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Painting Pictures of Egypt

Lady LibertyA friend I have went to NYC recently and met up with a few friends. She explored the city, took lots of pictures, and seemed to have a blast.

Then I found myself thinking, “Why don’t I still live there, Lord? Why am I not there?”

Of all things, I wasn’t jealous because she was spending time with people she cared about nor was I jealous that she had a good time.

I was upset not because she was in New York but because I wasn’t.

How pathetic is that?

In recent months, I’ve been struggling with the issue of identity:

  • “Who am I?”
  • “Yes, I’m a Christian and need to find my identity in Jesus but what does that mean? It sounds so theoretical and abstract.”
  • “What does it mean to be Black in America?”
  • “Does race matter?”

I thought I’d let the New York thing go. It was a big struggle when I moved to Kentucky considering how much I hated Kentucky but I’ve been content in Philadelphia. So why do pictures of Manhattan and Brooklyn get me nostalgic for the days of going to NYU and attending my old church in the quaint section of Brooklyn Heights? Why? Would I trade what I have now (a husband who loves and cares for me) for what I had back then (single, depressed, no one)?

I’m a fool so I struggle with this.

I suppose what makes things harder is that the prospect of living in New York ever again is about as likely as the prospect of living in Kentucky again. Zero. I never loved Kentucky, I never grew up in Kentucky, Kentucky was never my home.

Sara Groves talks about “Painting Pictures of Egypt” and “leaving out what it lacked.” Perhaps I’m doing that with New York. When I think of living at NYU, I don’t think of the time I wandered dark alleyways at 2 or 3 am in the morning, hoping I’d get raped or murdered. I don’t think of how I frequently walked the Manhattan streets alone and lonely, eyeing couples and friends with jealousy because I possessed neither of those things. I simply think of the exhilarating feeling I’d get when I walked to class near Washington Square in the winter while flurries dropped just because I lived in New York.

  • I got high off of living in Manhattan. I love the city. Sure, it smells like pee but it’s a place I loved to call home.
  • I’m proud to tell people that I was born in Brooklyn and raised there for the first five years of my life.
  • I have a love for the Yankees that runs deep. No matter how bad they suck, they’re always World Champs in my heart. (On the contrary, I have a hatred for the Red Sox that runs deep.) 😉
  • My family, namely my mother and grandmother, live in New York and I miss them all so dearly.
  • I have friends from middle school that I talk to infrequently but still care about and miss spending time with.

If you asked me which city was the best in the world, I’d tell you New York. I just love that place.

However, I feel terrible because my friend was having a wonderful time visiting places and friends and the main emotion I could muster was jealousy. And like the fool I am, I had no words for her other than “I’m jealous.” Those words started out as a figure of speech but then evolved into actual jealousy. She didn’t warrant that. My sin and identity issues shouldn’t be her problem.

So it’s back to the drawing board yet again. For all my nostalgia, I’m putting my primary identity in the wrong thing. My primary identity is not native New Yorker. My primary identity is Christian. And whenever anything or anyone dethrones Christ; it’s wrong and it’s sin. And I need to repent.

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