Wednesday, January 14, 2009

out of my comfort zone

It was a very large, light-colored building with three big numbers in the window - 735. Sure enough, that was the address I was looking for. My hand was wrapped around my little, red cell phone as I spoke with a dear friend who encouraged me to go in. The temperature with windchill was about -30 degrees, and I didn't really want to get out of the car for several reasons. So, I sat in my warm, little Honda for a few more minutes working up the courage to go in. As I opened the door the temperature bit my skin like a child who is just learning to use their new teeth. My black coat and fuzzy black and brown scarf were not enough to protect my skin. In my black pinstripe pants and cute red sweater, I approached the door. There were a few men loitering in the hall, and I wondered if this was really the place. "Work Force Center" was written in large, bold letters to the right of the door. I gingerly entered into the room and looked around. I confess, I was completely out of my comfort zone. As I started to approach the counter, a woman loudly said, "If you are here for the 2010 Census testing, go through the double doors, down the hall, and to the right." Still feeling quite out of a place, I moved in that direction. The man in front of me opened the door for me, and as I passed by the pungent smell of alcohol seeped into my nose.

I found the room and read the directions on the board. The woman behind me was obviously upset about the wait. "What am I doing here?" kept going through my head. "No, stay," said a little voice. So, I began to take in the scene. I felt very out of place in my professional looking outfit. And, the people in the room didn't seem to have the same set of manners that I was taught. As the test proctor began speaking, a sense of comfort came to me. "You're fine," echoed in my mind. As I moved forward in line, I reached the map where I was to identify my geocode. The anxiety rippled through my body as I stared at a map of my city. Having just moved here, I am just beginning to figure out my own neighborhood, but to look at the whole city and figure out the location of my little home was quite a task - especially with a line of disgruntled people behind me. I found it, signed in, and took my seat.

A kind woman sat next to me, and we began talking. It was one of those moments that you know had been divinely established. She had been an art professor, and we had a great conversation about art in the church, our lives, and why we found ourselves in this room of people. The next woman down began talking to us. As she shared her story of employment, my heart became heavy. Here I sat in a room of people who really needed jobs to make ends meet. For a moment, I considered getting up and leaving because I didn't need the job as much as they did. But, I had gotten this far, and honestly, was intrigued with the kind of work that I might have the opportunity to do. Plus, it would get me out of my safe little home, and safe little church, and safe little life to interact with real people. People who aren't so safe.

So, I stayed. I took the exam. I did well. I had another divinely appointed meeting. And, I left seeing God in a place that I wouldn't normally choose to enter.

And, now, as I recall the events of that morning, I am struck by a couple of things. One, how this economic crisis has effected thousands of people. Good, ordinary, stable people. It's had an impact on me, too, but I have everything I need. Actually, I have a good bit more than everything I need, so this brush with reality stirs in my heart as I consider the blessings in my life. Two, how secluded I am from "real life." I am convicted that these places are the places where my Lord would dwell. If that is so, shouldn't I be dwelling there - in some form - like He would? And, three, God is often found where I least expect Him to be. In a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. In the smile of an elderly man. In the recognition of a brother in Christ.

Oh, Lord, may I not miss these moments. Open my eyes to see you in the day-to-day, ordinary things of life. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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