For lack of a better description, I felt like a total clutz these past few weeks. In a span of 1 week, I lost both my phone and wallet.
Well, the first incident was considered a theft as my iphone was stolen from a taco place in Long Beach. It was turned off when I tried to call it, and 2 hours later the location was tracked in between East LA and Compton at 10 p.m. The person who took it clearly knew what he (or she) was doing, and it would not have been worth it to drive to a sketchy area in the middle of the night just to try to retrieve the phone. I had already made peace with what had happened within those 2 hours anyway, and while it was kind of a hassle to go through with it, everything was fine and I moved on the next day. It was actually nice to have a week of “phone fasting”.
Now, losing my wallet on the other hand was a different story. I was on the bus back from work, sleep deprived and apparently too distracted by looking out the window at the busy street construction before I got off on my stop. An hour later, I realized it was missing and the only place I could have lost it was on the bus. I was panicked due to some money I received from my parents the night before for rent, as well as irreplaceable important documents I had in there. I wondered how I could have been so clumsy and given this was the “theme” of the week after the phone incident, the guilt felt even stronger. The story for this one ends better though. The 4th bus driver opened his door at the bus stop I waited at and greeted me with a smile saying “Yes, I know exactly why you’re here!” and handed me my wallet. This could have easily been stolen too instead of being turned in.
With both incidents, no real damage was done. However, as I was shaken with worry from the second event, I knew these things didn’t occur out of coincidence. Perhaps it was a lesson to always put my belongings in a zipped pocket or bag, but it had to be more than that…
In 10 days, I am attending the Los Angeles Urban Project (LAUP) as a student intern with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This is a summer missions program that focuses on living in the inner city to learn about God’s heart for the poor and social injustice, as well as practical ways we could serve and love the community there – now and in the future.
As I am preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for this upcoming 6 week journey, and with these events of the past few weeks in mind, I thought about how I am indeed victim to this materialistic culture. Growing up in an immigrant family, I was taught that having better materialistic things- electronics, clothes, cars, shoes, bags, etc.- resembled that we were climbing up the social and economical ladder. It marked success and achievement. My mom would buy me gifts and tell me that no matter how much we were struggling financially, we should let nobody look down on us for what we “lack”. She made sure I would fit in outwardly. I mean, that was the goal, right? To live in a new country, you’re trying to live a more privileged life and not be looked down upon, because that’d be shameful to you and your family, right? We started with nothing here, and logically it would only make sense to move forward. Perhaps the mark of success would be a bigger house in a nice neighborhood, a stable and well paid full-time job, or a brand new shiny car.
But what about when you are lacking something that money can’t possibly buy? What will mark the deterioration of losing sight of our loved ones or those who we are called to love? So many of us including myself, quite frankly, miss what’s actually important in the bigger picture. We miss deeper conversations, chances to listen to another’s story, or perhaps miss the person in his or her entirety.
I am not entering into LAUP as a hero, or as someone who is going to help those “lesser” than I am. Rather, I am stepping in ready to be immersed into the greater reality- where those on the margins of society are counted as less, where the many voiceless are silenced and triumphed by a system ruled by the few in power, where what my wants and plans are don’t feel as significant as being a part of God’s mission to bring justice and hope. Learning about the injustice, reading news articles, or helping the homeless a few times a year is not enough. I want to have a new lifestyle rhythm, a new norm. I have so much to cleanse my heart of in order to gain God’s eyes to see this world and His people.
I used to be, and still am, perplexed and frustrated by the thought that these things could sound too idealistic. The system is too engrained, and what can I do to really make a difference if there are those in power who work so hard to make sure nothing changes? Not just that, but am I even going to change- my selfish and sinful nature? Aren’t I, whether I admit it or not, inevitably part of the bigger problem- even indirectly? If things can’t change, is it worth putting in effort to try? Am I being foolish for being unrealistic? It’s painful to see all the twisted, broken things of our world- God, where are you in that?
This is why we have to lean on Jesus. Instead of being paralyzed and overwhelmed, I started to ask Jesus to give me His vision, compassion, will, and love. Taking action makes the gospel, the good news, complete. We cannot be witnesses of God’s goodness in a dark, broken world without taking action to love fiercely, radically, and unconditionally- without bounds or personal gain.
I don’t really have a cohesive way of ending this post (it’s also day 6 of weaning off caffeine, please have grace on my writing haha). I just know that I am not content. I have these “important” things I could lose, like my up-to-date smartphone and wallet full of cards, but where do my treasures lie? If my home is in the Kingdom of Heaven, and my treasures are here on earth, how will I go home when I can’t leave behind the things here? If I am calling myself a follower of Jesus, how can I be more like Him instead of slowly molding Christianity into what benefits me?
I am reminded of Luke 4, when Jesus returns to Nazareth and reads this “scroll of the prophet Isaiah” in the synagogue:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
LAUP may be technically 10 days away but, man… it definitely already started for me.