I’ve been thinking a lot over the past 4 and a half years of my life. As a person fresh out of college and trying to figure out life outside of the world that was my alma mater, I’ve been pondering: how did I become the person I am today? My life has been radically transformed over the past few years. How do I reconcile who I am today with returning back to the place where I was a completely different person? What does it look like and how do I continue the path I’ve been set on since stepping onto the Geneseo campus 4 and a half years ago?
To figure that out, my thoughts have gone to reminiscing over the most significant experiences I’ve had in college. CityLights, my InterVarsity chapter’s annual spring break missions trip to St. Louis comes to mind as the primary formative experiences I’ve had.
I’ve attended this trip all 4 years of college and spent a summer before my junior year as an intern with that program. Why did I spend so much time there? Why did I go so many times? Coming in as a freshman, I wanted to go serve. I had never done any type of service trip or been in a place of such poverty. I went to make my contribution to making the world a better place. By the end of that trip, and what I had not anticipated, I fell in love with everything that was St. Louis. The people, the Church, the culture, the diversity, etc. At first, I was overwhelmed with all the problems and injustices that existed in St. Louis but so much more in love with God as I learned that He cared for these things, that it grieved His heart, and actually called the Church to be part in His doing something about it all.
I expected that over time, and with more visits to the city, I would become more knowledgeable about how to do urban ministry. I would become more knowledgeable about the systems that caused such social injustice, more knowledgeable about the kind of crime and violence and brokenness of the city, and at last, knowledgeable about what ways God would use me in “fixing” all the problems.
After 4 years, I find that God has given me none of those things. Rather, I’ve found that after 4 years, the only thing that I’ve grown knowledgeable about is the fact that all of that violence, brokenness, habits and systems the perpetuate injustice… I am that. I am all of those things. 4 years of partnering with the ministries down in St. Louis to find that the same sins that you see responsible for the brokenness, systematic injustice, and plight of the urban poor are the same sins that wreck and impoverishes my soul and my life.
I not only am that. But, I need that.
I need all the wreckage and brokenness I saw in the city to reveal the wreckage and brokenness in my own life that has pervaded so deeply and diseased my soul. Perhaps I wasn’t conscious of it my first few tours in the city. But on some level, I think that’s why I kept going back. Because until I was out of my comfort zone and away from all my familiarities, part of me was blind and numb to my need for a deliverer and savior. St. Louis’ poverty revealed my own poverty of soul. Its need for Jesus revealed my need for Him. Funny how I once thought this city “needed” me. Turns out, I’ve needed it all along.
Jesus, I know that You are everywhere. I am only so comfortable where I am so much as I allow myself to be. As I find myself with new and different barriers to seeing Your face, I pray that I would keep looking for You. That I would trust that You said if I knocked, You would answer. I need You. I constantly need You. Help me to follow You to the places that desperately need the love of a Savior and to find that I too, am desperate for one.