We just returned home to L.A. after twenty-five days of what, by comparison, now feels like a totally surreal life. Living lakefront for a week was certainly a highlight, however it is a bit of a heartbreak to watch my Mercy trying to reorient herself to her cement environment here.
Spending time at the cabin reminded me of how powerfully our surroundings impact our perspective. Allowing Mercy to run barefoot everywhere, cuts and splinters regardless; washing our dishes and showering (or not) in lake water; allowing dogs to regularly lick Mercy’s and Aaron’s hands and faces; having largely unclothed children for days on end; it was a kind of life with abandon–raw, unsanitized, free.
I have always been intrigued by the significance of the desert/wilderness for Israel, for the prophets, for Jesus. This place of withdrawal and perspective and reclamation of identity. I have also always held deep concern for how the American church lives without this, and how too quickly lattes and pedicures and SUV’s become our entitlement.
It is easy for me to start to suffocate here in L.A. My environment here clamors to shape me, to control me. It takes effort and commitment to remain myself in this fear-ridden, appearance-driven place.
But last night I stood, barefoot, in front of the apartment building next-door, cradling my almost-sleeping (and largely undressed) infant in my arms. The regular posse of kids surrounded us as I chatted with my neighbor; we had all been drawn outdoors by five hovering helicopters, police and news, who were so loud and close they sounded like they were coming into our apartments. Turns out an 18-wheeler flipped over a block away, ending a police pursuit. That’s a new one for South Central!
I often say to people that my neighborhood is the only thing that saves me here.