Monday, September 12, 2016

City Project: The Central Perk of Friendship


Wednesday, I had decided, was going to be better than Monday and Tuesday.

Why? Because it was our free day, and I would not have to talk to strangers, feel convicted, or sink into the abyss of lonely inadequacy I had been warding off for the past few days.

Some of the girls from my D-group- Lindsey, Carly, Katie, Cam, and myself- planned to spend the day together, exploring New York, having fun, and just generally relaxing. Carly suggested we first find New York bagels to eat for breakfast, which was unanimously agreed to be an excellent idea.

D-Group <3
New York wasn't quite so ugly to me now. In fact, I was beginning to realize the bizarre, irresistible pull that so many writers have attempted to describe. I won't attempt to describe it, because more talented wordsmiths have tried and failed. I'll simply state that there must be some modern-day magic about NYC that causes everything ugly to become beautiful- skyscrapers, old buildings, crowds of people, shouts, honking horns, yellow cabs, electric lights, and the harsh but rhythmic cadence of New York accents.
Le Bagel

Carly lead us to the bagel shop she had in mind, and it did not disappoint. I opted for plain bagels with plain cream cheese, remembering with a hint of irony the two pieces of advice Mom gave me before I left for New York. "Try a cream cheese bagel and take a picture of it!" and "Please don't fall in love with the city. I don't want you to move too far away!" Well, which would it be Mom? I can't do both.

Things were going pretty well, until Cam decided to, I dunno, be a gospel-centered Christian and not relegate her faith to designated days. 

"How has evangelism been for you so far?!?!" Cam asked, after a few minutes of normal-people talk.*

I took a huge bite of my bagel so I would not be expected to answer. Hopefully, one of the nicer people in the group (meaning, literally anyone but me) would reply.

Cam stared expectantly at Katie, who was sitting next to her. It was a circle question. Everyone had to answer. Fun!

Katie shared some of her experiences, opening up about what she had found difficult and how she had seen God. As an aside, can I just say that Katie is one of the most incredibly honest and kind-hearted people I know? I'm disrupting my narrative and breaking the "good writing rules" by including this insertion, but it needed saying. Katie, throughout the Durham portion of City Project, was my roommate, so she will most certainly appear in these posts again, but I just wanted to say that I admire her so much, and one of the most subtle but significant ways God worked in my life during City Project was simply giving me have the privilege to get to know her spirited, amazing, empathetic, and sassy self. 

So yes, again, I apologize to those who have never met Katie for this seemingly random and irrelevant tangent, but it is relevant, and her willing transparency during early moments in City Project such as this were part of the foundation that lead to the changes Jesus made in me. 

Unfortunately, foundations can be hard, cracked, difficult things to make. You have to dig out a lot of crap before you can even start to pour the cement.

And I, as God, my parents, friends, and my more observant professors can attest, am full of crap.

Cam was smiling encouragingly at me now. I swallowed my bagel and drank some coffee, stalling for time, while I attempted to gather an appropriately humble but uplifting response to all of the amazing feelings and revelations I had been gifted with throughout this oh-so-amazing trip. Yesterday was difficult, because I'm a little shy, but God was holding my hand throughout all of it and really showed me his mercy by...

Screw it.

"I can't talk to these people!" I exclaimed. "I just can't. They're too illogical!"

I glared at my bagel, attempting to avoid eye contact with the other girls. I had nothing else to say besides that. Nothing. I was officially the worst Christian in the history of Christian, and now they all knew, and they would judge me. 

I heard stifled chuckling and glanced up. Lindsey, Carly, and Katie were all smiling warmly at me and giggling. Cam burst into laughter. I tentatively smiled, trying to recall everything I could about typical human responses to gauge if this was a good response of bad response. 

"That is such a you thing to say," Lindsey said, between laughs. "Illogical. Yes. I love it."


Lindsey continued, "I know what you mean though. I did not know what to expect when they said we would be talking to people from other countries, but it is more difficult than I expected."

Katie and Carly agreed, and elaborated on their own thoughts and experiences, encouraging me, loving me, while simultaneously not attempting to justify my sinful arrogance. 

"Talking to people from different backgrounds can be hard sometimes. Have you tried praying and asking God to give you the words to say and the patience to say it?" Cam asked.

I poked my bagel, then shrugged. "I had not thought about that."

Cam smiled. "Pray about it! We'll all pray for you too!!!"

Katie, Carly, and Lindsey agreed and offered more encouragement, and then Lindsey went on to answer Cam's question.

There was no judgement. There was no condemnation. They had only offered love, support, and their supplication on my behalf. 

I finished the bagel in much better spirits than when I began, and, oddly enough, I was beginning to grow excited for Thursday. I remembered how God had answered Rich's prayer in it's entirety, while simultaneously encouraging me, teaching me, showing me my sin, and demonstrating the Gospel tangibly to me through the sacrificial love of my friends, who were willing to love me while never making excuses for my sin, who would pray that I would rest in my Savior and trust in him to give me the strength to resist the temptation to be arrogant. I had done nothing to earn this grace from my friends, in fact, in normal-people terms, this would be appropriate cause for a lecture about my borderline racism. But they did not abandon me or condemn me; they rallied around me and swore to pray for my sanctification. If God had done all of that for me through one short, simple prayer, then it had to be more than coincidence. I was wrong in my previous idea about prayer. I needed to pray, because prayer was, apparently, more than asking for a wish from a genie in a bottle. 

And so, I prayed.

Look, I'm not good at this. I'm not good at praying, I'm not good at asking for help, and I'm not good at talking to the people I am here to talk to. I'm used to being good at the things I want to be good at, but apparently, You have something bigger planned. So, I guess what I'm saying is, do something, because I clearly can't. Please help me talk to these people. Yeah. Okayy... bye. Amen. Whatever.


*One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to bloggers is when they ask questions like this??? They exclaim like this!! they ask emphatic questions like ?!?!?!. But, writer though I am, I am incapable of capturing the entirety of the personality that is Cameron in a blog post, so I am forced to rely on the improper use of punctuation marks. It is oddly appropriate. Jesus, through Cam, has a way of making me do things I never thought I would in order to accomplish some larger purpose. For example, I never wanted to be one of those people who turn something trite and meaningless into a "deep", theological pondering. And yet, here I am, typing this paragraph. Haha!!!??!

Dear Supporters,

It's funny how the little things can be so important in retrospect, isn't it? This entire post probably only happened within maybe fifteen minutes of my life, but it is one of the most memorable things that happened to me in New York (Well... memorable and significant. I think the old man walking around Manhattan in a sequined bikini wins memorable). Anyway, I had originally planned to include Thursday and Friday in this blog post, but I'm trying to thank you for your generosity, so I decided to spare you from further exposure to my verbosity. For now. >:)