hair). It’s actually not, it’s because I respect him. He’s got a spirit that can’t be neutered. Brian doesn’t have great amounts of money, but what he has he loves to give away. He and Vicki are one the happiest couples I know. They live in a one bedroom apartment in Santa Monica, the daughter, Eowyn (don’t ask—Lord Of The Rings geeks shout Hurrah) sleeps in the room with them.
I brought pizza to the family last night. Vicki and I stayed up talking about everything from Brian’s bass guitars to whether or not they would have a second child.
“What would you do if you did? Move?”
“We’d have to. Eowyn would need her own room.”
The expenses would double, we both agreed. Would be incredibly expensive, especially staying in L.A.
“But you know what,” Vicki said. “This whole time, we’ve had more than enough. Brian has gotten raises we didn’t expect. It’s been incredible to see.”
I’ve been reading a book written by a man named Shane Claiborne. Irresistible Revolution. Claiborne was a guy from eastern Tennessee, disenfranchised by the church in America, its love affair with politics, as well as the greed and materialism filling its hallways and pulpits. He attended college in Philadelphia, where he spent his weekends visiting the slums to serve the homeless people there, then went to Calcutta to work with Mother Theresa for a summer, living among the poorest people in the world.
When he returned, he founded a movement called The Simple Way. He and a few others live in the slums of Philly, giving all they have away, trusting in others and in God for their daily food and shelter, even (gasp!) health care. In the book, he describes miracles that he sees almost on a daily basis. Food that miraculously appears, peoples’ lives being changed for the better.
Claiborne is a unique example. He lives his life at the extreme—someone who has taken his passion and conviction all the way. Honestly, I don’t have a desire (or calling) to live homeless or in the slums. But his story is incredibly convicting; it makes me want to never live at the other extreme, embracing the materialism and greed of the culture, which the modern church has done so well.
So where’s the middle ground? This is my obsession currently—finding that balance. I was struck by Vicki’s comment last night. We’ve had more than enough. They trusted God without sacrificing Brian’s optimistic, passionate spirit. For me, I’m not sure what it looks like. The one conviction I have: I stopped putting money into a retirement account.
I want to be writing books until I die, so I’m trusting God for that. I’m not saying anyone else should do it; in fact, I would advise otherwise. It’s simple a small stand I’ve decided to make.
I can’t but wonder, could we see those miracles that Shane Claiborne and the other Simple Way members see? If so, why don’t we? I suspect it’s because our labor is consumed with creating comfortable and easy lives for ourselves. What need of God do we have then?