catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 9 :: 2012.04.27 — 2012.05.10


The too-good life?

I am living a life that is so good I am almost embarrassed by it.

My family lives in a small, sturdy Dutch colonial house with a new roof and a 30-year mortgage. It is charming, as are the lilacs lining our driveway. We greet our neighbors by name and share meals with them. My husband stays home with our two daughters, who are smart and sweet and even more charming than the neighborhood. Juliette recently asked for more spinach (please) during supper, and Genevieve, the baby, rarely cries. I work at a thriving Congregational church less than a mile away, serving as the associate minister. I have a beautiful view of the courtyard garden and sanctuary. On warm days I open my windows to listen: to the robins, to the organist practicing Bach, to my daughter’s preschool class. My co-workers are fun. I am paid well to do creative and meaningful work. I have extraordinary friends, far and near. I am healthy, training for my first triathlon. I recently accomplished one of my lifelong dreams, to write a book. I am happy. We have our problems, but they are small: plumbing crises and marital arguments and never enough uninterrupted slumber. It’s impossible to measure, of course, but I reckon I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.

Yet I am sheepish about our privilege. No matter that we have a bit of debt (the “good” kind) and all share one tiny bathroom; we have slipped into the back door of the upper middle class. All the benefits and pitfalls of affluence are ours to explore. I vaguely recall a younger version of myself, the one who chose her seminary based on the reputation of its urban ministry program, the one who protested war in the streets of Los Angeles. Nowadays cities unnerve me, and I prefer to be happily ensconced in the suburbs, where it is quiet and clean and safe for my children. There is very little active pursuit of social justice in my life, though I do serve as the pastoral liaison to the church committee that distributes a considerable amount of money to non-profit organizations and ministries. While I was discerning if God was calling me to this community, one of the few concerns I had was the comfort of the life I might lead here. Several people reminded me that affluent communities need help, too. This is true. Affluent communities sometimes need more help, for the brokenness concealed behind a charming façade can be even harder to heal than the brokenness on display. But it is also true that living in a quaint village and serving a handsomely-resourced church is generally pleasant.

I continue to wonder why I was not called to a different sort of good life, a life of sacrifice, with a heavier cross to bear, but I trust that God called me here. I have no doubt that I will know more sorrow yet, though I try hard not to imagine what sort of trials I might face.

I think of the words of Howard Thurman, who said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” All this comfort could have lulled me to sleep, but instead my often anxious spirit has awakened. So I offer thanksgivings — increasingly less sheepish thanksgivings — and hope that my good life can be lived to the glory of God.

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