I'm pretty sure I'm not exaggerating when I say that the people up here pretty much suck. And I have not yet mustered up a love for the people of Seattle.
Do you know how many times I've stood waiting at a Redbox for my turn in line, and somebody walks up and says "I'm just returning a movie...can I go in front of you?" To which I want to reply: "HELL NO! Why is your time more important than mine? I, too, have been standing in line! I was actually standing here in the rain and the wind BEFORE you walked up!!" What is that? And you know the funny thing? It's not asked as a question but as an expectation. If you say no...expect them to become enraged at YOUR nerve to give an honest answer! (You may have guessed...this just happened to me). After this little incident (which peeves me more than a little), I drove over to Safeway to get some milk and stamps. As I'm trying to get into a parking spot, I notice that the guy in the spot next to the spot I'm taking is backing up. So, instead of doing my 10 point squeak & turn to get into the parking spot, I decide to wait for him to back up and THEN I'll park. But, as the guy pulls out of his spot, and goes to drive away, he opens his door and hangs half way out to yell at me! I was surprised, since I thought I was doing something nice to wait for him to back out! I don't know if it was saying goodbye that afternoon to our dearest friends (they had been visiting and we miss them), if it was PMS, if it was the rain, or whatever else...but it affected me! It was about then that I decided....I hate it here! I hate the rain. I hate being cold and never warming up. I hate being yelled at for who-knows-what. I hate having given up my home and my incredible friends to come up to this city full of douche-bags. And the task of changing this city seems daunting. Especially when you have no love for it and any appeal that you might have had, slips away with all of these encounters with angry people!
Yeah. That's the kind of day today was.
After watching two drivers jump out of their cars, yell and cuss and almost go to blows because one honked at the other who was blocking a driveway (there's more "honkers" up here than anywhere else I've lived), Zeke, our youngest says: "I think that everybody up here is super grouchy because they don't get enough sun, and they don't get to go outside very much, so they probably don't get enough exercise". True dat! People up here are so grouchy!! And it's contagious.
But, what I realize is that while I am pointing the fingers at everyone, saying how much they suck, I am no better. I am letting them "steal my zeal" (I just made that up...it's pretty catchy). But it's true. All of these grouchy encounters, honkers and glares make me realize that I, too, am getting grouchy. I am becoming "honkier". I glare at those people who try to merge onto I-5 going 40. Therefore, I too, seem to suck.
As we were called to plant a church in Seattle, I feel like God first gave us a name for the new church (or movement, actually)...LUX. It means light. And he gave us 1John 1:5-11 to back it up ("God is light and there is no darkness in him at all...") And, while I am not perfect. That is what we, as a family, are called to. To be different than the super grumpy people up here. To find a way to love the people of Seattle when we don't see much there that we WANT to love! To return the middle finger, not with 2 middle fingers, but with a wave and a smile (or maybe...an apology??) I'm going to go ahead and call it being a "sun substitute". While the lack of sunshine might be part of the reason that people up here are so stinkin' grouchy, we can substitute a little bit of warmth and light in its absence. Our kindness and grace towards people should not be swayed or hindered by others' grumpy responses toward us. And how much more will we shine (if we can be strong enough...that's easier said than done, obviously) in comparison to the angry, impatient people around us?
Following Jesus is incredible. When we realize that we also suck or have that darkness clinging to us, we are one prayer away from being brought back into the light. 1 John 1:9 says that God not only forgives us, but takes away the sin. He literally cleanses us. That's good news when we realize the problem isn't just "those people" it's us too. And that good news is motivation to try to help everyone see the brightness of God.
When we first discovered that Seattle is a LOT less friendly than other places we have lived, we began (and continue) to have talks with our kids about doing our part to change the "mood" of Seattle. We asked them: "what if we could shine God's brightness through Seattle one person at a time? By being friendly to a clerk who has had a bad day or smiling at the driver that is showing us who's number one with his special tall finger, or whoever else crosses our path"? The kids suggested that it was too big a task. That it might be impossible. Nonetheless, we keep coming back to this conversation. It might seem impossible, but (by God's grace) we can try to do our part. And when we fail, when we fall short and when we lash out, God is there. Willing to welcome us back and dust the darkness off so that we can shine again.
Mumford and Sons captures this idea in the song Roll Away Your Stone. The lyrics say, "Darkness is a harsh term don't you think, yet it dominates the things I've seen. It seems that all my bridges have been burned, but you say that's exactly how this grace thing works. It's not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with a restart."
And there are those bright moments, when you ask someone how they are doing and their faces light up. They begin to share, or open up, or maybe just move along, but we've had an opportunity to reflect God's light. After asking how a grocery clerks day was going, she replied, "you're the first customer to ask that in a long time."
So, that's where we're at. We're having to learn how to shine in a rainy city...But, we're just learning. And we need a lot more practice...