There has been something on my mind. Some of you may already know my family’s situation: We are one of those crazy people trying to sell a house right now. Not only are we trying to sell a house in Michigan, but in the city of Detroit. Our situation is not helped by the mayoral mess, the recent movie “MurderCity” or Oprah’s recent spotlight on Detroit:
“Talk-show host features stories of two local families that have endured tough times in the city. By Adam Graham / The Detroit News
Oprah Winfrey exposed “America’s dirty little secret” — poverty — on her show Wednesday, and in doing so, turned a harsh light on Detroit.
The show referred to Detroit as America’s poorest big city, where one in three people live beneath the poverty line. CNN’s Anderson Cooper filed a report from the city in which he interviewed people living in freeway underpasses and spotlighted two local families and their struggles with poverty and homelessness… “
I imagine some of you are now talking at your computer screen as if it were me, saying, “Move out already!” Here is the dilemma: Detroit’s economy, major job losses and the plummeting real estate market means our house today is worth less than half of what we own it for. Our shiny white “for sale” sign has gone completely unnoticed by home-shoppers for the last six months because why would they look at a house for 74 grand, when down the street there’s a better house that is 25 grand? (rampant foreclosures do that.) Thus the seeming impossibility of the situation.
Times are tough in the motor city right now. BUT. Hear me when I say, BUT. I serve a faithful God, a God who has the power to do anything He wills, even move us out of this city. I believe in miracles and a faith that moves mountains. I believe great things happen when you believe.
I absolutely know that my God can move us out of Detroit.
Moving out of the city has been a desire of ours for a couple years now. I am tired of seeing free-roaming pit-bulls, drug pushers and John’s when I am unloading my groceries. It would be nice to live closer to our family and church, to be in a place where I can feel safe letting my children ride their bikes around the block. Right now, they are only allowed to go three houses down the right, and two houses down the left. Tonight, I didn’t like how I felt when I had to pull them indoors because there were helicopters flying overhead signalling the stabbing and fatal gunshots that had just happened two blocks over.
I’ve heard some wise folks say that the safest place to be is in God’s will. I believe that to be true. I have always felt safe here. Have there been nights when the gunshots sounded too close and I had moments of panic? Yes. But my fears are quickly quieted by my Father, and my assurance of his love and protection. And in the seven years we have lived in the city, we’ve not been hurt once – even when our only car was stolen, it was returned to us within days! Someone is watching over us. If anything, living here has been good for me. Don’t we know how much more is learned through hard times than through easy living? I’ve learned trust. I’ve learned love and forgiveness. I’ve had a taste of what it feels like to be a misunderstood minority. I have such compassion, empathy, for my neighbors who struggle to make ends meet and seem to go unnoticed by the surrounding wealthy counties. Living in Detroit has made it impossible for me to vote for the GOP. I digress.
Some people tell me that God wants us to be happy and safe and we should give our house to the bank, no mater how it hurts our credit, just to move away – asap. But I am safe. No matter how much longer I am in Detroit, I have a Holy Father who knows I am here.
Still, there are times when I wonder. Why am I still here? Are we SUPPOSED to leave the city right now? Perhaps there is more for us to learn, or better yet, perhaps there are more lives for us to touch here.
Ah yes, there is that. What am I called to do again, Lord? Love my neighbor as I love myself. Preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. John 1:9 says that Jesus is the true light that gives light to everyone. Everyone? Even murder city? Matthew 5 tells me to let my light shine before others that they may see my good deeds and glorify my Father in Heaven. Is God trying to gently help me become better at shining my light in all circumstances, even when the surrounding culture is so cold and foreign? How can they see my light if I am running away to the suburbs?
I am (slowly) reading a book called Peppermint-Filled Pinatas by Eric Michael Bryant, a pastor in Los Angeles. In a nutshell, it is a book about going beyond tolerating those who are different than us, and embracing them in love. Wow, does it hit me at a nerve. Some excerpts:
“Where we live provides natural opportunities to engage with others. Over the past few years, I seem to be meeting more and more people who choose their neighborhood as a place for ministry rather than simply a place to have a house and catch some sleep at night. On the other end of the spectrum, too often I meet Christians who are just like everyone else, choosing to live in the places that provide the greatest safety and convenience or have the highest rated school districts. Then, as we have more income, we move out of our current locations so we can have even greater safety and convenience and even better school districts. This very natural way of living, sadly, has a way of circumventing the impact we can have in our neighborhoods. We end up looking at out neighborhoods for what we get rather than seeing them as places where we can find opporunies to give and serve. We should think more like John F. Kennedy thought: “Ask not what your neighborhood can do for you, but what can you do for your neighborhood.”
“In our attempts to become holy or “set apart,” we have mistaken a call for “living with a different standard” with “living in a different place with a different standard.” We want to live in an environment where the laws or policies enforce our beliefs and morality rather than engaging a lost and broken world where they live. “
“Rather than creating communities that exclude those who do not believe the same things we believe or act the same way we act, we should infiltrate communities to become light in that part of the world . . . there are too many inner-city, suburban, and rural churches acting as places of refuge from the world. We need more churches that see themselves as lights in their communities wherever they might be . . . We need to create genuine relationships with those near us, and we need to be near to those who need us.”
For now, I am not sure what we are doing. I am praying for discernment and wisdom. Will we short-sell, foreclose, or wait it out? I don’t know. But I am counting on Someone who does.