July 31, 2013

The kingdom of God is like… S. California

"Sunbathe Barbie at Bombay Beach" by Jen Trute
It’s been incredible being back in San Diego, CA. (Brooke and I are doing our best to document this trip via Instagram–mostly to make you jealous.) Our days have been filled with swimming in the ocean, lying around in the sun, eating Mexican food, reading good books and catching up with family and friends. I grew up here. You don’t realize how much a place becomes a part of you until you’ve been away for a while.

The other morning, I went for a jog along the beach–gotta try to work off some of that carne asada! As I was running, I found myself thinking about my initial reaction to coming back here after a year away. It wasn’t shocking. Everything just felt... second nature. I know how the food tastes, the traffic patterns, where everything is, what to expect of the weather.

What was different was how a received all of this, how I reacted to it. This time, I appreciated it, was grateful for it.

This isn’t the response I had when I lived here. The ocean and the crashing waves didn’t enamor me. I didn’t cherish each bite of a good taco. Rather, all of those things that now seem wonderful, magical, even miraculous were… normal.

It isn’t just me that has this experience of such an incredible environment becoming normative. In fact, it’s most of us.

A couple weeks ago, I was at a clothing store in Silver Spring, MD. As I looked around for a new pair of shorts, I noticed that there were tons of shirts on the walls with screen prints of S. California coastal town names with images of waves, surfboards and palm trees. The splendor of the coastline and the flawless weather is lost on us through the shallow expressions exported around the globe on t-shirts and TV shows. We become accustom to the passé, cheap version that inoculates us from the real thing. Baywatch and California Pizza Kitchen say nothing of the real S. California experience.

So, as I was running I started to wonder... Is our experience with the kingdom of God kinda like this?

Over the centuries, have those in the western hemisphere become so accustom to the affect of Christianity for so long that the miraculous-ness of a faith community that embodies, announces and demonstrates God’s kingdom is lost on us?

Could it be that it became so commonplace–an attribute of the dominant culture itself–that we no longer appreciate its beauty, it’s uniqueness?

We sit in pews or folding chairs every week and are content with a shallow reflection of what is available to us.

We lament the numbers of church attendance. But why go to church if it's simply the equivalent of Taco Bell rather than real border food, a silk screened costal sunset rather than the real thing?

Is it simply that we've become so familiar with church as an aspect of the culture that our interest in something so incredible has waned?

One of the things both Brooke and I noticed after moving to DC was how many people would spend their weekends outdoors–running, riding, playing and picnicking. The number of people outdoors in Washington far outpaced the number of people that do the same in San Diego. Which seems ironic since S. California has, by far, much better weather.

Maybe that's just it, we need to "get out" a little more–broaden our horizon, experience our faith in a way that is deeper and wider than what has become commonplace. And maybe more than looking for something "more" this begins with simply seeing what's right in front of us in a new way, with greater appreciation and wonder.

In the words of a good friend of mine: Experience the kingdom today.

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