Wednesday, October 3, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS: MY CALCUTTA

THE CONSISTENT THREAD. I have been kicking around this city for more than twenty years now. The various arenas of labor and investment I've engaged reflect a single calling: to love this city and the people who live here. This is the consistent thread of my spiritual journey as an adult to this point. Only recently did I happen onto the advice Mother Teresa frequently offered sincere people who desired to serve with her in India: “Find your own Calcutta.” My Calcutta is Indianapolis, particularly the urban neighborhoods of this city.

THIS CITY IS MY CLASSROOM, MY TEACHER. This city is not only the arena of my passion and focus of my service, it is my teacher. Though I have contributed much of the energy of my adult life to challenging its poverty, sustaining and re-forming its helping infrastructure, and making a difference in the lives of neighbors who live here, I must confess that I have received more than I have given. I have received insight and wisdom, gained understanding and perspective, grown through mistakes and difficulties, expanded my heart and horizons, developed friendships and relationships of respect. So it seems to have pleased God to use such a classroom and laboratory to cause me to grow—hopefully in Christlikeness. I am grateful for these blessings. And it feels like I am still a beginner; I have so much more to learn.

A CITY-SHAPED SPIRITUALITY. So, mine is a city-shaped spirituality. The detached and placeless Wesleyan-holiness formation of my childhood and youth found attachment and rootedness in this particular place. God has formed in me a love for this place. I feel called here, welcomed here, even at home here. I have not felt the same about other cities which I have visited, admired and desired. I have not yet been able to imagine myself living or serving in other great urban centers. But this city is somehow accessible to me, understandable, movable--winnable.

NOT A THING, BUT A LIFE. Indianapolis is not a place from which I shrink back. I find I cannot coldly criticize it. My response to its irresponsibilities, insensitivities and self-defeating behaviors is not to dismiss or abandon or berate it, but to restore and reconcile and heal it. Nor is the metropolitan area a commodity which I feel free to use or exploit for economic or positional advantage. It is not a thing, but a living, dynamic organism. It is, inside and out and all around, like the body to which the Apostle Paul to compares the church. "One part cannot say to the other, 'I don't need you.'" When one part hurts, the whole cannot really be healthy. I feel that about Indianapolis. And, to some extent, while I celebrate its assets and victories, I also bear the pain of its prejudices and social and political dichotomies. So, this city is a part of me and I am a part of it.

MY FAITH IS TIED TO THIS CITY. At this point, my relationship to God is somehow tied in with my relationship to this city. Here faithfulness, compassion, stewardship, suffering, and service are called for. Here joy, inspiration, hope, and insight are known. Here relationship, connection, understanding, breakthrough, and community are encountered and engaged. At this point, Indianapolis and my sense of faithfulness in Christ are linked. It doesn’t just happen to be the place I live; it just happens to be the place which I am called in grace to love.



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