Alex and I got the opportunity to go to a fancy restaurant on Saturday evening. We’ve been watching entirely too much Food Network and I felt a hankering to eat somewhere other than, say, B.J.’s Pizza. We went down to Fearings Restaurant, which happens to be inside the Ritz Carlton. Don’t worry, we weren’t pretentious about it. Our reservation was at 5:30 so we were with the Blue Light Special crew. Also, Alex never wants to pay for valet, so we parked in a parking garage and walked, almost getting slammed by a BMW in the pull through of the hotel. At the restaurant, they leave a flask of water on your table and Alex tried to pour his own water and the waiter almost broke his neck running over to our table, scolding Alex, “I’m supposed to do that”.
Because we so rarely get to have a conversation where we sit eye-to-eye (without being interrupted by a particular favorite reggaeton song or questions about Pokemon or a baby’s feeding time), we actually got to talk about serious things. We were talking about how much we had changed since we get married as wee babes at 21.
I read Jen Hatmaker’s Book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” a few years ago and this quote is the one that still stands out as the most powerful.
I wondered if the American church was like well-mannered nice-talkers, sitting in a living room sipping coffee, talking about choir practice,while the world burns down outside our windows. While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the window, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering. (page 90)
This image haunts me. That’s the only way I can say it. In my very active imagination, I see myself sitting and laughing while the world burns outside my window.
I know that I have gotten more serious, especially over the last six months or so. Perhaps you started reading my blog when it was just funny stories or whimsical interpretations of Biblical truths and now you feel like taking an Ambien and going to sleep after reading. I feel myself pulling away from small talk, or more so, sliding into serious talk perhaps too quickly or too often. Of course, I still laugh and make jokes, but I know that my seriousness makes some people uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong.I’m not apologizing for it, but rather acknowledging it. If I had to choose between being serious or being naive about the world burning, I would choose seriousness every time. My eyes are open and now I can’t look away. It’s almost as if I just realized the world was burning outside my window and the shock hasn’t quite worn off yet. I feel panicked, almost, that this has been happening and I’ve been completely ignorant of it. A large portion of my energy currently is going to righting the ship; now that my moral compass has been corrected, a new, unknown path lies before me.
Before you tell me to just “be joyful”, please know that I see a big difference between joy and lightheartedness. God never commands us to be carefree, only talk in exclamation points, and exclusively share pictures of babies in hats. No, instead we’re told to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12). In this process, I have found joy by recognizing that God saw the world burning and cared about it way before I did. I have found joy in working along side brothers and sisters who are just as passionate about this as I am. I have found joy in knowing that I am part of a larger community that weeps, grieves, and struggles for change together. I do not have to put out the fires on my own. My joy is not boisterous or light or airy; it is heavy and hopeful.
I am only ankle deep in racial reconciliation work. I know people that are in it up to their necks and they have friends and go to the gym and live normal lives. I know that I will get there, when the shock and anger at my naivete has worn off. Perhaps, once the ship is righted on its new course, I can step away from the bow and crack a few jokes with my crew. In the meantime, thank you for bearing with me.