When You Live a Generous Gospel (On Being Nimble or Numb)

 {By Lisha Epperson}

 

 

lishas post2 august 19 2015

 

 

In the 2 block walk across the park to the train station, I see it. The harsh reality of life, the ever-widening space between those who have, those who have not and everything in between. Growing up surrounded by a concrete landscape makes you numb. Dedicated green spaces like Central Park are an invitation to enter a safe a space, to remember a dialogue exists between hard and soft, that sunrise and sunset are real everywhere – that the middle ground is where we learn to negotiate the terrain – to feel.

 

 

We train ourselves, our heart and emotions to nimbly dance around it all. We call it survival. Survivors know too many feelings can be dangerous. We can pull back the curtain to see the beauty of the heavenly realm at any time but its opposite exists too. That’s the part we grow numb to.

 

 

Across the street from the park is the Lincoln Correctional Facility. When my heart won’t let me pretend not to see it, I fret over the truth of a school to prison pipeline, a system that disproportionately finds people of color in its clutches. Park-side, men sprawl on benches lining the entrance. They aren’t locked up, but you wouldn’t exactly call them free.

 

 

That bench was a bed last night and I can’t help but wonder how many have known a night of sleep in the jail across the street. For how many will it become known? Am I looking at the past or future lineup, face to face with the rotation of players in a sad sidewalk story?

 

 

It’s a public but sacred lamentation, this walk along the park. No matter what the proponents of gentrification say I know what I see. This is a failed urban economy and it seems designed to perpetuate the permanency of an underclass.

 

 

A luxury condominium rises like a Phoenix from the ashes from the poverty around it. And I say a prayer for the queue of people snaking its way up the block directly across the street from it. The New York Common Pantry has served this community for 35 years. Some Friday mornings I imagine myself among them. How many pay checks would we have to miss to qualify, to find ourselves rubbing shoulders with the other?

 

 

As close as I am to the line I selfishly imagine a distance, a slight separation between them and me. But I’m dangerously close to the line. My access to designer dresses might make me look cute on the line, but the line is real. And it’s scary.

 

 

Poverty presses in and around us. Breathing low and heavy – hot, on our doorstep and we ignore it. Is it my nearness to the line, that I look like the people on line – that won’t let me turn away? I see myself.

 

 

Maybe that’s the way it should be. Often, it’s only when our needs collide through familiarity or tragedy that we’re compelled to align ourselves with the other. Distance from the community doesn’t mean we aren’t part of it. Yeah, numb.

 

 

lishas post august 19 2015

 

 

Every day I board a train downtown and arrive at the skating rink, a meeting, a class and act like I haven’t seen or thought all this – when I have. It’s the simplest part of this dance – hands low, behind your back–eyes closed. Do nothing.

 

 

Do not seek justice, do not acknowledge your neighbor as a member of the kingdom. Do not seek to meet his needs. Do not open the door. Doing so might impinge upon your personal wealth and position. Doing so will make you more like them.

 

 

The gospel of prosperity should be for everyone. But it isn’t. We’re afraid to live a gospel that truly inhabits our personal lives. One that tells us justice is jubilee and we should give it back or at least spread it around. Encouraging a robust economy is a biblical thing. It would certainly ease some of the tension I feel as I wind my way through the streets of New York.

 

 

The veil between prosperity and lack is whisper thin here. Turn a corner, walk an extra block in any direction for a confrontation with the everyday unfolding of economic injustice.

 

 

And so it is that I purposely release the tension in my jaw. Soul conversations like this make me grit my teeth and the elders say I shouldn’t do that. I’ll tune it out with NPR, a little jazz and my Bethel playlist on Pandora. But it won’t be enough.

 

 

We forget that we are the embodiment of His kingdom on earth. It’s our job to be distributors of His glory. On any given day that could be a smile or a Pentecostal handshake to a mother in need. Either way, we’re here to meet the needs of God’s people.

 

 

All of them. How do we identify need?

 

 

And what do we do about it?

 

 

Ours is a lifelong commitment, reconciling the daily bread of heaven – on earth. Living the dream of peace found in the poetry of God’s word. Tapping in to the unlimited supply of manna. There is enough. We must include as many people as we can in the good news we know and dance nimbly where God conducts business, always with reverence to the hallowed ground of Sabbath. We should live like holiness is real. Ours is the job of bringing worlds together, responding with biblical perspective to the needs of others.

 

 

I know it may not be as simple as this, but generous living like this feels like the way to go.

 

_________________________________________________

 

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allumeheadshotsLisha Epperson is a hopeful romantic, lover of Jesus and most things antique. A happy wife and now mother of 5, she shares a warrior song about her 14 year walk through infertility and the semi-sweet miracle of adoption. Lisha works out a life of faith with fear, trembling, and a fair measure of grace in New York City. Follow her blog at http://www.lishaepperson.com, and here for Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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4 Comments on “When You Live a Generous Gospel (On Being Nimble or Numb)

  1. “Distance from the community doesn’t mean we aren’t part of it.” Yes. This right here. When so often we see the community we want to see, the one around us in our 1 degree of separation as opposed to more. It is so easy to draw those lines of community through our designer clothes or the car or even phone-but the lines are in our minds only. Community is here around us in our everyday. And the lines that separate really are more of a veil than concrete. This is a powerful post, Lisha. Well said.

    • You nailed it Marcy – “even a phone.” I’ve thought a lot lately about contentment and gratitude and living like what I know about Jesus is true. At the heart of all this is the truth that I am part of the community. We all are. We should live like it. Bless you for being here today.

  2. “We should live like holiness is real.” Oh, Lisha, just think what a different place it would be if we all did that. It’s just so easy to turn away and not see and try to forget, but we need to include as many as we can and help those whom God puts on our hearts and in our paths. You give us a lot to think about. Thank you for this post! xo

  3. It has to happen wherever we ARE. For me that’s in the middle me I have to accept that position. Whether it’s helping a neighbor or making time to speak to an elderly friend at a local nursing home…I have to make the time. Even being a friendly face for the newer neighbors. I can’t not see. Hugs to you Gayl.

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