I have been back in the city I grew up in for 10 weeks now. I have spent most of that time getting “settled in” as they say and developing some local relationships. From the start of our move, it was important to us to not default back to our old relationships primarily, but to develop people that we could live life with near our new home and new life. After all, we live across town from our old “stompingh grounds” – a good 30 minute drive. This past week seemed to have a theme. I had more lunches and meetings with these old friends and spent more time in my old part of the city than all of the previous weeks combined. It was really good, but also very difficult.
If I am honest, I haven’t been all that excited about connected with many of these old friends. Don’t get me wrong, I care about them deeply and are indebted to them for their past invovlement, commitment, & investment in my life. But a lot has changed -mostly me. I see life through different eyes than I used to, I hurt in different ways than I used to, I am impassioned in new ways, and focused on new things. Mostly, my friends are too, it just feels as though I have gone further from my roots. I now question some beliefs about God that I once was so convinced I was right about. I question many things about the church and how it functions and am not afraid that my questions or critiques will hurt the churches efforts, in fact I believe the exact opposite, that in some small way, my existence at this time in this location might have some impact, some influence as to the future of the church in America. I believe different things about money and politics and morality. My priorities have changed. And my life choices hopefully reflecty that change.
The tension is that many of my long-time friendships jump to conclusions about my life that couldn’t be further from the truth. They question my questioning, my openess to rethink everything, to reevaluate what I live for the way I have. It will be a hard journey to see eye-to-eye with them again, to realize that we share more common ground than they realize and at the same time that commonality manifests itself in very different ways in each of our lives.
One thing I know, one thing that I am convinced of, is that reconciling with these people is not going to be done though intellectual argument. I am convinced that this is the way of old. Gone will soon be the days where we influence by prodding people with how much we know and how much better we can articulate it they can what they know. People, myself included, are much more influenced by how much you care, by the way you live out your convictions without contradiction.
I am tired from these discussions that I have with old friends – explaining myself, answering questions, and then defending my decisions. I want to share stories, life, pictures of our kids, beers, stories of how we more than ever find ourselves in awe of God, and things that really matter. I want to leave the time I spend with friends feeling as though in those moments, we deeply spoke into the hearts of each other, affirming difference, encouraging risky spirituality, and loving beyond measure.
I guess it starts with me.