Monday, October 17, 2011

Decontextualization

photo: Raj Lulla Photography
If you ever want to know how much you truly believe what you say you believe, move somewhere where virtually no one agrees with you.

Fewer than two percent of people in Utah would identify themselves as Christians who only believe in the Bible (shortened as simply "Christians" for the rest of this post).  I expected this statistic to be revealing about our new friends, neighbors, and city, but I did not expect it to be revealing about me.

In many ways, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing that I do not live up to the ugly stereotypes that many irreligious people and people of other faiths have of Christians.  I am not a homophobic bigot, there are no anti-abortion protest signs in the trunk of my car, and as long as you're not drunk and belligerent, I would love to sit next to you and talk over a beer.

This subversion of stereotypes does have a downside.  Most everyone out here thinks I agree with them significantly more or significantly less than I actually do.  No, I won't protest abortion clinics, but the termination of pregnancies still makes me incredibly sad to the point that I oppose it in nearly every case.  Yes, I'm a person of faith, but I still believe that our beliefs must be historically accurate.

Perhaps the biggest test of my faith out here has been in regards to God's provision.  I've been a saver, not a spender, since I was a child.  I would stretch my Christmas money until my birthday in March as often as I could.  But last month got ugly financially.

Between the costs of living out here, minimal income, trying to start a business, and unexpected expenses, our checking account almost laid an egg (that's a zero if you didn't catch my cleverness).  Thankfully, the credit card bill (accrued from car repairs and a computer failure) was due a week after rent, or else we would've had to open the spigot to let the measly remainder of our once modest savings account trickle to the rescue.

The situation felt desperately bleak as the clock continued to tick away towards the imminent birth of our first child.

What does this have to do with Utah?  For the first time in my life, I'm not geographically surrounded by thousands of Christians whom I could count on if things ever got really desperate.  Sure, I've gotten to know several pastors in the area and build solid relationships with them, but nearly all of them are supported from out of state because their churches are either too new or too disenchanted with religion to be financially viable.  All of them would have the heart to help, but few would have the cash.

After sending out an e-mail to friends asking them to pray for us, praying, and fasting, four generous donations came in from out of state.  The PayPal notifications in my inbox felt eerily reminiscent of stories  about receiving checks in the mailbox I would hear from people serving on foreign mission fields growing up.

The missionaries must have left out the part about the nauseating panic that preceded those checks.  Either that, or they were better Christians than I am.  Or both.

In the past, it has been easy for me to replace believing in God with believing in church.  It is dangerous and always leads to catastrophic disappointment.  Moving out here has showed me how small my faith in God actually is sometimes.

What is the last thing you did that showed you how much you actually believe?

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P.S.  This post was not a plea for donations.  We are incredibly grateful when people support us and wouldn't insult them or you by being passive-aggressive about our needs.

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