The sky is obscured by a thick layer of clouds leaking moisture in varying doses, unrelenting in its delightful gloom. I love the rain. It brings me home.
I sit by the window of the coffee shop, sipping an americano and reading, listening to pandora and thanking God for this needed escape. In this coffee shop, swallowed in the comfort of muted conversations buzzing around me and an over-stuffed armchair, I can forget that I live in rural Georgia surrounded by people with whom I sometimes feel I could not have less in common. I love this coffee shop. It brings me home.
Life is characteristically lonely. I remember coming to this realization in my dorm room freshman year of college. Things haven't changed. I have acquired amazingly close friends with whom I would share anything, I have found a man who has my heart forever. And in the midst of these people who have supported me through thick and thin, I am alone.
If I am thankful for anything today beyond the love and friendship of the God of the universe, I am thankful for the internet. The internet connects me to a wide world where I am not alone. In the world wide web, there are doubters and cynics, there are poets and intellectuals, there are wandering artists and lonely souls.
What is wrong with the "real community" in which I am immersed in my "real life" that I would stand in a circle around a bonfire with people I love so desperately and yet feel so desperately alone? More accurately, what's wrong with me? How many of us are there, living here on the fringes or in the heart of this community, not willing to admit that none of this is as certain as we pretend it is? Why must fear characterize our questions? Why must we despise the very community we so desperately require?
Today I despise my mind, my emotions, my liberal arts education (both undergraduate and graduate), and my inability to turn it all off. Today I despise the questions, the necessity (in my mind, at least) for historical context. I despise my cynicism and inability to trust any one philosophical framework. I despise where reading blogs and NT Wright and Dietrich Bonhoeffer has brought me. I despise the friends who have encouraged me to use my mind.
Where has it all brought me? Here, where my questions are met with cloaked hostility. Here, where I have two people in my physical location who know what is *really* going on in my brain. Here, where I edit myself and compromise, where I mourn and fear what I am becoming, where I hide.
At the end of the day, though, it is only here, in this very place, where I would be. Here, where any opinion I form is hard-won, where my perspective stands in sharp relief with those around me. It's lonely, but I remain fearlessly optimistic that it is here that God is sanctifying me. Here, I am not a lemming. Here, my perspective forms under the least amount of coercion possible.
Here, in the conservative capital of 'Murica, I have carved out a hard-won freedom to follow Jesus as he calls me. As nice as it would be to live in community with Christian hipsters and cynics and intellectuals, I would be a lemming. A chameleon. My opinions would require a refining possible only in a community like the one in which I find myself.
And so I will embrace this place. I'll sit in this coffee shop another rainy day and let the rain transport me home. And for just a few more days it'll be okay that I live in this far away land.
And then I'll need the rain to come back.