He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord our God require of you?
To act justly, to love mercy, and
to walk humbly with your God.
When I was twenty-two, my husband Craig and I took our two-week-old daughter and moved to the inner city. We traded our apartment in the country for a hundred-year-old house previously owned by a slumlord, and known more for its drug deals than dťcor. The once-spacious Victorian had been carved into five miserly apartments to maximize profits from low-income tenants. The roof leaked and old trucks lay rusting in the rear yard. The front and back wooden porches looked like shredded wheat that had banged around in the box too long.
We put glass back in the window frames, scrubbed the chipped, green tile floors, picked up bags of broken bottles from the yard, and mowed the foot-high grass. We dreamed of starting a church where black and white, rich and poor would come together to fulfill the mandate of the Old Testament prophet Micah. We envisioned a spiritual community committed to racial reconciliation and social justice, a church bridging the gap between the educated and the street-wise, between those who lived on the edge and those who rose to the top like cream.
I didnít know we would scrape by just above the poverty line for years. That I would live with people who heard voices or had spent most of their lives in juvenile hall or prison. That I would share a house with women who sold their bodies, snorted cocaine, or whose boyfriends choked and punched them. That we would be robbed over and over. That we would give a second chance to young men who would rummage through our drawers to steal Craigís wallet or my grocery money. That the boy next door would deal drugs and that gun battles would sometimes erupt. That a man would be murdered in front of my house for his radio.
I didnít know my children would be lead poisoned. That they would be mocked for being white, then scorned for acting black. That their friend, who ate at our table like a godson, would go not to college with them but to prison. That a little boy with no daddy at home who had baked cookies in my kitchen and wrestled with my son would one day lie on the street in a pool of blood.
I didnít know that several times a week my husband would wake in the night agonizing over whether we were failing to reach the neighborhood, whether an African American pastor would be more effective, whether God was still calling us here. I didnít know depression would stalk me.
I didnít know that when I was scraped raw, Jesus would heal me. That when I was broken, God would use my brokenness. That he would use us in spite of ourselves. That Jesus would shine so clearly where race, class, and suffering intersect.
I didnít know I would witness a thousand resurrections. That church members who struggled to pay rent would adopt nieces and nephews to save them from drug-addicted parents. That a woman who saw a teenaged mother roll her babyís stroller into an empty house, and abandon it, would raise that baby as her own. That men who snorted cocaine would get clean and love Jesus. That women sexually abused by their fathers would be healed and would rescue other children. That Muslims from Iraq, atheists from China, and Hindus of Indian descent would find Jesus and encourage my faith. I didnít know that they would become my heroes and friends. I didnít know they would be braided into my heart.