Aaaand the Most Spiritual Place to Be is…

…wherever you are right now.

Last week I got some pushback for a response I wrote on Christianity Today’s This is Our City project.

{I guess I should expect pushback when I poke at dearly beloved evangelical celebrities. But really, Evangelical Celebrities, do you not expect the occasional gentle poke?}

I was responding to a piece by Kathy Keller (wife of Timothy J. Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC) on why the city is a wonderful place to raise children. Okay, so she wasn’t saying everyone needs to move to the city.

But her praise of city life really rubbed me the wrong way, as do some of her husband’s stronger assertions, like, “if you love what God loves then you will love the cities.”

Maybe it’s because I’m tired of hearing city ministry held up as the benchmark of engaged, culturally-savvy Christianity.

(Because despite the Kellers’–and others– ‘Christians don’t think of cities as good places to live in/minister/raise kids’– I’ve been hearing variations on the theme of “do city ministry!!!” as long I can remember.)

Maybe it’s because my dad (a pastor) tried hard to stay in his native NYC to minister, but God clearly called him elsewhere.

Maybe it’s because the vision of “city life” presented by the Kellers is actually a vision of “city life among young, prospering professionals in [certain neighborhoods in] Manhattan.”

Maybe it’s because while I was born and raised in New York, I’ve lived in many other diverse places, and I married a rural boy who is comfortable anywhere.

But maybe, too, it’s because I think people are ill-served by constant invitations to go elsewhere, do something else.

There’s the whole ‘grass is greener’ thing, which is too often an excuse for not doing what you could do here and now because you’re not where you think you ought to be, and if you could just get there, you’d be able to do better, be better, or whatever.

There is great wisdom in the phrase “wherever you go, there you are.”

It’s also implied, I think, in Mother Teresa’s words:

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

I like to make big plans. I like to think that the ‘next’ place will be where I really come into my own. I like to think that the most important work is just out of reach.

But when I think like that, I’m not fully where I am.

{Which makes me snappy and impatient with the people I’m actually with, especially, unfortunately, my children.}

The most spiritual place to be–and maybe the hardest and easiest place to be–is where you are right now.

The people who most need your love and kindness are the people around you right now.

{God is there, too.}