So, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Justice Conference yesterday. Like most things in my life, I had no idea what was going on or even if I was going to get to go (the tickets are super pricey!) but in the end I was given 3 (!) passes, which I shared between the hubs and sis and neighbor. Thanks to Heidi and Cate for scoring the passes! I had been in contact with some people from the Simple Way (the intentional community in Philadelphia that Shane Claiborne started) a couple of weeks ago to get permission to quote Shane. I casually asked if they would be in Portland for the Justice conference. They were! I ended up helping decorate the booth and got to have coffee with an amazing woman who has been living in intentional community in a marginalized neighborhood for 30 years (also, so random, she has been my editor for Conspire! magazine).
I was really bummed to miss out on all the good stuff on Friday, but I couldn't get out of my classes. Then, I invited all the Simple Way people over for coffee and food today, but they could only do the morning and the hubs and I are working with the 2-3 year olds for the month. I was seriously feeling sorry for myself (I could have had coffee with Shane Claiborne!) but then I had to laugh: I was too busy teaching ESL and serving the church to have coffee and talk about justice. I think it is probably best this way.
I also met up with an old high school friend (which was magical), wandered the booths, soaked in the speakers, and saw a bunch of people I knew.
I totally thought I was supposed to go to this conference and God would tell me what is next. Our future has a giant question mark in it, and I feel like I am missing a piece of that puzzle. So I went with high expectations (seriously, I couldn't sleep the night before--I felt like I was going to Disneyland!).
So I was completely unprepared for what actually happened:
I sat in my seat and thought some bitter thoughts (the term "slackavist" may have rolled around my brain). I felt depressed, anxious, and rather like a failure. I felt cynical, and weird for sitting around talking about justice yet again. I couldn't get over myself.
I had coffee with my editor from Conspire!, and she just listened to me talk for awhile. Then she reiterated what I had just said, which was basically that no one from our church lives in intentional community with us, no one is fully partnering with the refugees with us, we don't have a parachurch organization, the hubs is not as involved as I am, and we have a demanding baby.
Yeah, I said.
She looked at me, and said: You know? That sounds hard, and that sounds lonely.
And as my eyes welled up with tears, I realized that is just what I needed someone to say to me.
I was talking with my old high school friend (still a soulmate) and I told her that I think I write so much because I don't have any community in which to process things. And it clicked, and it made sense, and it also depressed me.
My sister wrote down a quote from John Perkins at the conference. He said (about working with the poor): "All you need to do is value the dignity of that person. The Holy Spirit will do the rest--convicting of sin and all that. All you have to do is affirm their dignity".
I was affirmed simply by having someone say that sometimes it all seemed difficult. I left the conference being touched in a way that I was completely not expecting--and somehow more encouraged for the future.
Not to mention Francis Chan brought the house down at the end, bringing his hammer down full force on our pleasant and convenient interpretations of the Bible. I will probably have to process everything he said at a later date, but basically he reiterated the fact that there is a reason I feel like I am missing out-- because I am! Most of us are. God's children are starving, God's children are being prostituted, God's children are in dire need--and we live like this doesn't affect us. But it should.
I think that question mark in our future just got a little sharper.