Where We Are

Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow

Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow

Do I dare bring up the time that guy was in the women’s bathroom stall at McDonald’s? Or when that man, so quickly, died in the Metro and she saw him lying there? Or when our chests hurt all day because we were truly convinced that Spring would never come (who imagined we could ever believe that?) Or how about those awful medical check-ups when I didn’t understand what they were asking, so they pulled my pants down for me?

Do I dare mention the things that are hard about living here? You see, I don’t want any misunderstanding. We don’t plan on leaving any time soon, and I don’t want to, either. There is beauty here that enables us to stay. But the beauty is not fully in the gorgeous spring tulips that say, “I told you Spring would come!” The beauty isn’t completely in the white, frozen grace that falls in winter days and makes the mud and dark bearable for 6 months. And beauty, completely satisfying beauty, is not fully in each strike of sun that stays for a  merciful 19-hour day in summer. It’s not even fulfilled in the faces of our amazing students, the ones we can’t imagine saying goodbye to, the ones that we are here to love.

What is wonderful enough to keep us here? What is so true that we have the grace to be grateful, most days? Let’s not kid ourselves. Moscow has harsh edges, but I don’t think any other earthly place is more forgiving. Why do we dare to keep living in any place? People are inconsiderate everywhere. A hard thing in one place is a different hard thing in another. In Moscow, they commit suicide by jumping in front of Metro cars; in New York, I hear it’s jumping off the bridge. In Moscow, there’re drunks; In Philly, there’re shootings. In one place, it’s something we’re used to; in another place, it’s something we don’t understand. Bad is bad.  And all the good, the almost beautiful enough things, don’t quite make-up for the hard, the cold, the dark , the black, the empty. So what is keeping us here? Wherever you are, why? Why not try to escape and move, move, move away, again and again and again to some place peaceful that must exist, to a place worthy of the title home?

A depiction of a Russian winter hanging in Tretyakov Gallery

A depiction of a Russian winter hanging in Tretyakov Gallery

I’m here, and I’ll stay here in Moscow, in 2014, because I was chosen. It wasn’t my choice to be born. I didn’t choose my family. My friends? Well, the best of them was a stumbling-into. Where I grew up, even where I went to college: I didn’t choose to receive that pretty colored brochure and know, instantly, that that was the one place I would go, if I could even get in. Maybe you choose each part of your life? Maybe. But each chapter of mine has washed over me with or without my “Yes!” or “No!”: family, dating, learning, marriage, Moscow, teaching. There was never a plan, not by me. I was chosen to be here, with these students, in this weather,  with these companions. Most days, that gives me peace. There is a plan, one that I’m discovering and He is laying out, one that He says will work out for good. Though I don’t know each part of this journey, I do know the end of the story: what’s missing will return, what’s broken will be mended, what’s heartache will be healed, home will be here.

In the meantime, we return and mend and heal what little we can, knowing we’re chosen to join in the resistance of evil. I’m not saying that I am good at being wherever I am. Actually, I’m really bad at it. But, my job is to read and commune and remember the truth and to say “yes” whenever I can utter a word. If I can’t make a sound, I just lay there in silence and let the Spirit say if for me–She’s good at that.

Father, help us as we remember:

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

-Romans 4:18-25
Christ depicted in an icon, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Christ depicted in an icon, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


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