Thursday, May 17, 2007


My life in the last few days has been abnormally surreal. One night I'm at a party held in a swanky penthouse apartment in the Zona Sul or having dinner (on the house) at a restaurant with with the owner, with the resultant movie-star perks: a parking spot saved for us at the front door, almost no waiting time on our food, the best chocolate brownie I have eaten in years. Another day I'm hiking around the city in three-inch heels for documents and interviews, ending in Praça Mauá, where we have some friends. I stop to take my killer shoes off on, standing on a piece of damp cardboard to cradle a crying baby. His mother has 12 children and lives mostly on the street. I pray for her, watching "lagrimas desesperadas" run down her worn cheeks. I think about her son in jail and her daughter who-knows where and I wonder why God allows all this and whether there is really any chance for serious societal and personal change when the obstacles are this great. And I throw a quick, frivolous prayer to the skies that her lovely baby boy won't throw up on my gorgeous new suit as I toss him in the air, to his delight and the confusion of onlookers. I am barefoot, after all, with my pinstriped pants rolled up so as not to drag in the puddles and my suit jacket only slightly rumpled. He is cute and chubby and laughs with a rattle that shakes his tiny lungs. Another night I hang out with friends who drop big Hollywood names casually and go to modeling gigs. I find myself dizzy with the contrast between the worlds I walk in. I have a friend who is in debt mostly because they had to put grocery shopping on the credit card...and couldn't pay it off. I see one of our volunteers crying on the streets and unsure whether she can share with our friends there, as their situations are so much worse, so much more hopeless. And then J- comes up and slips his arm around her and says, "Tia, don't cry. What's wrong? You can tell us...have faith. You need to be strong! For us..." and then every song they choose that night, at our makeshift church service, seems to be tailor-made for that woman. I watch her leave in a haze and we have to smile at how God is not at all like how we would want a god to be. Because God's answers are not simple and they always require us to act. I would rather have a god who is in tune with my personal preferences, makes everything easy and simple and uncomplicated, and never left me feeling guilty, torn, or frustrated. Of course, I know people who worship just such a god, and they are miserable. God's radical difference from me is perhaps one of the key reasons I believe...because this life is nothing I would have ever chosen for myself if I didn't find God totally, unconvincingly real and interested in me. (I would have made a really wonderful materialist, hedonist, and consumerist. I love shoes. With heels and bows, in leather and crocodile, straps and laces and intricate embroideries...and unrestrained by either space or funds, I would have thousands of pairs. Really.) But I'm glad I'm not. Because shoes don't really have much to offer up against God and seeing the change that is happening in small but seismic leaps in the lives of people who had given up believing that they were worthy of love.

I'm not usually a fan of modern translations of the Bible, because I love words, and love intricate combinations of words, and modern stylings usually take something lovely and turn it into sixth-grade-history-textbook boring. But when I was thinking about how much living in the favela and working among people on the street has changed me, I remembered a verse that I liked...and it rings truer for me today in The Message version than anywhere else. It comes from the first letter to the Corinthians, in the first chapter. The author is encouraging the fledgling church:

"...Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's "weakness." Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

This blog is about as much trumpet as I get. Thanks, God, for everything...

There is so much more to say on this subject, so many conversations to relate, so many thoughts to share...but there is too much for now. Have a wonderful weekend...

1 comment:

steph said...

i appreciate this. thanks jenna.