Starting Over

10 months ago, I started this blog as a sort of journal about my faith journey.  I’ve never really done a biography on here, but I have talked about my private life somewhat.  I’ve mentioned the fact that I’m a firefighter, something I’ve done for over 20 years.  I’ve also mentioned that for the last 15 months I’ve been working in the administrative offices due to some health problems I’ve been experiencing.  That status ended today.  Well, it kind of ended Tuesday when the Assistant Chief of my division called me into his office and said that since my doctor had released me, they were sending me back to my station.  This came as a bit of a surprise because I thought I had at least one more physical assessment before that happened.  What was a bigger surprise was that it was happening this week.  So, I was off Wednesday and Thursday (which I spent preparing for something I hadn’t done in over a year) and rolled out of bed bright and early this morning for work.  It’s been easier than I expected.

You would think that after 15 months away, things would awkward, strange, hard to deal with, etc.  In fact, it’s been just the opposite.  Within 15 minutes of walking in the door, it felt like I’d never left, like being home again.  It doesn’t hurt that I work about ten 24 hour shifts a month and I’ve spent a lot of time here (I’m writing from this from my bed at the station).  In fact, in over 20 years with the fire department, I’ve spent a lot of nights at fire stations.  So many that I can walk into one and immediately feel at home.  Even if it’s one I’ve never set foot in, I’ll feel like I’ve been there dozens of times.  It’s predictable, normal and comfortable.  Except for one thing: I don’t quite fit in anymore.  Firefighters are pretty conservative lot, politically, religiously, financially and any other way you can think of.  15 months ago, so was I.  Now, not so much. 

In this past 15 months, I’ve experienced a change, of outlook if not of heart.  The seeds of this change were sown about 2 years earlier, when I was a recipient of our wondrous health care system’s largesse (that’s sarcasm in case in didn’t come through).  That experience taught me that what I thought was absolutely fantastic left a lot to be desired.  In the past 15 months, I found a new way to practice my faith.  A way that showed me that being a Christian isn’t about me.  I knew that, but   In the past 15 months, I met a man who caused me to reconsider my outlook on the homeless, telling me that they’re as much my neighbor as the people who don’t make me uncomfortable.  In the past 15 months, I’ve stepped up and tried to get to know those neighbors I ignored before.  And, it was absolutely amazing.h

Something that I haven’t done much of in the past 15 months is encounter ideas that are different from mine.  I’ve been surrounded mostly by like-minded people, but that ended today.  About an hour into my shift, I got into political/philosophical/religious discussion with my coworkers.  One is a die-hard right winger who embraces the Tea Party movement.  He couldn’t wrap his head around my support of health care reform, dislike for the current Wake County school board’s reassignment plan and social justice in general.  The other agreed with some of my points, but is convinced that the End Times are right around the corner.  I’m not big on the whole “Left Behind” picture of Revelation and what that’s about (what am big on in that realm is another story.  A long one).  One of the things I’ve heard several times since I started this faith journey is the phrase “I’ve found my tribe” or something along those lines.  It refers to finding those kindred spirits that you don’t have to explain yourself to.  The people of that right-wing, conservative school of thought used to be my tribe.  Not anymore, really.  I still love and respect them, they’re my brothers and sisters in a very real way.  They’re more like family than some of my actual family.  But, I’m not really one of them anymore.  So, I have to find a way to start over and integrate them into my new tribe.  Fun.