I live in the suburban ghetto. Our close-by neighbors are great and all, but when you start meandering down to the end of the street, it gets a little shadier. The further you walk, the less kept up the lawns become (although ours is no White House lawn), the less pruned the bushes become, and the less paint is stuck to worn siding. Walk far enough, and you'll see trash strewn lawns, graffiti-sprayed playground equipment, and diapered children wandering alone in front yards.
Our neighborhood is frequented by groups of people sauntering down the middle of the street in broad daylight, only hesitantly shuffling out of the path of cars, and sometimes only after being prompted by a horn. We've seen hundreds of various colors and prints of boxer shorts over the years (and more than a few tighty-whiteys) modeled by young men with insufficient belt function, and heard more F-bombs than our tender ears can handle.
The all-consuming bass of low-riding cars speeds past our house at all hours, causing the windows to shake and rattle. Our end of the street calls this the "duplex traffic", and I'm thankful (at least) that the terrible speed of these vehicles, although unsafe, makes the song lyrics indecipherable for small ears.
There are rumors of break-ins and gang activity and drug use going around, too, but we haven't had much personal experience down our way as of yet. Like I said, it's mostly the other, more undesirable end of the street, and it's kind of a long street.
But I really do like living in our house, for the most part. Our neighborhood is a beautiful hodgepodge of ages and colors and ethnicities and educations and careers. And I love that. Love that my kids think nothing of having neighbors that look different or speak another language (the F-word doesn't count) or have parents that have blue-collar jobs. I love that there are elderly couples nearby.
But I don't like the growing unrest down at the other end of the street that has to walk by my house to get to the bus stop. I don't like having to shut my windows so my kids can't hear the language coming from the sidewalk (or the middle of the street, as it may be). I don't like the thought that the other end of the street could be slowly creeping toward our end instead of our end creeping toward theirs. And our big family has outgrown our home....
So what do we do? Do we stay and make due with our little house, or do we go?
Go where? I hate the thought of sacrificing our multicultural neighborhood for upper-middle-class white suburbia, where bathrooms outnumber family members. What message does that send to our kids? That we're too good for our present neighborhood? That we need to somehow escape? That God hasn't already blessed us beyond our wildest dreams and we need more space to fill with more things to be happy?
Would we truly be safer somewhere else, and if so, at what expense? Jesus himself sought out the less desirable people when He was on Earth. And isn't His presence needed even more in the dark places than in perfect suburbialand where everyone thinks they've got everything figured out? We're called to be a light, too, and I'm starting to wonder if we aren't serving Him better by staying here.
Serving our neighborhood better, for sure, but also serving our family better. Teaching them to live with and love people different from themselves, to let Jesus' light shine in the darkness, and also to live together as a family in a small space. Living here gives our family (which is our first mission field, after all) a mission of its own.
Hmmmmm. Lots to pray about. All I know is that the discussion has shifted from "When we move..." to "If we move..." or even "If we stay....".
Because I have a sneaking feeling that if Jesus was here on Earth today, even though His message is for everyone, He wouldn't be walking the streets of white suburbia. No, if I know my Jesus, He'd probably be walking the streets of the ghettos with those belt deprived young men....and maybe even walking right down the center of my street.