It was near the end of our senior year, and it had been a fun night out with my high school friends, staying up late, watching movies, laughing over inside jokes. Still, a feeling of melancholy washed over me as I dropped my friend Giselle off at her house. “Do you ever just feel like something is wrong?” I asked her.
I didn’t have the language or emotional maturity to articulate myself clearly at that moment. But what I meant was that in spite of my insulated middle class life, my weekly church attendance, my close group of friends, and my college plans, I still felt the brokenness of our world seeping in through the cracks around me. And it was scary.
Maybe it was the fact that the Twin Towers fell that year, or that my dad was struggling with a secret addiction, or that I was sensing the impending loss of these friendships. I’m sure I was feeling all of that, and this too — creation was broken in the fall. We are living in the ruins of Eden.
I know so much more of the world’s (and my own) brokenness now than I did during that car ride home at age eighteen.
My response to brokenness has generally been to try to fix it. So, I spent a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer, recruiting mentors for children of incarcerated parents. I’ve spent Christmases serving meals to the unhoused in downtown Portland. I’ve handed out hygiene kits to prostitutes. I let my cognitively disabled, low-income neighbor borrow my vacuum, only to have it returned with fleas. I tutored a Somali refugee girl in math and reading. I became an elementary school teacher, praying with my students every morning to begin our day, about things both big and small.
In all my efforts to improve the world, I’ve learned an important lesson: I can’t fix it. I can’t, in fact, fix anything.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
But this I can do. I can choose my response to the circumstances around me.
I still get sad sometimes about the world’s brokenness, but I see so much more of God in it now. That’s the miracle of Jesus, that He would come down into our messed up, broken world and live among us; that He would love and forgive us, pay the price for our sins and offer us the keys to his kingdom.
We may be living among ruins, but God’s kingdom is present here too at the same time, a sort of alternate reality. As Christ-followers we are dual citizens of this world and of God’s kingdom. We live in the tension between these two worlds.
Since my life centers around work with children, perhaps it’s not surprising that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books play a strong role in my understanding of theology. When we become Christians, we too enter through a secret door hidden in the back of a wardrobe where we can encounter the living God.
“I am [in your world].’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” - C.S. Lewis
About the Author
Ursula and her husband Spencer have two young children, and their family enjoys playing hide-and-seek and dancing in the living room. She works as a communications and events coordinator with the University of Oregon. Ursula is also CitySalt’s Children’s Ministry Director.
You can read more from Ursula at motherbearblog.com.