By Alex Salzwedel |
One of us struggled with sexual identity. One of us recently beat cancer and didn’t think she’d be able to participate in our daily work. One of us didn’t have any friends. We all walked through PDX late on a Friday night with life’s weights cloaked beneath our matching t-shirts.
Seven days later, traveling to Managua’s airport, those cloaks of identity were re-purposed. One of us was a beloved child of God who had boldness and spunk that inspired us all. One had learned that her cancer was not a crutch, but a motivation to accomplish even more. Another not only had 13 friends with him in Nicaragua, but possessed the worth to be known by even more friends.
For one week in Managua, Nicaragua we conspired against evil. We fought injustice by loving children ignored by their families; by remodeling a school neglected by the government and left to dissolve; and by reminding one another where our identity shone truest – in the creative, unrelenting embrace of our father.
Each seven-day trip to Nicaragua speaks an intrigue towards community. It’s so good to be known as a brother, sister, and friend. It’s so good to serve those around us as if that is what we were created to do (truth be told, we were). It’s so good to learn together the apprenticeship of our radical rabbi, Jesus. Our rabbi lives by the curriculum of love, a curriculum which motivates justice, relationship, fun, and joy.
But then we leave Nicaragua.
We travel back to our homes and watch various forces try to re-cloak us in rags of shame, convincing us we are the product of our flaws and weaknesses.
I am not the product of an alcoholic dad, and obsessively critical heart, and a depressive and stressed past and sometimes present.
I am Alex. I was created by the ultimate creative. I am a man worth being a friend to. I am delighted in by my dad because I am holy, blameless, fun, and kind. My cloak is awesome. It fits me so well. It shines when the sun hits it. It speaks of the obsessive love that saturates my life even when I am ignorant of it.
Therefore, when I get back to Portland and part ways from the family of people who have told me of my cloak’s real worth, I don’t give up. No, I look for that same community. I ignore the temptation to let life’s busyness and my selfishness deter me from community. I know this takes more work when I’m not in Nicaragua – living, eating, and serving with my community. Yet I know this is what the kingdom looks like.
In order to honor my God, my team, the people and missionaries in Nicaragua, my wife, my daughter, and myself, I take what I learned about kingdom-community while in Nicaragua and I fight for it in Portland. I do this because sometimes I think that my cloak, my identity, is marred and shamed and I need people around me who will tell me the truth.
Jesus, your kingdom come in my community as it is in heaven.