Things in my life always seem to come at me over time. Like wave after wave rolling onto the shore, the repetition finally seeping in to my soul.
I’m a stubborn girl who thinks she knows best most of the time and I need the pounding waves on my rocky shores to smooth me slowly and repeatedly and over much time.
I’m sure you learn the first time. I’m sure you listen when others speak. I know for sure that you perk up your ears and change your ways immediately at the words of Jesus.
I wish I did. But alas, I’m slow to learn and slower to change. I need a repeat button in my life and I’m unendingly grateful that the Lord offers me one in His ever-so-gracious and patient way. (I could definitely take some parenting tips from his ways…)
The lesson over time has been an easy one to hear and a hard one to put into practice. It’s so simple to listen to the words saying that we should love our neighbour, but right alongside the expert in the law, the self-justifier, the one who wants to be let off the hook easy I say, “But who is my neighbour?”
I can convince myself that my family is most important and loving my husband well comes first. I can speak of time pressures at work and how that’s an important ministry in itself. And yet all of these, while right and noble, don’t let us off the hook when it comes to Jesus specific words. His second command. On one side we have that we are to Love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. And right cozied up next to those words, which we deem all important, are the words love your neighbour.
John Piper, who always says things excellently had this to say,
The second commandment seems to me to be an overwhelming commandment. It seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety and health and success and happiness I now feel for that 0ther person as though they were me.
That’s a little hard to hear for a self driven culture and my self driven….well, self.
I started praying for our neighbourhood months ago. I know by now that I ought to be careful what I pray for because often times we’re actually given what we ask. We don’t know our neighbours. We’re the newbies on the block. No one really introduced themselves when we moved in and we just sort of fell into our small streets ways of mind your own bees wax and just waving sort of cordially as we pass each other.
So I prayed. That was the first thing. What stirred my heart for this was just my normal bible reading. The words leaping off the page and moving my heart and causing me to think about how we’re operating with those who live, literally, right beside us.
Then I was sent a book. Shannan Martin’s words in these precious pages she’s written cut daggers into my heart, made me cry quiet tears and at times left me feeling sucker punched. She holds no bars and yet she is gracious and kind.
I read words like this;
Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted is the very drumbeat of my soul, that in God’s eternal kingdom where down is actually up, His more for us often looks like less.
I sat and wrote it all down, the pain, the relief, the rescue and the freedom. I pleaded for the courage to tell the truth about finding the life I was created for in the rubble of the one that had kindly been dismantled, beam by beam. It turns out, we weren’t made to want what the world craves.
This is my back-alley redemption story, and we continue to grow and fail. We over-complicate and default to pride. We commit the most cringe-worthy faux pas in the history of ever while standing in our kitchen trying so hard (too hard!) to “love” our neighbor. (< spoiler alert) But when we run hard toward the pain around us, we discover more of the foolish love of God, who owed us none of these unexpected gifts, but gave them anyway.
Her words were the second or third wave of what Christ has been teaching me. They came at a perfect time. That perfect time is in the midst of this housing market boom where people are selling and buying and snapping up whatever they can to hold their family. It’s been a bit crazy around here and 3 of the houses right in our little space have new neighbours moving in.
I feel God giving us a do-over. I feel him saying – you’ve been praying for this neighbourhood and for ways to love your neighbours. Well, guess what – you aren’t the new kids on the block anymore but all of these new families are. What are you going to do about it?
What AM I going to do about it?
Wave 16 or 17 came this morning from our church that we love so much. As our pastor from Pakistan spoke about cultural barriers we erect in our minds that tend to justify why we don’t engage our neighbours. The ways we let ourselves off the hook in terms of what Jesus is calling us to.
We don’t speak the same language, or we don’t cook the same foods. How can we communicate when our lives are so different and there are no connecting points to be seen for miles? Surely God can’t expect us to engage there? That’s too hard, we whine.
I remind myself that God didn’t say to do it if it was easy. He said to do it. Period.
So we’re praying and we’re bracing ourselves for all of the awkwardness that we’ll exude on these unsuspecting neighbours once they start to move their life onto this cul de sac. We’re having discussions with our kids at how weird it’ll feel to walk over and say hi. We are a heaping pile of ridiculousness in our house, with the social graces of a gold fish. We rush to the edge of our bowl, let out a few bubbles and then just stare cause that’s all we’ve got.
So we walk forward, and I’m sure we’ll mess it up, and we feel completely like we wish someone else could do it but if we believe what we believe then we believe that Jesus said to love and so love we will. Our literal neighbours. Because what better place to start?
We don’t know what that looks like yet but we’re buckling up for the journey, because I have no doubt we’re about to learn!
*Shannan Martin has offered my readers the gift of one of her books. One of you will get to be the recipient of her new (not yet out) book; Falling Free. I wish I could give one to ALL of you and we could have a big ‘ol book club about it but one is the deal for now.
To enter, just leave me a comment along with your email so I can contact you! Tell me why you want the book, or a story of an #awkwardneighbourmoment or what you had for breakfast today! I don’t care. Just let me know you want it and I hope I pull your name for the win!
If you don’t win, you can pre-order Shannan’s book here.
**Contest ends Sunday September 10, 2016.
***Winner will be drawn and notified Monday September 11, 2016.