6.21.2013

The Perfect Shade of Greige


I like it here.

I like my boxy little house and my teeny tiny yard, and I like that all of the grass on my block gets cut on the same day. It does good things for my chaotic mess of a mind. I thrive by way of order, and if you can say one thing about the suburbs it's that they're very, very orderly. I feel sane here, making my way along the pedicured sidewalks and smooth, wide roads. I feel competent. I feel independent. I feel free.

In our bid to be good suburban neighbors (and also because our nazi HOA is going to fine us if we don't), we are having our house painted this summer. This has led us on a search for the perfect shade of greige. If you don't know what color greige is (I'm guessing you're not on Pinterest? Or you're a dude?), it falls somewhere in between grey and beige. Perfectly embodying both and neither, it's easy on the eyes, completely neutral, and totally boring... Y'know, kinda like the suburbs.

In the months after our return from Costa Rica, I felt the muscles in my back uncurling like clenched hands, releasing the fingers of tension they'd collected from living in a foreign culture, speaking a foreign language, learning the lay of a foreign land. I felt lighter by the day, knowing that in the U.S. I could deal with whatever random thing life wanted to throw at me. I know how to call a tow-truck, because I know what a tow-truck is called. I could get from here to, like, Alabama, if I had to. I know all the words I need to discuss a good meal, or make small talk with a stranger, or describe... oh, I don't know, a rash or something. My life here doesn't feel like it's on the brink of an emergency every minute of every day. (But if there is an emergency, bring it on, because I totally dominate emergencies in English. Totally.)

But the last month or so has been different. The wave of relief I experienced upon our return is making way for something new. I'm comfortable. Life is easy. This world is familiar, and oh so predictable. I can practically feel Suburban Greige settling into my bones.

I am bored.

There. I said it.

I love my life here. Truly, I do. But I'm cruising along on autopilot. And seriously? My brain doesn't even have to think anymore. It's probably all shriveled and atrophied from lack of use; a pruney walnut floating around in my head, telling me I should be happy because it can describe the hell out of a rash.

With my brain turned off, it feels like suburban greige is creeping in like a disease. It whispers lies about where God resides and who God loves. There's no God here, only greed and vanity. And the sprawling suburb that is my home, this community that has welcomed me, nurtured me, and cared for me, begins to feel like a desolate place, dark and devoid of color.

It's a rookie mistake, and I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I think I have managed to translate my cross-cultural experience into something holier and more important than my life in the U.S. I almost convinced myself that God was more present there than he is here. Which is, of course, ridiculous.

The truth is, I lived in the suburbs in Costa Rica. Yup, in a plain old middle class suburban neighborhood. To me, it was amazing, but to my neighbors, it was boring. True, there was no greige - the houses were all different colors and shapes and sizes, but they still managed to blur together until everything looked the same, just like here. Life was monotonous, but it felt special because it wasn't my normal. I was living in a heightened state of awareness, constantly delighted by new sights, and sounds, and smells. Ok, the smells were not always delightful, but you know what I mean.

Honestly, I think I did feel God's presence more clearly in Costa Rica. But it's not because He was more present, it's because I was paying more attention. I was lonely, scared, and anxious, and totally dependent on God to sustain me. So I looked for Him everywhere.

In California, I think I'm confident, and capable, and kind of awesome – so I stopped seeking a place of rest and reassurance. And then I stupidly let the curse of the cross-cultural experience taint my vision, forgetting to find that which is vibrant and good and right in front of my face. 

I have failed to see God where He dwells, among us, even in the suburbs... 

...where He has come to coax us out of the boring greige and draw us into the Light. 

.....          .....          .....

Are you blind to God in the easy, everyday places? Does your world feel kind of greige?