What do you do when you open your eyes on a sunny July morning and don’t see yourself in any part of your life?
There are just so many things that I’m trying to be. I have always been trying to be so many things, my whole life. I spent much of my life trying to be a good girl, ignoring my questions about what goodness really is. Trying to be a whole girl, ignoring my brokenness. Trying to be an easy girl, ignoring my needs. In the past five years alone, I’ve tried to be a rebel against racial lines that still exist, a hippie, a health and fitness nut, a writer, a musician, a teacher, a mentor, a suburban homemaker, an early bird, the kind of girl who loves to do crafty things. On many days, I’ve tried to be all of those things. And I woke up today, and it just all feels wrong. All because of a tiny little townhouse in Plano, Texas. We walked into it yesterday, this little place in an old neighborhood. And it was small, smaller than the apartment we live in right now, small enough for its walls to wrap up all of the jagged-edge pieces of me and hold them together. Everything just feels so big these days, like there’s all this space for me to be all these things and I don’t know how to fill it. Like I could be anyone, anything, and there’s plenty of room for it and no one close enough to know whether I’m pretending. There is just too much space.
And so I wake up this morning in this suburban apartment that feels too big and too beige. The walls are empty and I’m lying on a mattress that’s still on the floor with no bed frame. There are boxes that still haven’t been unpacked, things that still don’t have a place. We moved in nine months ago, and it’s still so beige. It doesn’t reflect anything that means anything to me, because some days if I’m being completely honest, in moments I don’t know what any given thing really means to me. I just know that there’s too much space, and too much beige and I feel suburbia in this apartment. I feel entire cities in this apartment that somehow still manages to feel too big. I feel the weight of too much space, of a lot of dollars being used for things like safety and security when I don’t believe those things exist. It’s not even that I don’t believe they’re important, it’s that I literally don’t believe they exist. For a year of my life, I spent one hour, five days a week, with a boy who is now in prison for murder. I spent a year of my life with a person who was capable of murdering someone he called his best friend, and I had no idea. I touched his shoulder, laughed with him, admonished him, called his parents. He hugged me less than a week before he murdered his best friend. I believe that under terrible circumstances, anyone can be capable of most any kind of evil, and so no. I do not have the luxury of believing anything else. I do not believe that safety and security exist, but we’ve created the suburbs on the premise that they do. That we can create it if we insulate ourselves enough, if we get far enough away from the places where bad things happen the most, that safety and security really do exist.
And I’m lying in this beige room in a huge apartment complex in the suburbs, thinking about how the world is just never what it seems. And I feel insulated. To the depths of my soul, I feel insulated. I feel like people can’t get in, and I can’t get out, and I’ve never felt that way before, and it’s a little terrifying. There’s too much space and no one close enough. Too much space and too many things that are easier and safer to be close to than people are. Too much space and too much TV and too many movies too and much internet and too many smart phones and too few moments created with people, real people, hard people, people with stories and grey spaces and the capacity for evil, evil things. I just cannot shake the feeling, the gut-level suspicion that living the gospel means subjecting ourselves to people with the capacity for evil things. I feel like we’ve all been sold one big fat American lie that we can prioritize the gospel and our own safety at the same time.
And maybe that’s what’s really eating at me these days, why I feel so out of sorts and so completely prone to trying to be all these things that I don’t really care about. That if I’m to be completely and wholly and painfully transparent, the gospel is FAR more a part of my vocabulary than it is a part of my actions these days. Maybe the ultimate point isn’t whether I live in a huge apartment complex in an affluent suburb or whether I live in a tiny townhouse in a crappy part of a deteriorating town. Maybe that’s not really the point today, but the means to get me to this question:
Is the gospel in my actions these days, or is it confined to my vocabulary?