In an earlier post, I touched briefly on how I’ve witnessed Christian community.
My particular experience of church and Catholicism was strongly influenced by the experience of my parents, who immigrated from the Philippines in the late 1970s. We were part of a parish where many of my peers were also second-generation/first-generation born Filipino-Americans.
It blows my mind that my parents were in their late 20s (younger than I am now!) when they uprooted themselves and made their home in a country far, far away from everything and everyone they knew.
It calls to mind what Compassion refers to as voluntary displacement.
Displacement is “to move or shift from the ordinary or proper place” (Nouwen 61 quoting Webster’s dictionary). It’s something that goes against our natural instinct to find places that are safe and secure.
Unfortunately, even the Enemy has been able to co-opt this feeling of home of and belonging, and many of us fall for the Lie, that our Goal is “the ordinary and proper life,” something that can only be attained by engaging in “ordinary and proper behavior” (Nouwen 61).
This Lie manifests itself in the “comforting illusion that things are under control and that everything extraordinary and improper can be kept outside the walls of our self-created fortress” (Ibid.). As one of my pastors would say, “THAT’SSOGOOD!!”
God disrupts this Lie by calling us “to move away from the ordinary and proper places” (Nouwen 61) into Christian community:
Leave your father and mother. Let the dead bury the dead. Keep your hand on the plow and do not look back. Sell with you own, give the money to the poor and come follow me . The Gospels confront us with this persistent voice inviting us to move from where it is comfortable, from where we want to stay, from where we feel at home.
It makes me wonder if this is the reason why immigrants and newcomers play such a valuable role in cultivating a sense of community in our churches. Because this idea of displacement is so real, so present in their everyday lives, that they don’t have the false sense of comfort that comes with being established or living in one place for years or even, generations. I love this quote in particular:
In voluntary displacement, we cast off the illusion of ‘having it together,’ and thus begin to experience our true condition which is that we, like everyone else, are pilgrims on the way, sinners in need of grace. Through voluntary displacement, we counteract the tendency to become settled in a false comfort and to forget the fundamentally unsettled position that we share with all people.
For me, the idea of admitting that I don’t have it all together, that I am a hot mess, is really scary.
But maybe that’s how we experience wholeness, in bringing our brokenness into the light and experiencing God’s healing.
Still, though. That’s terrifying.