Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Tourist Gospel

A million years ago, El Chupacabra and I spent a weekend in Manhattan.

We stayed in a fancy hotel, we rode the subway and the Staten Island ferry just for fun, we saw Rent (be very jealous). And we ate. We ate every quintessentially “New York” thing that crossed our paths; massive slices of pizza, fat bagels, cheesecake, hot pretzels, hot nuts, hot knishes, hot dogs, and anything at all with the word “deli” in front of it.

I loved that weekend so much.

But of all the wonderful things we experienced and of all the incredible calories we consumed, my favorite moment happened one night when we were walking back to our hotel from Washington square; A car pulled up beside us and asked us for directions!

Not even kidding! Isn't that cool?!

Of course we weren't able to offer any real help to those lost souls, but we were kinda thrilled that the occupants of the car had mistaken us for actual, legitimate, they-look-like-they-live-around-here New Yorkers!

Yes, I can understand how one might think that being stopped for directions under a street lamp on the corner of an iconic city isn't a very big deal, but I think it's pretty much the coolest thing ever. And it's not like I have some longstanding yet unfulfilled dream of living a sleek metropolitan life among the grit and glitter of Manhattan (Ok, fine. I do.), but, the thing is? I have this crazy huge aversion to looking like a tourist... I just hate it.

I know that you know who I'm talking about. We've all seen them; goofy, overly impressed, oddly dressed, picture snapping, map gazers, huddled in the shadow of the empire state building. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with looking like a complete douchepickle while you're on vacation – I'm not saying that. I just prefer to blend in, that's all.

I've thought about this a lot since we moved to Costa Rica, where no matter how hard I try not to, I will always stand out as a Gringa. Where, even though I've never subscribed to the missionary uniform of Chacos and rolled-up safari pants, I'm still obviously foreign. And where, even though I refuse to wear a backpack and a floppy hat on the bus, I still look distinctly out-of-place. The truth is, if someone figured out that they were lost in the little town I live in, I'd be the last person they'd look to for answers. A smart person would look for someone who at least appeared to be at home here.

So, all of this has got me thinking about what happens when, as Christians, we let ourselves be so far “set apart” from the world that we end up looking like a bunch of tourists, instead of the ones with the answers. It got me wondering if maybe Paul knew what he was talking about when he said, “I have become all things to all people, so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessing.”

All things to all people? Man, I love that. And not despite the gospel, but “for the sake of the gospel”.

All things to all people so that the blessing of the gospel might be shared. 

But here we are, the Church, huddled together in awe and fear of the big, scary world, wearing ugly-ass shoes and a stupid-ass hat, and talking like a bunch of foreigners - but we've got our fingers crossed that the people will see how we're so totally set apart, and then they'll come ask us for directions.

Hmmm....

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