Thursday, August 28, 2014

We Are Awake


I am overwhelmed as look into the towering skyline of Lower Manhattan & Midtown on my almost everyday commute across the Manhattan Bridge. From where I sit on this train, any human who has ever sat in this exact seat has seen the same view, but perhaps with different eyes. 

Massive skyscrapers effortlessly reaching toward the sky, glistening in the early afternoon sunlight, and a swift flowing East River below. What you can't see from this seat are the millions of people rushing to and fro among the criss-crossing streets. Place to place they wander, many wearing the weight of the world on their shoulders, calloused by the sight of those who reside in the shadows of the buildings that tower above. 

Another day, another commute. As if they were ghosts, I guess. 

I've been in the city for almost three months now and I've seen more of the city than many tourists claim they've seen. I've traded a five-star hotel for a small room in a church with three beds and two roommates. I've traded the expensive chain restaurants for an authentic taste of other cultures. I've traded the 5th avenue dream, full of luxury and cleanliness for an immersion into the broken, abandoned and unclean. I've traded the average surface level small talk and instead have dove deep into conversation with the people I've met, listening to story after story, heart break after heart break. Every day I walk these streets, leading group after group, serving at countless sites; and at the end of the day as I make this commute across the bridge looking into the distant Manhattan skyline I wonder, "is it enough?"

Face after face I pass, each with their own story, baggage, heart cry, longing for something more. As I look out the window on this crowded train I begin thinking to myself, how can a city this size, in all it's resources, still be hurting like this? In a city of 8.4 million people, how have we become so calloused to the sight of those hurting around us? Have we removed ourselves so far from those who are "not like us", that in order to feel better about ourselves we classify them as being "just another culture"? Have we gotten so wrapped up in our own lives that they have become entirely invisible? 

My heart aches and rages all at once at the hurt I cannot "un-see" everyday. Inside, I scream at the fact that we have become so caught up in what the world says is the right thing to do, say, and act, that we are quick to forget whom created this world and the people whom we are called to love. When I look out the window on this train I am overwhelmed, not by the skyscrapers, but at the immensity of the hurt that lies below these tracks. I suddenly feel so small. 

Everyday I make this commute, and as my days here in this city are quickly winding down, I can't help but wonder what happens after this? Just as this life slows down for no one, the city too, doesn't miss a beat. Has all that has been done here this summer enough? When I board my plane to fly home, will all the countless hours serving, sleepless nights, early mornings, prayer tours, conversations, and relationships amount to "enough"? In a country, and city, that thrives on check lists and accomplishments, the answer to that question is: No. Not even close. 

It will never amount to what we know as "enough". My smallness grows ever smaller at this thought and ever smaller still as I am reminded of the truth. God did not call me here to do "enough". In fact, He did not call me to be "enough" - because He is enough. He called me here to love and serve His people who reside in the shadows of the streets I walk each day, to which He says He is enough for them. He called me here to invest in the wreck that overwhelms this city in whatever seemingly small capacity I am able because at the end of the day, He is still enough. 

As I began to embrace my smallness, it was in that moment, I recalled powerful words that were spoken to me just the week before. "It is time to move from the mentality of 'us' and 'them', to 'us' and 'Him'." 

From the observations I've seen this summer, the truth of the matter is that all too often we put on our blinders, refusing to see or acknowledge those around us because they aren't like us. Just like at school, a party, or even youth group, we like to flock to our friends or those we are familiar with. When we look at the life of Jesus though, we find that He did quite the opposite. He could have chosen to only speak to those who were most like Him but instead He sought out those who were in fact not anything like Him. He went directly to those who were broken in spirit, abandoned by those who claimed to love them, the unclean and smelly, the different looking, the hungry, poor, and the powerless. He saw the ones residing in the shadows of the busy streets. He touched the ones who were deemed untouchable by society's for them. 

Now I get it - He's Jesus! You and I cannot even compare! But we can obey. He commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, but also to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we are obeying and loving God with all we are, as we are, we will find ourselves laying down our pride, selfishness, calloused eyes and cold hearts. We are humbled and broken at the feet of Jesus because what breaks His heart ultimately also breaks ours. While we are not dying for those around us as Christ died to save us, we instead die to ourselves daily because He first loved us. We then choose to seek out those who, according to society's standards, are not worthy of our time or attention. We stop passing by and start stopping by. We suddenly become aware and realize we can no longer pretend we never knew. We are awake. We love because He first loved us.

- Kristyn, CSM New York City Summer 2014 City Host

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