Two decades ago I wouldn’t dare walk the streets of New York’s Lower East Side at night. My reluctance to be caught in the neighborhood at dusk was easily seen on my face if someone made the suggestion. There were reasons for the caution. Drug dealers, muggings, and assaults were common events. Desperation was winning, Hope seemed in retreat. It was a rough crowd living in an even tougher neighborhood.
I couldn’t imagine change. This was an area never coming back. Good wasn’t strong enough. Hope wasn’t going to last the siege. Community wasn’t going to stage a comeback against self. Yet with time, engagement, and belief by a few, New York’s Lower East Side is a up and coming community. It’s a wonderful place to be. Tourist flock to see the neighborhood, families are moving in, and community is alive.
I grew up with an image of God’s future being a mirror copy of what it was like to be in church. Words like stuffy, stiff, and slightly ratty dominated the view. I couldn’t imagine anything different. I didn’t see how the believers would want anything else. The images conflicted with the beauty and wonder I found in God’s creation.
In the years since I have found my picture was as incomplete and cynical as my images of the Lower East Side two decades ago. Imagine the person who set wonderful sunsets in place being in charge of the future’s colors. Consider details of the party given the previous gifts of love, relationships, and birth. I know the negatives will be gone; “there'll be no more gangs on the street. Cynical scoffers will be an extinct species. Those who never missed a chance to hurt or demean will never be heard of again: gone the people who corrupted the courts, gone the people who cheated the poor, gone the people who victimized the innocent.” (Isaiah 29.20, 21)
I know, with time, each will, if only for a moment, experience Hope, Love, and Beauty.
With the experience comes a choice; into the future, remain in past.
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