Friday, May 2, 2014

Post 13--So There Was This Good Thing...

I'm a huge fan of the "First World Problems" meme.  And I know there's a lot of disdain for it because of the whole white guilt issue, but I find it legitimately hilarious.  If you're not familiar, a First World Problem is a problem that comes from an abundance of wealth, which, when viewed from the perspective of people facing tragedy or poverty, seems like the exact opposite of a problem.

For example:

These FWPs are fabulous tools in creating guilt in the fragile hearts of First Worlders, and I like to think that looking at our problems from this perspective can also do wonders for our attitudes on life, particularly if your life has been dedicated to following Jesus.  I get confronted with this a lot in my job up here, because a lot of our church members have some SERIOUSLY INSANE stories about their journeys to Canada and Christendom.  It's been really good for me to hang out with all of these incredible people, because it really helps me not freak out about my own problems.  


"Hey Ames, did you have a rough day?"


"Oh yeah?  Did the secret police search your house for Bibles again?"

"What? No. That never happened."

"Oh?  Was it your family? Did they disown you because you converted?"


"Did they sign your execution warrant in front of you because you wouldn't name names of church leaders?"


"Also Santa Claus isn't real."

So in my experience, a lot of things I've called "bad problems" were really just small parts of "good problems" that Jesus was working out around me. WAIT, DON'T PUKE. HEAR ME OUT ON THIS.

If this sentiment immediately nauseates you, I get it. Because it sounds dangerously close to the kind of thing that alway turns me off, too.  I'm going to be honest, I tend to think philosophies that say "I don't believe in regrets," or "there are no mistakes" or "all accidents are happy ones" are pretty stupid. Because a) The Killing Fields happened b) AIDS exists and c) The Civil Wars broke up. And I just cannot find redeeming value in any of those. And the Christian equivalent of these philosophies, which sound like "God won't give you anything you can't handle" or "God won't take you to it if he can't get you through it" or DEAR GOD ANYTHING THAT RHYMES, have never proven helpful in real times of need.

But I also think when your life has been taken from you and made into an adventure better than you even knew to ask for, you really can find Jesus in a lot of your problems.  I've found him in a lot of places, recently.

It was actually my Whitworth RA team that made this real for me.  Cameron Williams (my "Burn Out Buddy") and I were discussing the job during a particularly stressful season of leadership, and concluded that RA life (and life in general) will always be summed up with either "there is this good thing...but then there's this bad thing"  or "there is this bad thing...but then there's this good thing."  And after that conversation I think my worldview was a lot healthier.

Shout out Duvall RA team 2011-2012

So theres this bad thing:  Our Centre, our beautiful Community Centre that I love, is on hiatus, because we've outgrown our space and haven't found a new building.

This is hard for us as a church because the Community Centre is such a tangible, accessible way to reach out to the community.  We believe there is a real need for it.   We're not a very big centre, but we exist because we recognize what it feels like to be suddenly immersed in country, language, and culture that might actually be the opposite of your own.  Many of our staff have literally been there before.  We do resumes, help people with taxes, hold monthly events where people can just gather and talk in their own language, and stay open just in case someone needs to chat (since this is a city, and it's hard to make friends even when you do look like everybody else).  Now, we're all trying continue to provide the same services, but without a central place in which to do so.

But there's also this good thing:
Basically, we have all become real-life RAs. And it turns out I really loved that job.

(Second shout out to Duvall RA team, you fine-looking bunch of people)

The transition is a big change for all of us.  For me, it's because a big part of my job here was teaching English and music classes. It was really important to Joan and I to keep the classes going even after we closed, so we had to relocate to the window table at the nearest Chinese restaurant.

This is not a joke.  The restaurant is called Happy Mom's Cafe, and is run by Joyce, the happy mom.  We love her, and we love her restaurant, too.


But it's hard to teach this way.  Before Joyce began letting us store stuff at the Cafe, this was me on the way to class:

"Good Morning."

So there's this bad thing:

I have become the traveling vacuum salesman of English teachers.

But then there's this good thing.

See, I'm having a moment of clarity, so let me take this opportunity, right now, to tell you one of the best things about all this:

Sometimes, you ask yourself, "how will I live a fulfilling life?  How will I keep myself from becoming complacent, from selling out?  How do I live my one wild and precious life on purpose, without drifting through it in a haze of mediocrity?

But other times, you are telling the story of the Prodigal Son to four Farsi-speaking adults in the middle of a Chinese restaurant, wiping the rain off of your white board and asking, "tell me about the Father in this story? What is he like?" and realizing they don't even have to think about the answer.

And then you don't ask yourself silly questions anymore.

Friends, pray for me.  But also, thank God for the problems He's given me.  I don't really think I deserve them.

Please remember that I always need donations.  You are beautiful parts of God's story.

Love, Ames