Wednesday, June 04, 2008

You Tend to Find What You Are Looking For

One year ago this week, Hallie and I made our first visit to Michigan together to look for a home and get settled. Having decided to move to Michigan instead of Texas, we bucked a trend and find ourselves continuing to receive curious stares from folks both within and outside of Michigan as they ask, “What are you doing here?” Generally, the question is prompted by 1) genuine curiosity, and 2) an underlying assumption that people would not want to live here. Granted, Utah and California are especially nice places to live, depending upon your outlook. As members of the church, strong wards beckon with the promise of short drives to church and full youth programs. World class entertainment and sporting opportunities abound in those places. So, why here then, especially now when southeastern Michigan’s economy suffers and everything seems ready to go up (sometimes literally) in flames? Why raise Landon in this place? While we have tried to explain, people seem not to have understood, so I will write to the converted about what we have learned about our time in Detroit over the past year.

First, a lot of people really love living here.

Second, the winter was brutal by Michigan standards, and yet we survived. In fact, it felt no worse than a Utah winter. At a certain point, cold is just cold and you deal with it.

Third, yes, there is a lot wrong with Detroit. Poverty abounds, along with its attendant problems.

Fourth, however, there is a lot right with Detroit, and there are plenty of people who love the city. Wayne State University, the Detroit Orientation Institute, Discover Detroit, and numerous educational, religious, and civic organizations celebrate why Detroit is where life is worth living.

Fifth, while life in a branch is difficult and frustrating a lot of the time, the gospel is true and the people we work with are generally a joy to be around. I love the members of the branch, even though we sometimes say and do things to each other that Christians really oughtn’t. It’s a simple truth about church life: imperfect people, ourselves included, say and do (or fail to do) imperfect things, and this action (or inaction) forms the basis for a fair amount of (unnecessary) drama. That truth aside, God’s work continues to roll on, because of, or if needs be, in spite of, the little bit we can muster. Miraculously, that little bit often seems to be enough. People continue to forgive each other, dramas get resolved, and hopefully people learn repentance and charity in the process of accepting the Atonement and living lives that approach His.

Finally, I understand better each day why we are here. This is a learning experience. Screwing up, hurting people, being hurt, getting over it, that’s all part of the process. Frankly, if being here were easy, I’d be worried. From a coach of Randy Pausch: “When you're screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.” I feel grateful to God that He keeps saying something to me—He chides, nudges, and encourages me in subtle ways that let me know He is answering my pleas and has not given up on me yet.

As a missionary, I read something Hugh B. Brown wrote that has remained with me: “We ask for strength and God gives us difficulties, which makes us strong. We pray for wisdom and God sends us problems, the solution of which develops wisdom. We plead for prosperity and God gives us brain and brawn to work. We plead for courage and God gives us dangers to overcome. We ask for favors and God gives us opportunities. This is the answer.”

We are here because here is where we need to be and here is the place that will allow us to grow into who we need to become.


Aaron said...

I enjoy reading your posts. Great reminder for all of us to be grateful for the wonderful experiences and opportunities that surround us each day. I have always said that Geography plays little to no role in raising our children. It's what happens within the walls of the home, not where those walls are located.

Summer said...

Hallie! I love your pictures! Who ever is your photographer, is a genius! They are so awesome!