Wednesday, November 7, 2007

january: proactive otherness

The mission cat, Impossible, was the recipient of a gift tonight.
In reading the first chapter of Today at the Mission, one quickly gets a feel for the plight of the homeless. But what’s sticking with me most is the way the author [rhymes with kerouac] relates with his surroundings.

The best way I can describe it is a “proactive otherness”. [rwk] seems to go out of his way to see the world through the eyes, feelings and perspective of his clients – and connect that perspective to his own journey with God.

Now for me, I often see God in what I’ll call “positive experiences” – the kid who rakes the yard of his elderly neighbor, the comforting smile of a stranger or situations like the one [rwk] writes about in his opening entry, where a homeless man sat still for three hours so as not to disturb a sleeping cat. In situations like this, I can see God with little effort on my part.

But try seeing the Glory of God through the man who attacks your faith, an intensely needy guy who never leaves you alone, neighbors who do nothing but complain, people who don’t care about your needs or schedules, and some who simply want to hurt you. No, seeing God in these circumstances requires work – a sort of proactive otherness – but it’s something I think we all could do if we only tried.

For example: Kelli Standish blogs about a recent dinner at IHOP – recounting all of the ways the absolutely horrible service by a waitress nearly ruined her night out. And as she and her husband discussed not leaving a tip – they began to think about the waitress. What was going on in her life that left her do distracted that night? What events had sucked the joy out of her heart? “There’s so much in this life we don’t see,” Kelli writes, “So much that goes on behind the scenes.”

[rwk] takes a moment to think about the life we don’t see – and while we can’t always know or understand – it seems that the mere effort opens a new window to Christ.