What is a young family to do with a desire to follow Jesus more radically? This series of email exchanges I had with Paul Munn over a year ago (starting in April of 2009) attempts to explore some of that. To get caught up with the series, read question #1/response #1, question #2/response #2 (which are one post), and question #3/response #3.
Sent: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 11:02:03 PM
Subject: RE: work, gift, prayer
Sorry for the delayed response. By looking at your blog, though, I suspect your enjoying other kinds of activities besides “computer time” anyway. We are actually still in Peru, although we were supposed to leave last Sat. My son (Santiago) came down with Bronchitis, so we decided to get him treated here before trying to fly home. Internet access since then has been a bit challenging, but now I’ve found the perfect spot to use my laptop (the bathroom!) now that my sister-in-law got wireless internet. My wife’s family is numerically rather large. Julissa is the oldest of 8 kids. Her youngest sister is 8-years-old, just to give you an idea. So, needless to say, getting a few minutes apart from the group (and getting access to the internet) can be an amazingly difficult feat.
Staying in Lima these extra few days, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about some of the immediate consequences related to following Jesus in his radical way of life. This whole trip, in fact, was designed to give us space to wonder about and consider our so-called “next step” (as well as to introduce Santiago to my in-laws). It’s been very enlightening to have conversations while here with my father-in-law, for example, who has been unemployed more than he has had a job income for about 3 years. Today, he and I talked for about two hours. He said some profoundly wise things. Things like: “Jason, you ought to spend more time praying. Jesus told us to ‘Pray always’ [I’m not really sure who said it actually. Was it Jesus or Paul?] and he went away from the crowds, on the mountains, to be alone.” He told me the story of an old lady who came to a church talk that he attended with some of his fellow seminary students. Whereas seminarians tend to get a big head pretty quick here in Peru (for lots of reasons too long to list), this old women from the mountains (the total opposite, in terms of status and respect) told a story about how she had been in the hospital about to die but felt called to go (on foot) to the villages around her village, sharing the Gospel, taking no money with her. She did, in fact, leave the hospital, made her trip, and came back (without any sickness either). More importantly, I think, the story she told and lived represents a different kind of hermeneutic than most seminarians or ministers are accustomed to knowing. She was a woman from the margins, with nothing special to show, no privilege or money. And in spite of her lack, she became an example for studied people like me (and my father-in-law), which is why I’m glad he told me her story. My father-in-law did at one point suggest that behavior like hers and Jesus’ perhaps isn’t the norm (”Jesus was God. We are not.”), but he wasn’t discrediting the goodness of such a hermeneutic.
I got a potential job opportunity with a language institute here in Lima. My wife and I have been talking about moving here/living here for a long time. On the one hand, it’s exciting to think we could be getting closer to our goal. But it’s also hard because I have seen, over the last year or so, how seductive and compromising city life can be (in the States too, for that matter). It all seems to revolve around money and what you can buy or pay somebody to do. In that light, I’m not sure if we’re all that prepared (spiritually, emotionally, culturally etc.) to live well under those kinds of pressures.
Do you think taking a paying job is distrustful of God’s strength to be our bread and to provide for our daily needs? Is it possible to accept a wage and experience/know it as a gift? Is it possible to sell our possessions (like Jesus asked his disciples to do) and have an institutional-type employer? If we stayed here in Peru, we would almost literally have no possessions. But Julissa wouldn’t ever (I don’t think) say yes to me rejecting a formal get-paid-for-work-kind-of-job or to us living poor without some plan for our economic situation to someday improve. Any thoughts or ideas on all this?
By the way, I have eaten cuyi (Guinea Pig)! Julissa and I were celebrating something (I think it was an anniversary) in a posh 5-star restaurant and they had it on the menu. I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure if it tasted like the actual paisanos (country people) make it, but it was pretty good.