Apparently Jesus used to live here. He used to live here, in our apartment, on Westside Costa Mesa. We know because we received a promotional coupon to the local Ford dealership saying “Welcome back Jesus!” The flip side was addressed to one Jesus Robles, apartment F. Living in suburbia, as I do, there are very few unexpected things that happen, so things like this make the day exciting – it’s a sad statement, I know. But my husband, Tim, and I are trying to jazz up this suburban life by taking a hint from the life of a different Jesus.
Tim grew up in a community of rigid Christianity: black and white with no room to wiggle. My parents established their faith slowly for most of my childhood, which means they couldn’t really raise me in it, so dance got to be my religion. Black and white only works if you don’t get out much, so Tim encountered a crisis of faith in his early 20s, but like a good Christian, instead of abandoning his faith he went to seminary to work it out. Ironically, he did end up abandoning his faith – the rigid stuff had to go, and he has been piecing together a new one ever since – one that is nuanced, humble, and weary of certainty. I have absorbed something of a second-hand education from him, so everything has become grey and difficult and I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel like I “know” anything more than the grey I know now.
In the Bible, the gospel writers constantly demonstrate a tension between Jesus and the Pharisees – the Pharisees, who set and kept the rules – black and white – who were full of harsh judgment and blind to their own errors. On the other hand, Jesus, who broke the rules to include the forgotten and heal the outcast…to reveal the error of the traditional way. For all our discomfort with our tradition, we remain inspired by the life of Jesus and wooed by the mysterious presence of God, so we packed up our things last November and moved…
We moved about one mile from our old stead – from Eastside to Westside to live on a property owned by a developing non-profit called ReGenesis Rising. Here, we live with emancipating foster kids: ages18-22 years old. We are the on-site part of the community working for the redemption of their stories – to bind up the broken pieces of their lives, and love them into young adults who believe in their future. We are drawn to them because they are among the forgotten of our society.
This is also how I am working out my own story and it is such different work than I used to do! When I was dancing I was selfish – and necessarily so, because honing a craft requires your all. But now my life is much less about me and that shift is truly a welcome relief – it feels like freedom. The gospel writers include so many mysterious sayings of Jesus: one being that in order to find your life you have to lose it. It’s an odd one, but comes to mind as I reflect on the last few years of my life. I’ve had to let go of my dream of impressing the world as the prima-ballerina-superstar and settle into my own unimpressive, but loveable skin. Man, has it been a humbling journey!! But this is a good life. Sometimes it feels like a sacrifice, but mostly it feels like a privilege and a bona fide suburban adventure! Additionally, I’m grateful that in this difficult time of navigating the life of faith, Tim and I can focus on loving this little group of others. In that way we can know that even though we feel lost, simultaneously, we are not. At the root of it all loving God is lived out in welcoming the stranger and loving your neighbor.