It has been entirely too long since I’ve blogged. My computer broke down, I got busy, I switched jobs… lots of things have happened.
But there is no excuse not to write. At the end of the day, there are few things I love more than reflecting and typing (and sipping a craft coffee drink while I’m at it).
Where have I been? What have I been doing? Days here in Portland pass like a blur. I’m coming to terms with the city I live in, trying to understand it. Having moved around so much and experienced a lot of life before I was even 20, I figured moving to this hip, easygoing city would be a cakewalk.
It has been anything but. Portland, although weird and freeing and full of good restaurants, has been a monumental challenge. It has been a challenge with my faith, my family, my own ideals, my pocketbook… pretty much, it’s been a Challenge with a capitol C.
This is a city that screams, “BE WHOEVER YOU WANT! DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!” This is a city that praises individualism, a city that preaches tolerance for every race, sexual identity, religion, lifestyle, background — but only if you keep it to yourself.
The lifestyle here is far more indulgent than I ever imagined it would be. There is no shortage of distractions. I put off deadlines, emails, phone calls from home for the sake of eating somewhere new or grabbing a coffee. It’s such soft compromise, the way that it seductively calls, hang out a little longer, have another drink.
I can feel it creeping into the way I handle customers in my workplace. I’ve had to build a mental wall between myself and the desire to roll my eyes and explain yet again that a macchiato is not like the Starbucks version of a caramel latte for heaven’s sake.
It’s as though I am an antacid tablet dropped into the fizzing center of a city designed to quietly dissolve my ideals and stir me into compromising.
But if I serve a God that is bigger than violence and hunger and famine and fear, he can equip me to handle soft power, too.
The biggest blessing by far has been the presence of the church. When I say ‘church’ I don’t mean four walls and a preacher, although those exist. (More or less, anyway, my church takes place in a bar every Sunday morning and you should check it out if you live here, it’s rad. Click here. )
I mean the moving, living, life-giving community of those that serve Christ and are willing to battle compromise in this city. I have found people that love to serve the homeless in our city, people that staunchly oppose the ideals of Portland’s strip-club mentality without having to protest with pickets.
Christ followers here don’t run around lighting courthouses on fire or protesting the gay pride parade. They love and support those around us, but they stand steadfast in their ideals.
The other day, some of our closest friends here in the city met up in one of the many hip, white coffee shops downtown. We drank our craft brew out of handmade mugs and laughed a little, but we were there to pray — for each other, for our church, for the city. As we bowed our heads in this public place, I couldn’t help but glance out the window occasionally. Passersby were doing double takes, the baristas were watching us awkwardly behind their espresso machine.
Believers in the urban core of the city are not faced with persecution or threats. But we are pressured to compromise, to bow to Babylon of our day and not infringe on anything that makes anyone uncomfortable. I wanted, momentarily, to retreat and go back to drinking my coffee and laughing loudly to prove how normal I was.
In the softly dissolving, quietly-whispering city of indulgence and tolerance, we don’t have to fight or attack. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to fold.
And that, ladies and gents, is the most important thing I am learning since I moved to Portland.