The First Step...

("Being Real" Warning: Ugly Heart Exposure Ahead)


It is so easy to type blog posts, post Facebook statuses, teach Sunday School lessons, and have discussions with my children about reaching out to those around us, and being the hands and feet of Jesus to the world.  

 It's so easy to pray about and dream about and get excited about world missions.  

It's so easy for all of that to be no more than words on a page, talk without actions. 

I've mentioned our neighbors before...the ones who drive me crazy with their loud music, kids in the street, fireworks, and shouted obscenities.  The ones who've made sirens and emergency vehicles commonplace on our block.  The ones we've tried to help before, and gotten a death threat in return.    Yeah.  Those neighbors. 

So...we've been praying for our neighbors.  If we forget, Gracie reminds us.  I've been praying, myself, for our neighbors.  Praying for wisdom, and love, and opportunities to reach out in what is a really touchy situation (and waaaay outside my comfort zone!)  

I've been working on some blog posts this week, trying to get a jump on things and keep it more current.  In the process of that, I've been reading, thinking, praying, writing about missions...around the world and in our own backyard...and loving others.  I've had these two posts up in my tabs for days:

In the midst of trying to finish a blog post, making lunch plans, trying to help the kids find some lost (and crucially important) screws, starting a load of laundry, and settling sibling squabbles, there is a knock at our door.  My first thought was, "Maybe if I ignore it, they'll go away."  

I know...I know.  I warned you...being real.  But with four kids and two dogs, there's no way of ignoring a knock at the door, so I got up and looked out the door to see...the neighbor boy.  I figured he wanted to use the phone.   I hoped not...I didn't want to have to stand out in the heat with him while he used it.  

Yeah.  Real.  My heart is pretty ugly sometimes.  

But no...not the phone.  His mom needed a jump.  Ahh...whew!  I explain that Billy has the jumper cables in the car...at work....all the while thinking "That's a relief!"  

My relief was short-lived.  They had the jumper cables...they just needed my van for the jump.  Great.  I know nothing about jumping a battery (yes, my dad did teach me when I was 16, but I've never jumped a battery since, and my brain is having trouble computing how many years that's been, much less remembering the "how tos" of jumper cables. :-/ ), and what if something happens to my van while they are jumping theirs?  And...it's hot out there.  And...I'm busy.  And...frankly, I just don't want to get involved.  

All this went through my mind in a split second, along with a panicked "How do I get out of this???"  

At the end of that split second, I was overcome with conviction.  

I pray for opportunities to reach out...I pray for open doors...I pray for God to use me as the hands and feet of Jesus to our neighbors.

And then when He answers that prayer with a tiny little foot-in-the-door opportunity...I balk.  I'm too busy, it's too hot, I don't want to get involved.  

As I'm repenting of my ugly, selfish heart, I say to the boy..."Hold on a second...let me get my keys..."  I straighten my hair a bit, head out the door, and breathe a quick prayer for safety...for myself and for the van.   

The woman looks apologetic.  "The kids left the doors open while they went around back to feed the dogs...I'm sorry to bother you, but I can't get it to start."   I smile, say, "No problem," and go back across the street to move my van around.  As I'm starting mine, I hear a quick honk.  I look over, and the man who lives in the house has the hood up...and her van is running.  She shrugs her shoulders and smiles sheepishly.  I open the door to the van and say, "Did you get it running?"  (Umm, yeah, that was pretty obvious, but my sharp brain can't seem to come up with anything more intelligent to say at that point.)    

As I walk back across the street, the man continues to poke around under the hood, while the woman sits behind the wheel saying, "I don't know what happened...I tried and tried a while ago, and then it just started right up."  

She says thank you, and I tell her to let me know if she has any more trouble.  I cross the street for the fourth time in less than 5 minutes to go back to my lunch plans, lost screws, and laundry.  As I walk across the hot asphalt, I wonder about the whole episode.  A tiny blip in my day, but a major change in my heart and my attitude.  I don't know that it had any impact on the neighbor at all.  I didn't share the Gospel with her, I didn't even help her jump her van.  Our contact wasn't really enough to even consider it getting a foot in the door.  

But...maybe the whole thing wasn't for my neighbor's benefit.  Maybe it was for mine.  Maybe I needed to see the ugliness of my heart for what it is.  Maybe I needed to see how wide the gap is between my words and my actions.  Maybe I needed the reminder that love is not a warm fuzzy feeling...and it isn't even a heart that gets all stirred up about the subject of missions.  Love is being willing to stop and do...being open to interruptions...knocking down the walls of my comfort zone.  

Maybe I needed to be reminded that the first step in "taking risks for the glory of God" may be a heart ready to help my neighbor jump her van, and that love may start with being willing to walk across the street in the heat.  

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'  And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:37-40

Joining up with Ann for Walk with Him Wednesdays, about the practice of love this week...


Kecia said...

Ouch! Good reminder.

t marie said...

Beautifully said friend.