Seattle and Citizenship. A True Parable.

ImageSeattle can be a rough place to live. A few months ago, I made a decision and I stopped looking at the weather forecasts. Now when the sun comes out, there is much rejoicing. When it rains a gloomy rain, it is just another day.

After a while, the feeling of perpetual grayness is something that pervades all of life. Most days it takes all the willpower I have to rouse myself up out of bed. Usually, it takes a conscious awareness that the coffee pot is on the other side of the journey to go from one gray room to another.

Some people scoff at us weaklings who are not accustomed to nine and a half months of clouds. It just makes summer that much better! They try and convince themselves. You just have to get up to the snow! The perpetual optimists promise. Perpetual optimists, I have found, are people who have grown up in places like Alaska and Massachusetts, and the North Pole. But those of us who have lived in places like California and Alabama know better. We know that nine months of sun is better than nine months of rain or snow.

Every now and again, it is nice to talk to some folks who are in the same boat. They know that, yes Seattle is beautiful, green, on the sea, and full of coffee. But they also know that it is not an easy city to adjust to, for the most part.

The other day I got to talking with a couple who, like me, have found it a challenge to live in the Emerald City. The conversation went like this:

They: How long have you been out here? 

Me: About a year and a half. 

They: So how do you like Seattle?

Me: I really enjoy it. But you know, it has definitely been a challenging place to live. 

They: We know what you mean. The weather can be so gray, and people in the Northwest are a unique breed.

Me: Totally! Great people, but Northwesterners can be pretty standoffish.

They: Agreed. You have to work hard for relationships out here.

That was it. The gist of our conversation. We had all lived in different places, and while we were all happy we had moved out to the Puget Sound, we all recognized the same struggles. The feeling of the city can be gray. Folks in Seattle have their own world that even for me, as a native of the West Coast, is a bit foreign.

And it felt really good to connect on that level. We shared a moment of facing reality without becoming depressed or putting down our adopted city. It is a great place, and at the same time, it is a hard place. It felt like a breath of fresh air. A confirmation that I am not at least the only one who is insane.

And it stood out so distinctly from another conversation I had.

There was an older couple from Massachusetts, and we got to talking about our adopted city. They had moved out here only a couple of years ago, and I admired their adventurous spirits. It is not easy to move across the country, especially when you are in your late sixties, early seventies, as I am sure they were. And so we had a similar beginning to our conversation:

They: How long have you been out here? 

Me: About a year and a half. 

They: So how do you like Seattle?

Me: I really enjoy it. But you know, it has definitely been a challenging place to live. 

But then our conversation took an unexpected turn, for me anyway.

ImageThey: We hear that all the time, and we disagree. We love it out here. There is no snow like our East Coast home. We have loved the change.

And I admired their adventurous spirit all the more. Until I figured out why they had adjusted so easily.

They: We love where we live, in a condo, on the water, on an island off the coast. 

It suddenly occurred to me that, while we may have moved out at the same time, our mentality could not have been different. I have been setting up a family, and they are setting up a retirement home. I have been plotting out my future, and they are just waiting for their future to unfold. I have been working and they have been playing.

I moved to Seattle to start my life and they moved out here to finish it.


And it seems like a good parable of what happens in a life of faith.

I know a dangerous tendency in myself towards a spiritual retirement. I want to forget what it feels like to doubt, to struggle, to throw punches in the air. I want to forget what it feels like to fail. But then what do I have to offer? Following Jesus is challenging. It is beautiful, but it can be rough.

It occurs to me that the women and men with something to offer are the ones who resist the urge to coast. The distinction is between citizens and squatters.

…our citizenship is in heaven… 

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