Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sell-out or Worn-out?

As we are now in limbo, living with friends back in our home town of Franklin, TN, I walk around doing the slow-Southern-daily-life-thing with great existential questions running around in my brain at warp speed. What are we doing with our lives? What do we want to do? Is it really about what we want? What is God calling us to? Is there really such a thing as a unique call or do we all just get the general call to love God and each other during whatever journey we are handed?

I kind of thought we made a decision to trust our minimal understanding of these questions and head back home.  We loved life in the city: the grit, the culture, the cleaning out of some cob-webbed parts of our brains where Southern culture allowed us to collect dust. We lived where we were needed. Why should all the people with resources-financial, social, systemic, and otherwise- congregate in the cozy neighborhoods while those without voices are crammed into the dirty spaces left in between? 

One of our reasons for going into the city was pictured in a metaphor that many urban missionaries are drawn in by: if there was a tree fallen in the road and 9 people were carrying one side and only 1 on the other, which side would you go to? That made sense to us. We wanted to help on the side that needed it. The city-side. Lets face it, it is easier to love your neighbors if they dont really need anything from you. So, we chose the city and could barely imagine ourselves ever wanting to return to our quaint Americana village of Franklin, where all those helper-outers were. 

But, after much emotional angst and equally emotional prayer, we decided that after 5 years in Philly, we would move home. Im not sure if it was our desire to live out the next season of life close to my family overshadowed our desire to be a conduit of change in the world that led us to our decision. (I hope not) But, I think it was a mixture of many things that when parsed out seems to not make that much sense. Is is about not wanting to raise my kids in the city, filled with danger and the unknown? (Philly is one of the leading cities in numbers of murders, but also has a phenomenally diverse population with rich history and culture.) Is it because life in the ministry was stressful and I wasnt sure if my not sleeping well had to do with that, living in the city or just my age? (I am getting older and I think my mom doesnt sleep well either).  I dont have a great reason, but I think I decided that it was okay that I didnt have a perfectly wrapped answer. It just felt like time to come home. Right or wrong. Good or bad. Sell-out or just plain worn-out. 

Dave reminded me often (in my most angsty moments) that at the end of the day, God was still in control. His world was not going to fall apart if we made the wrong choice. His will for our lives wasnt going to be thwarted by our moving. God is still God, whether in Philly or Franklin. (Those are the moments when I most clearly remember why I married Dave.) Although it sounds awfully oedipal, Dave reminds me of my dad. Just a few weeks ago, when the buyers of our house found out that their mortgage fell through for the second time, Dad told me to not bother Jesus by praying about it. "He's asleep at the back of the boat. Its all under control. If he's not worried about it, neither should you." Not exactly the most solid theology ever preached (I mean, whoever heard of someone preachin' that you shouldn't pray), but its faith-filled simplicity comforted me. Yeah, if Jesus isnt worried, why should I? 

My goal of writing this post was to maybe help myself out of my current angst ridden brain and back into sanity. My questions are still not answered really, but my heart is calmed. Where will we live? Where will we work? What should we invest our time in? Who should we reconnect with? Can we change the world from here? What if we end up just caring about soccer season and making fruit tea for Cousin Mae's baby shower? Shhhh. Details. Details. Jesus is napping. 


  1. i like hearing this. did you know i called you? i think maybe you were on some lake.

    your questions remind me (on maybe a further ahead level) of conversations that joel and i have. even though we haven't moved, all the questions are the same. why would we stay? why would we move? sometimes i wish there was a real place that was immune from having to choose to be there. you know? that would be home. maybe the first time that happens is heaven. i don't know.

    i'm going to update soon, really. i still haven't quite got in the swing. i like that you comment though. and it's not exactly private, but no one else that i know of reads it, so.

    love, charis.

  2. i like this: Why should all the people with resources-financial, social, systemic, and otherwise- congregate in the cozy neighborhoods while those without voices are crammed into the dirty spaces left in between?

    i didnt know these questions were swimming in your head. i wish you'd tell me. but i like reading it too.

  3. I think sometimes it's not as much about precisely where you are or what you're doing, as what you're learning.. who you are. I wouldn't have learned the things i have if i had stayed in the Philth. this is debatable, maybe... Maybe God knew that i would only learn these things if i came to Maryland??

    Props, Dave!


  4. Thanks for sharing Sarah. I often have struggled with the same questions, but we are in reverse...South to Philly. I really love it here & there are some things I miss about SC. I sometimes wonder, why did we come, what are we doing? I often feel I am just here in house taking care of my little man & the other one on the way...not doing anything related to moving to the city!

    I am reminded that 1) I have only been here a year & still learning lots about the city 2) that I am not the savior & Christ will use me as he chooses, & 3) regardless of where I live my kiddos are a full time ministry.

    I too am thankful for a husband who reminds me of who is in control! Anyway, just thought I would share. I hope you'll are doing well. I have been enjoying lots of time at your old house. I even spent time walking with Theresa & Murphy Shimkonis(sp) last week while she dog sat him. Definitely a different neighborhood than Fishtown, but it is neat to see different parts of the city just a few miles down the road. Take care!

    Melissa Uttke

  5. Lately, I've wrestled with the same issues. Growing up here, though, I've unknowingly grown a skin, finding myself becoming calloused and jaded by the very brokenness Christ is calling us to delve into.

    Would love to talk it out some more while I'm in town. Can't wait!

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  7. deep thoughts sarah, good thoughts, I've had some of the samem thoughts, your thoughts on the city and the South are spot on and something I need to hear, our pastor preached on Jesus sleeping on the boat today, the storm didn't stop until the disciples asked for Jesus' help

    thanks for the good read,

    Jay Gemes