This piece was first published at the InterVarsity website The Well, thewell.intervarsity.org.
Everydayness is my problem.
It’s easy to think about what you would do in wartime, or if a hurricane blows through, or if you spent a month in Paris, or if your guy wins the election, or if you won the lottery, or bought that thing you really wanted.
It’s a lot more difficult to figure out how you’re going to get through today without despair. —Rod Dreher
I was nearly 22 years old and had just returned to my college town from a part of Africa that had missed the last three centuries. As I walked to church in my weathered, worn-in Chacos, I bumped into our new associate pastor and introduced myself.
He smiled warmly and said, “Oh, you. I’ve heard about you. You’re the radical who wants to give your life away for Jesus.”
It was meant as a compliment and I took it as one, but it also felt like a lot of pressure because, in a new way, I was torturously uncertain about what being a radical and living for Jesus was supposed to mean for me. Here I was, back in America, needing a job and health insurance, toying with dating this law student intellectual (who wasn’t all that radical), and unsure about how to be faithful to Jesus in an ordinary life. I’m not sure I even knew if that was possible.
I am from the Shane Claiborne generation and my story is that of many young evangelicals.
I grew up relatively wealthy in a relatively wealthy evangelical church. Jesus captured my heart and my imagination when I was a kid. I was the girl wearing WWJD bracelets and praying with her friends before theater rehearsal. It did not take long before I began asking questions about how the gospel impacted racial reconciliation and poverty.
I began to yearn for something more than a comfortable Christianity focused on saving souls and being generally respectable Republican Texans.
I entered college restless with questions and spent my twenties reading Marx and St. Francis, being discipled in the work of Rich Mullins, Ron Sider and Tony Campolo, learning about New Monasticism (though it wasn’t named that yet), and falling in love with Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day. My senior year of college, I invited everyone at our big student evangelical gathering to join me in protesting the School of the Americas.
I spent a little while in two different intentional Christian communities, hanging out with homeless teenagers, and going to a church called “Scum of the Earth” (really).
I gave away a bunch of clothes, went barefoot and wanted to be among the “least of these.” At a gathering of Christian communities, I slept in a cornfield and spent a week using composting toilets, learning to make my own cleaning supplies, and discussing Christian anarchy while listening to mewithoutyou.
I went to Christian Community Development Association conferences, headed up a tutoring program for impoverished, immigrant children, and interned at some churches trying to bridge the gap between wealthier evangelicals and the poor. I was certainly not as radical as many Christian radicals—a lot of folks are doing more good than I could ever hope to and, besides, I’ve never had dreadlocks—but I did have some “ordinary radical” street cred.
Now, I’m a 30-something with two kids, living a more or less ordinary life.
And what I’m slowly realizing is that, for me, being in the house all day with a baby and a two-year-old is a lot more scary and a lot harder than being in a war-torn African village.