so help me

The next seminarian that says, “I don’t care where I get a call . . . as long as it isn’t to Iowa”  has another thing coming.

Probably a slap upside the head.

From me.

Twice.

There is a tendency in all of us to think that we are superior to other people, that we are better, more intelligent, more well-rounded than those around us. We think we know more about music, more about the culture, more about politics, literature, theology. Our poor doltish neighbors . . . if only they were as brilliant as us!

Don’t make us hang out in the Midwest; we’re city people, after all. We’re refined.

Don’t send us to pig farmers, cattle ranchers, or grandmas in bathrobes. We’re meant for society, for the opera, for the theatre and jazz clubs.

Don’t make us get dirty, be muddy, or get down in the trenches. We have an image to maintain!

LAME.

I don’t know what it is in each of us that makes us think we are better than others, than we can’t handle others, that the Lord doesn’t place each of us in the exact spot in which we need to be.

Do I love the peacefulness of Iowa, the smell of rain moving across the countryside, the rustle of corn leaves in the wind, the whistle of a train miles away, seeing the Milky Way each night? Absolutely.

Do I love rush hour traffic? Living in a city made of cement? Smog? Sky scrapers? Eleventy million people? Well . . .

But is it where the Lord has placed me for right now? Yes. And for that reason, it is absolutely perfect.

So suck it up, cupcake. If God sends you to Iowa, you’ll go.

And like it.

(No, seriously. You will. Iowa is awesome.)

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10 thoughts on “so help me

  1. I have really pondered this question of rural vs. urban for a while, mainly because I’ve contemplated moving from a small Nebraska town to an urban environment, and earlier this year, I spent a month living with family in the San Francisco area. There a couple of points I’d like to make.

    First, you cannot fault a Nebraska Cornhusker or a Wisconsin Badger for not wanting to live in Iowa. Enough said.

    Second, I don’t fault anyone who lives in a rural place for defending their home. If you grew up there, then it’s your home and it’s special. What I would add though is that rural areas are often places that are not going to have the opportunities for jobs and cultures that cities do. In my view, one of the hypocrisy of the rural community are older people who sit around complain that their talent young people leave when their community doesn’t do enough to attract larger businesses and employers. Our seed corn company does business with an Amish community in Illinois who acts as regional distributor. The man who runs things, Galen, is always concerned about finding new business so he can create jobs for the kids that are growing up. He has the foresight to know that, if he wants the kids to stay, he has to provide opportunity.

    The main benefit I see to small towns is that their not subject to the wild economic mood swings of larger cities. People in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Kansas are fiscally conservative, don’t spend a lot on recreation, and have maintain lower unemployment (Lincoln’s unemployment is right around 4%). If I were going to work a service job my entire life, I’d much rather live in this area than on the coasts because my income would go farther.

    But I understand it when people leave here. In this buttoned-up environment, if you’re not part of a group, you don’t really have a place. If there’s a certain field you want to work in, you have to move, like you moved for your job. A person can’t be a top stockbroker if he or she lives in Iowa or Mississippi (Warren Buffet is the exception if you were going to mention him). San Francisco, for example, has great amount of culture, a million things to do, and millions of young people and opportunity and vision. And the good weather, and the fresh fruit and fish doesn’t hurt. Yes, the liberalism is pervasive, but if you don’t go there and just get why people flock there, you don’t get it.

    And don’t compare San Francisco to Chicago, they are totally different places. You can walk down a street in San Francisco and feel completely anonymous in a way I can’t describe.

    So there’s my little speech. I guess I’d say, I understand you defending where you came from, but myself, I don’t take it so personally just because I know there are limits here.

  2. I think you misunderstand the objection. Let us look at the viewpoint of a single vicar from a large metropolis who has been sent to a very rural area.

    “But why do you mind?” you ask, “There’s plenty of things to do out in the country! You just need an open mind!”

    No, not really.

    Wanna go shooting or hunting? Well, you can borrow gear from parishioners, but there are still expenses. Besides, there are some things that it’s just better to have your own. So, shooting sports aren’t necessarily an option. Besides, they aren’t for everybody. You aren’t necessarily the safest person to have in the woods with a gun, hunting for deer, if you can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Finally, you can only go hunting certain times of the year, and can only spend so much time at the gun range before people start thinking you’re going to join some kind of crazy militia.

    Wanna try motor sports? Not on a vicar’s salary. This one is right out. On to the next one.

    Wanna hang out at the local bar? Not even an option! You can’t let your congregation think you’re a lush!

    Wanna get married? Everyone your age is already. Either that, or they live somewhere else. So, YOU really need to go somewhere else for that one to work. Of course, if you try saying that, magazine editors threaten you with physical violence.

    So, that pretty much sums up the popular activities in this area. Since none of those are a viable option, our theoretical vicar must make his own fun at home. Of course, in doing so, he may remember how easy it was to find something interesting to do back in the city. After a year of this, he may wish to prevent future suffering by refusing a call to rural Iowa.

    It’s not that he imagines himself to be better than anyone. Quite the opposite, he may have a heart for working with the impoverished conditions of the inner city, or something like that. Rather, he just realizes that the country is not for everyone.

    • Ok, ok. I promise not to hit you if you get a call to a city. Not even once.

      I think we’re talking past each other. The point isn’t small towns versus large towns. If you love DC, pray for a call to DC. If you love Chicago, pray for a call to Chicago. After all, the Lord knows the desires of your heart already, so you might as well pray for what you want!

      What I’m speaking to is the importance of having a willing spirit to go wherever the Lord sends you. That, at least in my experience, has been the missing component for seminarians who stubbornly refuse to even consider a call to a small town. They’re already convinced they’ll hate it before they’ve even given it a chance. But if that’s not the case for you, if you genuinely desire to serve elsewhere, thank you for being one of the seminarians who bucks the trend. That’s good. You’ll serve as a wonderful example to others.

      And if you don’t get a call to a big city and if He does, at least for a time, send you to a small town, perhaps serving God’s people in Iowa or South Dakota is your cross, the way in which God draws you closer to Himself. Perhaps it’s the suffering He allows in your life to cause you to rely on Him more fully. I don’t know. But I’m confident He has a good plan and a good purpose for you, big town or small.

  3. You really hit the nail on the head here: “There is a tendency in all of us to think that we are superior to other people, that we are better, more intelligent, more well-rounded than those around us. We think we know more about music, more about the culture, more about politics, literature, theology. Our poor doltish neighbors . . . if only they were as brilliant as us!”

    I’ve lived all over the U.S. and everywhere, people make the exact same assumptions. It’s both comical and illustrative of our sin nature.

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