Tag Archives: value

The Hard Work of Being Neighbors

 

On November 9,the day after the Presidential election I woke up to a raw reality.

A tidal wave of voices-loud, vulnerable, celebratory, discouraged, respectful, disrespectful, urban, rural, old, young, male, female-washed over our shared land of Earthly citizenship.  The feelings of divisiveness that had been bubbling below the surface for so long exploded. Americans of every political perspective spoke: some through words, others through actions. And running through it all was a question that lurked in the hearts of all: Does my narrative matter-to anyone?

The Pharisees challenged Jesus with this question: What is the Greatest Commandment?

Jesus gave an unexpected answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength and Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Pharisees themselves didn’t fully grasp the implications of their own question.

We don’t often grasp them either.

How can you love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t see your neighbor as yourself?

You see, for the past year, opinions, pleas, conversations have flooded social media, workplaces, social gatherings. There are lots of voices and not all of them are audible.  But does anyone really listen?

It’s much easier to reduce people to labels and perceptions that keep people at a distance.

Listening takes work. Especially when passions are at play.

Many times, our passions are viewed in the context of our narratives.  The problem is that our narratives are not complete. We are still living them. There are more experiences that will shape us, new information that will challenge us and people that we need to encounter-that will further expand our perceptions of what it means to be Americans; as well as fellow Creations of our God.

Investing in others’ lives takes work

Lauren Winner writes about the spiritual practice of hospitality in her book Mudhouse Sabbath. She writes, “God’s creation gives us a model for making and sharing homes with people, but the reality of God’s Trinitarian life suggests that Christian hospitality goes further than that. We are not meant simply to invite people into our homes, but also to invite them into our lives.”

Further,Winner suggests that the invitation happen in the context of our messiness; not when we think we have our “home” orderly,

That, my friends, requires vulnerability. Letting go of the walls of our cause and standing in the same space. Acknowledging that at our core-we our both humans-created in the Image of God. We come bearing our imperfections and our common longings for validation.

It’s easy to love neighbors like ourselves

When we feel misunderstood, we tend to look for comfort in those who share our views.  We long for someone to listen and validate our pain and hopefully our identity as we see it. But when we engage in those interactions, we must be aware that there is a bigger narrative at work. One that involves the stories of people different than us.

To love neighbors as ourselves, demands movement into places of discomfort, vulnerability, and risk. Because that is what we long for from others.

The show “Breaking Borders” (Travel Channel) brilliantly challenges us to come to the table-a symbol of community-and know your neighbor. Really. By Listening, Restraining the temptation to exert control with words. Hearing each other’s stories. Asking questions. Understanding that perspective is shaped by our personal stories.

Who would have thought that Israelite settlers and Palestinians living in the West Bank could engage in civil conversation on the politics of homeland? But it happened. Despite disagreements.  Sharing stories and breaking bread together remove walls. We recognize that most of “those” people are really like us.

Loving our neighbor can only come about through recognizing that Jesus makes it happen. Even if our neighbors don’t know him. He’s the root of our love.

God ordained love. The kind that transforms the way we see each other through our Earthly lens. Love that is born out of the Holiness of God’s character. Sacrificial love as described in 1 John 4:7-9.

Navigating through these tumultuous waters is not easy, friends. Can we covenant to doing the hard work together? To venture into those sacred spaces as we are led? And to be willing to be transformed in the process?

 

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Why I Grieved When My Son’s Friend Moved Away

As my son settled himself into the car seat next to me, his face told me what I had hoped wasn’t a reality.

His friend had moved away. Without notice.

My heart sank.

For him. For Matt. And for me.

You see, my youngest, is in middle school. It’s a season of so many changes: adjusting to six teachers from one, expectations from school that you are now a “big” kid and must take on more responsibilities. Yet, for many, their bodies look no different than they did when they were considered “little kids” two years ago. Furthermore, social circles are in flux. Figuring out who is really by your side becomes a challenge.

My son is described by many to be kind, funny, smart. He is respectful to all but chooses friends carefully. He’s not a group friend kind of guy. He prefers a few close buddies with whom he can trust his innermost thoughts and feel comfortable being his “out of the box” self. So when he shared with me, on that day before Spring Break, that he thought it odd that Matt wasn’t at school and had turned in his science book the day before, we both faced the reality that Matt was moving. And thoughts began trickling into each of our brains and sadness crept into our hearts.

I didn’t know Matt as well as my son did, but what I did know I liked. He shared a child-like innocence in a world where kids are pressured to grow up too fast. Although they didn’t spend much time together outside school, they were part of the rhythm of each other’s day.

It’s what makes getting through those mundane moments tolerable. It’s what gives you reason to go to school or work when you wake up tired and don’t really want to forge through the day.

I grieve not only for my son, but for Matt as well. I know that this move is not the first one. He met my son when he moved here five years ago. His life involves frequent adjustment-new home, new friends, visits between his custodial parent and non-custodial parent.

I grieve because I had hoped to invite he and his mom further into our lives. And it didn’t happen soon enough.

What will happen to him now? Will he befriend kids who will challenge him to be his best self?

The experience echoes similar situations our family has experienced along the way. Several other kids who have graced our lives for a bit and then moved on. I’m not gonna lie-often these are the same kids who can push my (and my kids) buttons. My own kids do that sometimes. But often times, the brokenness in these kids that draws me to them can manifest in ways that can make relationships hard: acting out, lack of social boundaries, different value systems. Yet, somehow in the midst of those tensions, there is a yearning to let God’s deep love seep out of me. They must be reminded of their have value and purpose. Always.

Fortunately, some of those kids have crossed our paths again. Technology, can be a gift in that way. But others, have gone off the radar. I can only hope in the one who knows them far more than I.

“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are continually before me.” Isaiah 49:16

I know that my prayers for God’s intervention in their lives are not left unheard.

And that is what we do now. Knowing that my long distance desires for Matt’s well-being are heard by our God who is near him. Believing that there are others who will now walk alongside him.

But it doesn’t make me or my son miss him less.

My son has texted a couple times with Matt and of, course, my heart’s desire is that it continues. But, that’s not a given. For now, we relish the moments we had to walk life together with him and hand him over to the One who even knows the number of hairs on his head. But his name will never leave my head….or my heart.