Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God on the street

"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought...[here], that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there" (270).

God is on the street. Across the world, too, but here—at home—12 minutes down a familiar road. God is in eye contact. In handshakes. In "thank you." In conversation. In the soon-to-be cold. God is manifested in the attempt to recover from drug addiction—in the theory, "yeah, things are the way they are now, but maybe they won't always be." God is on the corner of Central Avenue and Fayette Street.

The ride downtown to Care-A-Van is different from most rides into the city. For one thing, the accelerator in our motorpool van #102 isn't especially eager. We don't know each other well, yet, so we're particularly engaged in conversing about the buildings we pass heading south on I-83. We're conscious of traffic because our arrival time has an impact on others besides ourselves. We know that at the end of the evening, we can get back into our old minivan and the heat will turn on and in 12 minutes, we'll be back on the Evergreen campus where God looks a little different.

Stepping back and taking chapter 9 of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader a little out of context for a moment, I think it's important to notice what happens when a designation of "ugliness" is projected upon a people. Within the Lewis tale, the Dufflepuds choose to be invisible rather than ugly—though they eventually tire of not being seen. In our society we unfortunately model this behavior, projecting both ugliness and invisibility upon people who have not benefited from the privileges many of us take for granted. Downtown, those experiencing homelessness in Baltimore have been given a message that they are somehow less worthy because of the economic situation they are in. Similarly, the privileged have been taught to ignore the impoverished who are not their responsibility to serve.

I love that in the second half of this book, Lucy steps up and takes responsibility for those who are temporarily invisible—and more so, she states that her choice allows her to save her own life as well. The invisible swords that would be used against her are in fact a product of the invisibility of the Duffers. Instead of running from those who are unfamiliar and interpreted, out of fear, as potentially dangerous, Lucy embraces the responsibility that her fate, her liberation, is tied with theirs because while they suffer, she, too, will suffer.

While I was at Care-A-Van this week, a man (James) asked us, "You all aren't here because you have to be for credit or anything, right? You're here because you want to be here?" And I think he was pleased with the nods and smiles he received in response. He nodded too and looked each of us in the eye. It wasn't at all necessary to ask what motivated us to be here, then, because we were sharing a moment of communion. In that moment, we had recognized the face of Christ within each other through the dignity of our presence. I had known God there for a little bit, and now may know God better when I meet God again under a different name on campus.

"I have been here all the time," said he, "but you have just made me visible" (169-70).

For me, true, present, intentional service is a way of traveling to meet God among God's many faces—making God visible. When you meet him or her and you let him or her recognize you, too, you have uncovered a form of invisibility that the structures of our world create. Our liberation is so clearly tied to each other's when we can see the divine spirit within each other. It need not be as extravagant as a spell; frequently, liberation takes the form of a handshake, a "thank you," a smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment