mutuality

mutuality is a big buzzword in our new circles out here, and it’s a word i thought i knew, which seemed as familiar to me as an older relative, harmless, well-intentioned, sitting in the corner eating a piece of pie.

but we are learning that this word has power beyond what we know, how this one concept can change everything in relationships, in a life of service, in crossing barriers of culture and socio-economic status.

most christian programs are based on the opposite of mutuality; one person is in need, the other person helps. this is the way it is. i am the volunteer, the mentor, the homework club founder, tutor, basketball camp organizer, art class referee; i am the teacher, the helper, the servant. and others–they were always served.

these connotations are negative in any light, if we would so choose to look at them carefully. but compound that with any hopes for expanding the kingdom of god, and we find ourselves in a race for converts, with my own spirituality on the line. it can get sticky, very fast.

so we are learning here about mutuality. how it is the slowest of slow-cooked meals (starting with planting seeds and all). it drives me batty, to be honest. i would love to march down these graffiti streets like a 60-year old nun, head held high, doing the work of the Lord. heavens, i would like to use the degree i paid thousands of dollars for, to teach people how to read and write and help make life more bearable here. i would love to see a need and pounce on it, fix it, serve somebody. because this has always been who i am. please, please don’t ask me to give it up.

but i have been asked, and my fingers have been uncurling slowly. just being a neighbor is one of the hardest, most boring things in the world. nothing to rely on but . . . where we live. um, toddlers. the weather. being away from family. the cold. is it going to snow. no, i don’t have any plans for thanksgiving. um, i don’t think that is actually a computer, that just looks like a monitor from the 80s. oh, more candy for the toddlers? thanks so much. the guy with the truck full of free food is here again? score! yup, yup, just going on a walk to the library. again. oh, don’t mind her screaming–she’s just two.

and yesterday we hung out with some newly made friends from bhutan, and they cooked us food and invited over all their neighbors “so we could have more friends.” the baby girl ran around with the cutest little boy, throwing stuffed animals, guzzling juice, eating her spicy snacks with glee. we all laughed and talked about everything, and some people said they might come over for thanksgiving (but they made it clear they don’t like american food). as we left both the husband and i looked at each other, stuffed on food and companionship, and realized that this wasn’t a mutual relationship.

we are the ones being served, here.

this is a good and hard week for us. missing family, friends, nostalgic for old times. but our doors have been blown wide open, our days a great blank canvas and we aren’t busy painting anything. we are just watching the colors as they appear, beautiful and mysterious. and for the first time, i am starting to grasp how little i have to do with all of it.

 

 

ps. i have had this post in my head for awhile, but i was inspired to write after reading this today. that girl can preach!

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5 thoughts on “mutuality

  1. Christiana says:

    ” just being a neighbor is one of the hardest, most boring things in the world. ” Amen, friend. Amen!

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about this especially in relation to Luke 10:3-4 and the call to go as lambs among wolves… taking nothing with you… thanks for your insights.

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