We have now moved into our new offices at First Place in downtown Grand Rapids. Most of the boxes are empty and the office furniture is in place. Like most moves however there are a few glitches yet to be addressed. Like the fact that we don’t have Conference phones yet! They are telling us it may be yet another few weeks so if you need to get a hold of me please use my cell phone which is 616.430.9964. I’m trusting that it will all be in place as soon as possible.
As I was thinking about this office move across town, I got to thinking about all the times I have moved, not just an office but with my family from place to place in my life. I counted them up and while some were across town to a new house and neighborhood and others were across the country to a new town or city, I counted 21 times. Many of my moves were early in my life. In fact I often joke with folks that itinerancy has been very stabilizing for me! I went, for example, to five different elementary schools in four different states. It was an interesting experience, but as I suppose, all the experiences we have in life it is what I know because it’s what I lived.
No one who has lived in the same place all their lives can relate to or perhaps even imagine what my life has been like and in turn I struggle to comprehend what it would be like to live in the same place for 60 years. The personality traits and perspectives that come from these experiences shape how we interact with others and how we engage the world.
And of course this reality runs in all kinds of directions. The experiences that shape everyone’s life come from millions of factors that make them the unique individual they are. And I am very grateful for the wide variety of personalities and diverse perspective this creates in both my circle of acquaintances and in the world as a whole.
The problem of course is that even though we know that everyone has these various perspectives given all that has shaped their lives, all we can see and all we can know is our perspective from what has shaped us. So, just as one example, that’s why I who have moved 21 times in my life, often don’t understand other people’s connection to “place” to location or building. Those kinds of things are held very lightly for me. What this causes often though, on the part of people who have deep roots to place and location because of their life experience, is a feeling that I am insensitive and lacking in appropriate appreciation for the past.
Again we could point to a million examples of how this all works. And I doubt that it is a particularly stunning new revelation for anyone. We have seen this lived out every day of our lives with our spouse, our co-workers, and certainly in the national discourse.
What I believe we of the Church have to offer in the midst of this reality is a fresh invitation to engage in conversation with one another. I have seen this call on Social Media, I have read it in op-eds but we of the Church are in a unique position to offer something deeply significant in the face of this challenge. What we have to offer is a deep value for every person. We believe that every person is created in the image of God. We believe that every individual we will encounter today and throughout our lives has the spark of the Creator in the essence of who they are. And since we believe that we are not able to just blow people off. We are not allowed to just treat people as insignificant because they have formed a different perspective (sometimes a very different perspective!) on life from ours given their life experience. As followers of Christ we simply don’t not have the option to expect the world to live out of our mindset. We are called to listen, to build relationships, to give respect and offer Christ’s love to all those made in God’s image. It’s not easy and to be honest with you I often fail miserably at living it out. But it can’t ever be OK. It can’t just become the standard operating procedure because (did I mention?), every person, EVERY person is created in the image of God.