San Francisco, the City by the Bay is also known as the City of Fog. The past two mornings I awoke, somewhere on Nob Hill, to a neighborhood wrapped in a dense grey mist that looked and felt and smelled something like a damp wool sweater. As I’d move along toward my meeting place, people would sort of emerge from behind the mist—some, going places, hurried, intent, unaffected by the heavy fog; and others, going nowhere, weighted down by the chilly mist as if fastened to the dirty ground, enveloped in the damp wool sweater.
Creative Maladjustment, a phrase inspired by the late Martin Luther King, means, in short, that we should guard against being "well-adjusted," we should beware of becoming dismissive of or unaffected by those fastened down by the fog, the easy to ignore. During yesterday’s morning session we met the directors of City Hope, a non profit serving their community—a community with turbulence painted all over it. We learned that one of the ways they serve in their neighborhood is by performing funeral services for people, so many people, who die without a home and without a family...under that damp wool sweater.
You know something? I have never stopped to consider that people are dealing with death at such a raw level. I have no categories. More and more I find myself asking, what does being a follower of Jesus, what does being part of his church look like in these turbulent times?
In addition to the stark reality of death and dying, a few other things stood out to me from the sessions I attended: first, the basic idea of building trust in these days of suspicion though the simple act of hospitality, the everyday act of sharing a meal. Second, the call to live the cruciform life. To live as the new creation that we are in Christ Jesus. To go about our days in the same upside down way that Jesus did when he lived and died for us. Third, the need to develop and embrace a solid theological framework to help navigate the dense fog so prevalent in this chaotic season.
Also, within a short time of my being there, it became apparent that I was one of a handful of participants not from the Bay Area; and, quite likely the only conservative among progressives. Furthermore, as the Lord would have it, I had (and still have) laryngitis. Go figure. So, I squeaked out a few sentences and made a few raspy comments here and there over a delicious Thai lunch at Lers Ros and a comfort food dinner catered by Rusty's Southern, but for the most part I simply listened and observed. I did not always agree with what I heard, to be quite honest, but I did gain a deeper appreciation for what the church is up against in cities like San Francisco. And, although we do not agree on important issues facing the church today, I looked for and found common ground, built a few bridges and crossed a few, and hopefully gained some trust for future conversations.
So here I sit, crammed into my seat by the window high above the fray and the fog, experiencing just enough turbulence to cause me to hang onto Hope; praying for opportunities to engage in gospel conversation and an eager readiness to proclaim Hope’s excellencies—he delivers us from darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. I’m also begging for the grace to see past myself, to reach through the fog and remove the damp wool sweater from the shoulders of imago Dei and if necessary, replace it with the coat off my back.
What about you? How are you engaged in "Creative Maladjustment," or navigating the fog of turbulence today?