Thursday, February 4, 2016

What These Streets Need


On Sunday morning, we walked out to our car to discover papers and CDs strewn all over the passenger seat.  My first thought was annoyance.  "Aaron left something on my seat again!" Then, remembering we'd been out late the night before and Aaron would have had no time between then and now to rifle through the glovebox, I realized someone had been in our car.  We hadn't locked it, so whoever it was didn't have to enter forcibly, but they took the fortuity of an open door to dig into our glovebox and trunk and to swipe the odd change in the cup holder.  

It's not the first time we've had something stolen from our carport.  The last item was of considerable more worth than my quarter for Aldi.  But this instance rankled me more, so much so that my concentration during church was shot.  As we sang, I thought about how maybe I wanted to build a privacy fence instead of a picket fence.  Getting to know our neighbors be darned.  During the sermon, I worried our house would be ransacked while we sat placidly in rows.

It's hard to love your neighbor when your heart is full of fear.


Two little girls live next door to us.  A vivid assortment of plastic toys dot their front yard, dropped, forgotten, never corralled back into order.  I have seen a portion of the heartache that happens behind that white siding, and yet still, I begrudge the trash that drifts over into our yard.  Nearly every day when the school bus drops off the oldest girl, she runs to our front porch and knocks on the door.  If I tell her that we can't play today, she wallops on the glass until I am afraid it will break.  The days she comes in, she wants every snack in our cupboard and tells my daughter we do not have enough toys.

As the clock inches to three every afternoon, I feel anxiety rise up in my chest.  I know the bang, bang, bang on our door is coming.  I don't want to give up my quiet afternoon to referee toy quarrels. I don't have time to be a vending machine; there is laundry to do!

It's hard to love your neighbor when your heart is full of resentment.  

 If I showed you the unedited script of my mind, you would find a wish that we could move our charming old house to a nice, new neighborhood, where the inhabitants are soundly middle class.  No needy children hanging around.  Alarm systems aplenty.  You would find desires to hide, impulses to insulate, plans to retreat.  You would uncover so many, many things that are not who I want to be, not who Jesus asks me to be.

This is the thing about who Jesus asks us to be - it's simultaneously so simple and so difficult.  It's simple because the complex labyrinth of law is gone.  To please the heart of God we need only concern ourselves with two things.  Love the Lord your God.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

It's hard because love requires denial, sacrifice, surrender.  It's hard because I really, really love myself and the things I want.  When love inevitably asks of me to give someone else that same attention, time, and care, I resist.

We moved into this neighborhood because we got a neat house for a steal.  We had hopes that our renovation would spur on other spiff-ups, that ours would be the first in a series of street updates. "Look here!  Your house has potential too!"  But, instead, God is using our neighborhood to remodel my heart.  Moving a beam here, opening up a room there, showing me the truth of the castles I'm prone to build: plenty of room for me and little for Him.

I want a pretty bungalow and a undisturbed life, and yet Jesus reveals my ambition is not nearly enough.  It's a respectable block of land I have my sight set on, and He's building a Kingdom without end.  I unroll the blueprint, and I find the plans are scribbled top to bottom with one instruction - to love, love, love the people around me straight into His waiting arms.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much Lara! I totally understand what you mean! I love that phrase, "God is using our neighborhood to remodel my heart", and that's a beautiful thing.

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