I did this to model the life Jesus lived. Completely on purpose, Jesus hung out with people who were not of the “mainstream.” People who made “normal” people uncomfortable. People who don’t know their place in society—or who just don’t care.
I remember a good picture of this in my life when I took two of my friends from the margins of Downtown Eastside Vancouver to Missions Fest Vancouver. Although it was just down the street—it was a lifetime away in social status. Once we were seated, my friend Annie thought it a good time to spread out her collected “butts,” spreading them out on the carpeted floor so she could roll a few nice new smokes while everyone was busy singing hymns. My other friend Stephanie was so bored that she simply kept looking around at everyone and asking, “How do people sit through this?” which I think was less a ruse and more a genuine question coming from her.
What I now realize is that the poor don’t need me. People in the margins don’t really need charity or mercy from people in the status quo—because they don’t get their affirmation or their value from people in the mainstream. They never have. That’s why they live in the margins. They have chosen a different value system, a different way of life—and the things they measure and the way they live is so completely different, it’s like we grew up on different planets.
And we mostly did.
They don’t need me, but I need them. I need a life that is free from the facade of lukewarm vanilla living. I need to measure something other than the length of the grass on my lawn and the shade of paint on the walls of my suburban home. I need to measure my life in things that actually matter. I need to un-Martha Stewart myself until I can actually feel again. Until I can admit my own weakness and laugh at my need for control. Until I can see others for who they really are and stop judging them on what they are wearing or their latest highlights.
I need them.
What the margins have taught me is that there are different ways to live. I can see why Jesus chose to hang out there every chance he got.
These days I live in suburbia. I didn’t choose it—I was sent. And I’ve spent three years raging against the warm glow of comfort that threatens to put me in a spiritual slumber. This week I was talking to a great friend who has discovered the same truth: The margins don’t need us—we need them.
And so I long for the discomforting presence of people who defy the status quo. I find myself hoping for some caramel flavour in a vanilla world where even my own appetite bores me. I realise just how toxic the mainstream becomes without a prophetic voice to wake us out of our spiritual slumber. There must be better things to invest in than Costco? For this longing, even an eggnog latte will not suffice.
So, we have decided to create a spiritual survivor guide for the suburbs. A shocking idea.
Chapter one: Wake Up.
Wake up to your desperate need of awakening. Wake up from the slow, thick fog of wealth and ease.
Wake up from everything neat and tidy and details of minutia that will cause us all to die a death of a thousand paper cuts. Wake up and head to the margins … even if just to visit.
Because a prophet, dressed in the most inappropriate clothing, using the most inappropriate language and hanging out in the most inappropriate places is waiting for you. The prophets always lived in the margins, living out the very word of God in the world.
Awake to the reality and words of a living God.
I need this godly prophetic place. I need the margins to wake me up on the inside.
Image credit: BuzzFarmers