I have found many challenges about moving from Covecrest to Atlanta. Living in the city is entirely different than living at a Catholic camp in the mountains for a year. I love Atlanta so far, and living in the mountains definitely had it’s own set of difficulties and blessings, but this city thing is totally different.
Living in Atlanta as a missionary, in the middle of a whole lot of consumerism is hard. It’s hard to drive by Chick-fil-a and not think about a milkshake. It’s hard to drive by Starbucks and not think about a pumpkin spice latte. It’s really hard to drive by Jimmy John’s and not think about how the fresh bread and the mayonnaise and the cold meat make for a really great sandwich. Today I walked into Old Navy. They had some really great winter jackets on sale. I almost didn’t go because I knew it would be hard, but while I was in there thumbing through the sweaters (I love sweaters), I realized that I really have to get over this difficulty, and be willing to live a radical life.
Another challenge about coming down the mountain is that in the city, people don’t expect that you’re going to try to love them. When people came to Covecrest, they at least knew, “Oh hey, I’m going to a Catholic camp.” Then when we asked them how they were doing, picked up their plates, prayed with them, or got them the Lucky Charms they wanted out of the kitchen, it usually wasn’t a huge shock to them. Sure, it was nice and hospitable and often an attempt at selflessness and love on our part, but it wasn’t really unexpected. When people walked into Covecrest, they often knew that they were going to be loved.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how awkward it really is to love people when they don’t know it’s coming. In a situation where you don’t have “Hey, I’m a missionary!” written on your forehead, it’s a little uncomfortable to ask someone how they’re really doing, or to look at them with love, to remember their name, or to ask what they need prayers for. Loving someone radically in a worldly setting is often going to create an interruption in his or her life. Even on the very first day we arrived, I remember almost immediately meeting a woman who looked very unhappy. A large part of me wanted to do something, or say something, to let her know that she was noticed and loved, but I felt myself shy away thinking about how awkward this interaction could be. I didn’t want to interrupt her, even in her unhappiness, because that would have been uncomfortable for both of us. I realize now that this is another example of a moment when I needed to be willing to live a radical life. It took me at least a week after moving here to realize, “Oh wait, I DO want to be that source of interruption, even though it’s awkward.” I do want to interrupt every person I meet with God’s love for them. Or more importantly, God wants to interrupt every person I meet with His love, and He wants to use me to do that if I am willing.
The truth is that living a radical life is counter-cultural. If we really seek to follow the Lord, we might stick out like sore thumbs. It might create awkward social situations. People might not respond well when we ask them how we can pray for them. They might have to get used to being loved in a world where there is usually a lack of love. But I think these awkward moments will create deeper community, deeper prayer, and a willingness to live a more radical life, for every person involved. Really, I think it’s worth it. Let the awkwardness ensue!