I am halfway through the book “The Irresistable Revolution” by Shane Claiborne, and it is making me cry. Shane is one of the founders of “The Simple Way” in Philidelphia, a community committed to–well, you’ll have to read the book. Peace. Non-violence. Living in community, friendship, and solidarity with the poor and homeless, while trying to bring an end to those social ills. Not just following Jesus in principle, but following Jesus in practice.
Sure, it’s one of those books that makes you want to sell everything you have and move to the inner city to hang out with homeless kids. No question about it. But it goes deeper with me, presses on a thorn buried inside my soul, deep, so far inside of me and so much a part of who I am that removing it would be impossible. See, I believe this stuff. Not like I believe it in theory, or had some big eye-opening Zaccheus moment; no, I believed it and STOPPED.
I was eleven when my family moved back from Liberia. I was appalled–appalled that Americans were so obsessed with themselves, appalled that anyone would spend fifty bucks on a sweat-shirt when there were people in the world who didn’t have enough to eat, appalled by the calloused nature of our society. I was equally appalled by the violence I had witnessed in Liberia, the uprootedness I had experienced when we had originally left our home and family to go to Africa, appalled by the images of Romanian orphans that were beginning to seep into television sets all across America.
Things I knew for sure when I was eleven: Nobody should spend fifty dollars on a sweat-shirt. Christians should NEVER kill people, no matter what. Families were meant to be together. It was stupid and sinful to try to conform my life (hair, music, and clothing included,) after the pattern of a materialistic culture. Every child should have a home, and when I grew up I was going to cram my house full of orphans so they would have a place to be loved.
I cried all the time. I shook. School counselors thought I was disturbed, and I was, rightfully so. I bawled when civil war broke out in Liberia. I sobbed when Operation Desert Storm began, remembering what war looked like from the eyes of a little girl. I cried myself dry, cried myself sick, cried until I could barely function.
And then, when I was fifteen, I stopped. I stopped crying. I stopped eating. I decided to become an American, to camoflage and survive, so I went shopping. I also went a little bit (or a lotta bit, depending on who you ask) nuts. (And I don’t mean with a credit card.)
Then college rolled around and I decided not to be nuts anymore. I moved back north, to the area I was born in, and set about re-creating the life I had known before Africa. Before I had ever heard automatic gunfire, or seen desperation, or witnessed beatings, or loved friends who had one set of clothes and not enough money to go to school. Simple. Safe. I was rebuilding the childhood I had wanted, in a soundproof state insulated from the cries of the truly desperate.
But there was always, always, always a dichotemy in my soul, and now this book has come along and pressed on the continent-sized splinter that lodged itself in my heart the minute my feet first touched African soil.
It hurts like hell.
But maybe that will be a good thing.
Maybe I’ll start crying again.
And maybe I’ll realize that even if I was a self-righteous little snit, I was a whole lot smarter, and more godly, when I was eleven.