Dear Universe, Be a dear and move me to a large, midwestern city. Minneapolis or Chicago would be ideal. I'd settle for Milwaukee, Madison, Indianapolis or St. Louis. While you're at it, we'd like to buy a 3-bedroom house on 5 acres for under $400,000, Caleb would like to be a successful organic farmer and I'd like to lose 30 pounds. Would ya? Thanks, Kristin
On Friday, I had to go door to door inviting people to our church's ice cream social on Sunday.I simply haven’t been able to shake one particular interaction.I rang the doorbell and a woman about my age come to the door.When I told her about the ice cream social we’re holding at the church across the street and she immediately said to me, “We won’t be coming.” In fear that it had something to do with the church I told her that we wouldn’t try to recruit her or convert her, we’re simply not that kind of church, to which she said, “No offense to your social, but we won’t be there, we’re atheists.”I’m not good on my feet so I said, “Alright, that’s fine.”But later I thought about it and it really hurt me. This woman had written me off entirely knowing nothing about me except that I go to the church across the street. She didn't know me, my faith journey, my life, nothing. She judged me. And I think it's fair to say a atheist judging a Christian hurts just as much as vice-versa. I'm sure this taught me a lesson in Christian priviledge - the right to assume that most people are on the same page as you because you are part of the dominant majority. But it also taught me something else - GIVE PEOPLE A CHANCE.
I'm a little embarrassed to say what I did next. I walked across the street, took the ice cream social invitation and wrote her a note. It said, "My best friend is an atheist. She's gay, she studies global warming, and even she like ice cream. Please join us. I swear they'll be no talk about God, just yummy ice cream." I ran back to her door and stuck it with tape to the window pane. I'm sure this pissed her off when she read it this morning, but I think it's only fair that she hear my side of the story after she so very rudely told me hers. And truly, most of my friends are atheists. In fact, when Caleb and I had the conversation about who would be Lucy's Godparents we were stumped, because no one we are close to believes in God. I have the utmost respect for everyone of these people, because I know they have struggled with the questions of faith and honestly come to the other side believing that there is no God. I struggled with the very same questions and came to a different conclusion. Amazingly this doesn't diminish my faith. Not at all. My faith is stronger because I'm surrounded by people who keep me intellectually accountable for my faith and choice of religion.
Do you remember your first spiritual experience? The first time you felt like prayer was no longer something your parents taught you, but something you called upon on your own volition?
The first time I remember calling out to God in desperation was when I was seven-years-old.We were living in Mexico City, my dad was working for the Coca-Cola Company.It was about 9 o’clock at night and I had hidden myself in the curtains in my parent’s room.I looked up to the dark night sky, fixated on a set of stars and I begged God, with tears in my eyes, to save me.My dad had fallen down, and passed-out, drunk.He was supposed to be babysitting my sister and I, but now I was the one in charge.In an age before cell phones, in a country without 9-1-1, I didn’t know what else to do but pray.It was the prayer of a child, “please God, please. If you help me, I will forever serve you.”I don’t remember what actually happened that night, but I do remember feeling like God was present with me, hidden behind those curtains, comforting his scared, tired, tiny child. Although I never heard the words, I felt the sense - "Shh, my child. Be still and know that I am God."
That moment was formative for the rest of my faith life. Many time I have called own to God like a scared child, and many times he has been there, present with me in a quiet stillness.
Today I'm trying to write an article for the Fluvanna Review, where I work, and our adorable cat, Lena, keeps trying to walk across the keyboard and foist her little nose under my typing hands. She's desperate for love and attention. I pet her a while and sing her praises, but then a source calls in, and I have to get back on the computer to type. She's relentless, moving herself in any which way to get below my fingers and be pet again. Finally, she resorts to just laying on the computer keyboard, rendering me helpless. I pick her up, forcefully put her next to me and say stridently, "Just be, kitty! Just be!" She will get all the love and attention she needs if she just sits here, by my side contentedly while I type. Forcing herself upon me is just making me frustrated with her.
As I was yelling at her, "Just Be!" I realized how often God must say this to us. We get all jittery and antsy, looking for love and validation anywhere we can find it, even if it's inappropriate for the moment, and God is saying to us, "Just Be! Stop being such a busy body and just be!" How much more pleasure would we bring God if we just faithfully sat by His side while he did His work? Just like cats are to bring us peace, joy and entertainment, we should be doing the same for God. Not by weaseling our way into his presence, but by just being with him. So, take a deep breath, and just be!
I feel like people have a relationship with their country in the same way they would have a relationship with a real person. For some America is the older, wiser, admired relative – and if anyone dares disrespect them, you take it very personally. For some America is almost an extension of themselves. For me, America is like an ex-boyfriend that I'm still kind of in love with.
I grew up abroad, in Latin America. Being an American in foreign countries is a strange experience. You quickly find other Americans and cling to them. Often your conversation revolves around how backward the country you're living in is, but at the same time discussing how arrogant most Americans are (except for you, who is enlightened, of course). Naturally, we expats lived for moments where we could get a glimpse of our home culture - gushers in your lunch box, Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner, an English version of the newest movie. I was both attracted to and repelled by America.
Moving back to the states in the 4th grade was a painful experience. On the one hand, for once I fit in and I got all the benefits of living in a safe and prosperous nation. I could ride my bike around the neighborhood without fear of being kidnapped. I could go to public school (If I wanted. I didn't). On the other hand, the average American 4th grader didn't understand. Why would you want to live anywhere OTHER than America? You moved here from where? Mexico? Then why are you white? I tried desperately to try to fit in. Meanwhile, America was seducing me with it's rhetoric of equality and prosperity for all, and I fell for it. He made me prosperous, right? Then he must be a good guy.
It wasn't until college that I began to see America's flaws. I worked for a summer on the south side of Chicago and saw areas just as run down and dangerous as any neighborhood or slum in Mexico or Guatemala. I got mad at America. I'm supposed to tell these kids I'm working with in a homeless shelter that they too could become president? What a bunch of crock, we all know that isn't true. So I broke up with America, and I moved to Chile for a semester. That's when I realized again how good America really was, and how good I had it with him. I missed my family. I missed my culture. I missed me, which was really a part of him. But I was still mad at him for his arrogance, self-centeredness and grandiosity. I did not want to be seen in public with him. Really, I'd rather be associated with Canada. He seemed so much nicer. Bland, yes, but easy to like.
America and I still haven't really kissed and made up, but I have to say I looked upon him differently when he chose Barrack Obama as his president. Here's a black guy from the south side of Chicago who did become president. Maybe America isn't just blowing hot air. Maybe he means what he says, he just has a hard time showing it. Maybe I am in love with him, but I can't admit it out loud because I would be showing a side of myself I don't want to admit is there – a side that wants to be embraced by a big, strong super power at night, because I feel safe in his arms. Yes, he's a jerk, and an idiot sometimes, but – damn it – he's my idiot.