Thursday, May 13, 2021

Life in the World

The floor-length sheer curtains swish as servers walk across the dining room. Quartz loops around the dim lights, casting a warm, intimate glow. I look around in awe, listening as other people discuss tastes and wine preferences with the waiter, and feel as if I'm peeking into a different world. I carefully swirl duck across my plate, trying to sop up every last bit of raspberry bourbon sauce, and I smile. I am happy to be here with my husband and enjoy this unprecedented weekend without our two oldest  children. 

Afterwards, we grab drinks at a tea lounge and drive home. My dirty vanilla chai propped on my knee, big chunks of boba shoot into my mouth as I sip and tilt my head to the ethereal strains of Purity Ring that blast through the minivan. And I think about the oddness of sitting in a fancy restaurant with applesauce smears on the polyester threads of my thrifted dress, looking into a world that is fun to experience, but knowing that it is not home. We've thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but this is not our normal sphere of existence. I feel like a newlywed college kid again, stepping into a new life fresh-faced and na├»ve. 

With nearly eight years of marriage behind us and our thirties drawing near, I typically feel like we've begun to establish our place as adults in this world. Yet, times like this, I realize just how young and inexperienced we are, making things up as we go, dining at a restaurant where we spend a week's worth of grocery money on one meal. 

This has been fun, but it feels slightly jarring, this recognition that we are out of our normal zone. 

I think about that recent Friday night, when I sat in a restaurant downtown with a small group of  women. My baby peered up at the flashing televisions and bottles of alcohol balanced behind the bar. Half of the women in our group carefully maneuvered third-trimester bellies around the table as they perched on high seats. 

We were in the center of the restaurant, and all around us were small clusters of people: men in suits and women in glitzy minidresses or crop tops. I wonder what we looked in contrast to our surroundings; this group dressed in their Sunday Best, with a smiling baby bouncing from woman to woman and pre-born babies bouncing inside rounded bellies. As I think of the contrast that night, I find myself thinking of that famous prayer, words that Christ uttered to the Father: 

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world." (Jn 17:15-18)

We do not belong to the world, yet we are in the world. Christians proclaim this tirelessly, but we grapple with what it looks like. How does one live "in" the world while not being "of" the world? 

Some people take this to mean that we physically reside in the world, but should have nothing to do with it. I used to have pieces of this mentality, shunning many things that did not  appear explicitly to relate with God. Instead of basing my rejection in actual reasoning, it flowed from my fear: fear of what didn't, at first glance, drip with Scriptural or Faith references. Rather than tease out the complexities in different things, it was much easier to reject them. 

Yet, as my Faith has grown over the years, and as I've learned about the different ways that God touches lives, I've found myself wondering if the answer to living "in" the world--at least for lay people--is more complex than I previously had assumed. 

Instead of fighting the world at every turn, what if we instead look for ways to find those "seeds of the Word," as Bishop Barron would say, scattered throughout the culture? What if we seek out the good and beautiful in this broken world and rejoice in it? 

I don't have easy answers. Perhaps there is a reason why Christians ceaselessly wrestle with this very idea--because it is nuanced, challenging, and can look different from person to person. 

Instead of seeing these difficulties and crawling back under the covers fearfully, though, let us choose a different tactic. Let's steep ourselves in the prayerful and liturgical life of the Church, and let's be unafraid to challenge our hesitance and use our questions and uncertainties to dive deeper into our journey of Faith as we seek God. 

2 comments:

  1. I think our faith is much stronger and much richer when we ask questions and explore uncertainties. It might be easier to go off and live completely apart from the world, shunning things that don't seem to have anything to do with God, but I think we'd miss out on many things that bring joy and might even someday teach us things about God.

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    1. Thanks for mentioning that, Shannon! I think you make a great point. In my own life, I have definitely seen my faith strengthened and grow richer when exploring the various uncertainties!

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