Mark and I are subletting an apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota for the summer months. The place is small, cozy, and has loads of character. Matt and Brooke, the couple that normally lives in this space, are traveling through Central America brushing up on their Spanish (so jealous!). As we live amongst their furniture, books, and decor, it’s natural to wonder about who they are and how they think. I can’t help but assign certain character qualities and ideologies to them even though we haven’t talked for more than 20 minutes.
Sometimes I tell Mark what I’ve learned about Brooke simply by looking through her cookbooks and noticing the recipes she has highlighted. Or how I just know that Matt would be the perfect BFF for Mark based on his extensive Calvin and Hobbes collection.
They are not materialistic in any sense of the word. Most of their furniture, if not all, is second hand, yet they’ve styled their place in a chic-bohemian way that feels vintage rather than “old”. They love to travel. Their bedroom is decorated with topographical maps of the Boundary Waters and El Salvador. Dinner is always an experiment. They have spices I’ve never heard of and look like they can only be found in ethnic specialty stores. They are altruistic. The art on the walls consists of black and white photos of African children with helping hands surrounding them.
After I tell Mark something that I’ve deduced about Matt and Brooke, he looks at me and asks “can you really assume that about them based on that?” Most of the time, I think I can. Maybe I’m giving my observational skills a little too much credit, but I truly believe you can glean a lot about a person based on the space they live in.
From what I’ve learned thus far, I admire these two people in many ways. Chiefly, I respect their faith.
While perusing their library, my eyes kept coming back to a book entitled “Practicing the Way of Jesus – Life Together in the Kingdom of Love” by Mark Scandrette. I’m not sure what caused me to pick this book in particular. I wanted something faith based because, to be honest, being a first time mom has not allowed for much quiet time with the Lord. Or maybe that’s just my excuse.
I briefly scanned the pages of this novel and realized that either Matt or Brooke had made lots of notes in the margins and underlined certain passages. My curiosity was peaked and I sat down to read.
In short, the book is presenting a radical way of “practicing” faith. The author writes about a Jesus dojo where instead of thinking of religion as a lecture hall with a professor, people of faith would practice religion in a kind of “karate” studio. He describes this as a space for followers to wrestle with how to apply the teachings of Jesus to everyday life through shared actions and practices.
One example of an action the author has taken is through an organization he helped start called Have2Help1. Members of the group actually give away half of their possessions in response to the verse “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11).
I read this and my mind came back to the couple we are living vicariously through this summer. This seems to be not only how Matt and Brooke think, but also how they live.
At this point you may be skeptically squinting your eyes and thinking…”Can you really assume that based on that?”
Sure, I don’t know if they live in this small space because they could afford something twice its size but choose not to. I don’t know if all the second-hand items are part of their decor because they would rather give money away than buy a brand new couch. And I don’t know if all the words about erasing the divide between the rich and the poor are underlined because they actively try to or they just think it’s a nice idea.
But, even though I don’t know, I feel it. This is their kind of faith. Action based. Passionate. Focused.
It’s also interesting how the Lord places you in environments that test you. And attracts your attention to books that convict you.
I get the feeling He wants us to don our Karategis, strap on our belts, and start training.
Thank you sensei Jesus for this lesson.