When Sacrifice Isn't Sexy


If there’s one thing I’ve done consistently throughout my life, it’s this: I have changed.  I was the 7 year old who was so timid that her teacher’s yelling vice literally gave her an ulcer, who became the 19 year old who partied too loud and too hard and was put on university probation for mutilating her suitemate’s room after a fight, who became the 25 year old charismatic missionary moving to Indonesia convinced that the end times were near, who became the 31 year old Catholic convert who ingested the Bread and the Wine while her black and white children lay sleeping at home.

It has been quite the journey.  So, I imagine, has yours.  One of the most amazing things about life that I never could have anticipated at 17, wearing rhinestones on the tips of my French manicure, is how much more yourself you become.  Today I stopped and felt a pang of grief that I was never this me for the past thirty years.  But then also, thank God that I get to be this for the next thirty. 

But there I go again, thinking I’ve got this thing figured out now.  Thinking I’m who I want to be forever.  That’s a lie, of course, and I don’t want that at all.  If the transformation I’ve undergone in the last decade takes my breath away (and, trust, it does) then I would be a fool to long to stay where I am for the next five.

What I’m trying to say is, God continues to surprise me.  I’m never too grown; I’m His little child.

For all the layers I've peeled, one thing has been consistent: for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a passionate person.  Introverted to the core, so yes, quietly passionate, but the fire rages nonetheless.  A fierce lover of justice, even as a child, I’ve never long imagined a life that wasn’t gnarly with the bending towards others.  This is the fingerprint of Christ on me, this yearning for a life of noble sacrifice; the deposit of my baptism and of the thousands of prayers of my parents that withstood even the stormiest seasons.  But it took me this long to understand the crux of the matter: I don’t get to choose what sacrifice looks like in my life.

And if I do, if I twist my life around my idea of how The Cross takes shape in the life of Shannon Kay O’Brien Evans, is it then even truly sacrifice at all?  I’m really asking.  I don’t have a black and white answer to that one yet.

Since turning to Christ with my whole heart at 21 years old, I’ve only ever had one vision for where the placement of my home should be: with the poor.  In bustling, stricken cities of Africa to forgotten alleys in Indonesian kampungs to inner city American streets, I never for long considered living anywhere else.  Because living next door to drug dealers is the work of the Kingdom.  Or because living without hot water and with a squatty-potty makes me feel like a spiritual badass?  I’ve done both and I can tell you, I’m not sure.

Sometimes we are so hopelessly incapable of grabbing hold of grace ourselves that Jesus has to whack us over the head with a 2x4 that’s been doused in it.  And such was the entrance of our first son into our lives. 

We hopped from tent to tent in suburban America, “just for awhile” because we “just needed to get back on our feet”.  We kept telling ourselves that it was temporary, that once we settled somewhere permanently it would be in the ghettos again, of course it would.  This year, the call of permanence came knocking.  This was our chance; the chance to create the life that we’ve been longing to meet again ever since our three pairs of feet landed together on American soil.  Now we could live out the Gospel.

We were driving in the car, my husband and I, and I’ll never forget how simple it was.  I stilled my guilt and I blurted out, “I don’t think that’s what Alyosha needs”.  Eric nodded and said, “I don’t think that’s what he needs either”.  And by the grace of God, that was how we decided.  There would be another day for the ghettos, for the slums.  This day is not for them.  This day is for making our son believe that the world is a safe place, because his brain is constantly overrun with signals that try to tell him otherwise.  This day is for soaking up whatever breath of normalcy life offers outside our walls, because what’s inside them is anything but, and it serves no one to pretend we need otherwise.  

This is our new house.  We live in the historic district, within walking distance of a park, the library, and a vibrant downtown.  It is safe but not wealthy, breathtaking but not perfect.  It is the kind of place we never expected to be able to live with a clear conscience, yet here we are.  All clear.  Breathe in, breathe out.

I’m sure it sounds ridiculous, but this house is a sacrifice.  It is not what we dreamed of when we wanted to “do something” in the world, but we’re learning to forge new dreams, ones that have less to do with how we look to others and more to do with how tenderly we carry what we’ve been given.

I share this because it’s my story, but I also share it because maybe it’s yours too.  Maybe you labor at a thankless job because it supports those who depend on you, while the whole world says you should shed it (and maybe them) and do something wild and free.  Maybe you have more children than you expected because you believe in being open to new life, and our culture demeans you when you admit that it's hard because "you brought it on yourself".  Maybe your marriage is on the rocks and every movie you watch reminds you that you’re a fool for not looking out for number one.  Maybe you have a child with special needs and you love him to the moon and back but you never thought your life would turn out like this.

You are not alone.

I apologize for every time I’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion, every time I’ve judged the choices you’ve made.  I’ve done it, that’s for sure.  But I’m done with it, that’s more sure.  You are not alone.  Your sacrifice is real and it’s seen.  Let’s do this together.  Because sexy or not, we’re moving mountains.

The Truth About the Church and Social Justice


What a time to be alive in American history.  Political tensions are high, racial tensions are high, sexual orientation tensions are high... people are fighting for their beliefs with passion and commitment on both sides, and that in and of itself is admirable.  Less admirable of course are the acts of hatred, the words of dehumanization. Ah, we say, but those are few and far between, those bad apples ruining the barrel.

But what does the world say?

The world says there is a Church who is adding pain to the ripped open flesh of her wound, rather than one who is nursing her back to health.  The world says there is a Church who is blind, who is stubborn, who is hateful.  Most Christians feel otherwise because we have experienced otherwise.  But how do we respond to a world who is clearly telling us that something has gone very, very wrong?

Since it's inception, the Church has struggled to love well.  (This could possibly be due to the fact that the Church is made up of actual people.)  And yet.  All along the way there has been a prophetic remnant who fiercely, fiercely chose love in the face of horrific opposition.

  • In the second and third centuries, it was common practice for people to take babies that they didn't want (due to disability, undesired gender, etc) and leave them in the woods to die. Christians would notoriously go out and look for the abandoned infants, take them in, and raise them as their own.
  • Quakers and persons of other Christian denominations, both black and white, played a valuable role in leading slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
  • Numberless Christians became martyrs during the Holocaust for concealing Jews, in their own homes or otherwise.  One revered Catholic saint, priest Maximilian Kolbe, volunteered to die in Auschwitz in place of a married man with a child.
  • An overwhelming number of black leaders of the 1960s civil rights movement were Christian, many of whom were pastors, including MLK Jr.  Countless white clergy also joined in the march on Selma.

We are still here, that Church who loves justice.  Don't be fooled by the media, or by your Facebook feed, or by fanatics with hateful words on signs who claim to represent a God of mercy.  There is still a Church who takes a stand for the oppressed, who defends human dignity, who articulates their views with total respect for the opposing side.

We are black, we are white, we are brown, we are every color in between.  We are straight, we are gay, we are young, we are old, we are Democrats, we are Republicans, we are anarchists.  We are Catholic, we are Orthodox, we are Charismatic, we are Southern Baptist.  We read Dorothy Day and Beth Moore; Martin Luther King Jr. and Billy Graham.  We are city officials, we practice civil disobedience, we are Southerners, we are Northerners. We are "pro" this, we are "pro" that, and we don't always even agree with each other, but we would rather spend time with people than point fingers at them.

We read our Bibles and we see a Christ whose only enemies were the proud, the unbroken.  We read our Bibles and we see a Christ whose life affirmed the dignity of every human being.  We see a Christ who chose the way of relationship over the way of power.  And this Christ, He is the reason we are Christians.  This Christ is the only reason.

If your only experience of the Church or of Christians has been a negative one, please accept our sincerest apologies.  Because that means we haven't been loud enough.  Our way is a quiet one, one that strives for humility and meekness.  On the most ordinary of days, we are at our best having face to face conversations on our living room sofas, not making magazine headlines or blowing up social media feeds.  But some days are not ordinary, and some times are for more than a quiet steadfastness.

I believe these are such times.

People of America- especially you who have been routinely mistreated, oppressed, misunderstood, judged, and hated by your country- we speak to you today.  You are seen, you are heard, and you are valued because you are a human being. We may not see eye to eye on everything, but thankfully, that's not a requirement for friendship. We may at times reveal our ignorance as we seek to understand you, but may we be changed by your correction.  We are committed to a Christianity that receives all people as gifts and that pushes itself onto no one.  We believe that you should first see the beauty of this Christ we love, and only next determine for yourself how to respond to Him.

To my friends in Christ: these are indeed tumultuous times we are living in.  May the Church who has gone before us- willing to suffer, to demonstrate, to risk, to die - count us worthy.
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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)