“Yeah, but I’m not sure it’s really anything,” I told my friend over the phone. She is one of those people who asks how she can be praying for me – and means it. She wanted to know about our neighborhood, and the kids who were coming over, and how she could pray for us. The year was 2010.
“Yes, it is something, Anne. God is doing something,” she said.
And, I remember that crisis moment well. I was standing in my room, looking out my window – looking for answers, for reasons. I didn’t know how to respond to her. Those days, I was a mix of passion and doubt, depending on the moment. Sometimes the vision was as clear as yesterday, and other times random thoughts would ricochet in my head – What are we doing? And why? Will this even matter? Maybe we’re making something of nothing? What if it’s not God’s will at all? What if it all fails?
I was glad we were talking on the phone so she couldn’t see my face and the tears of frustration.
I was thinking of the 20 or more kids who would fill my lawn and house after school each day, and the local university students who had started volunteering out of our home to read books and play games with the kids. It was the most unusual, organic scene of different worlds in beautiful collision. But, was it something? And, I was thinking of our decision of whether or not to leave for Mexico or to stay in Storm Lake and do the unthinkable: be missionaries here in our own town in order to keep doing this.
But, we didn’t have any names for this yet, whatever this was.
Because, really, we were just being. We were living in our neighborhood, showing up day after day and becoming friends with the people around us. It hardly seemed noteworthy. It hardly seemed like a reason to ask for her prayers.
In those beginning days, I had to be weaned from my own addiction to emotional highs and programs and mountain tops. I needed to learn the value of being present.
Because relational bridges are formed with plank after plank of being present.
The Bible-word is incarnational. It means Jesus, God Almighty wrapped up in bones and muscles, came close and dwelled here, among us. He lived and loved up close. He looked into eyes, rested his arm on shoulders, and walked alongside. Emmanuel. God with us. And that’s why there is something divine about moving in, settling in, and being present for the sake of making the Gospel tangible.
But, the art of being present is one that takes practice and training.
Being present isn’t just idle time, it’s intentional time.
It’s asking for divine purpose to illuminate the ordinary in such a way that the grocery line and the park date and the classroom and the cubicle – and the front porch – are inspired and surrendered canvases on which God can display His beauty.
In what spaces and times can you be present? Offer those everyday and routine moments for His greater purpose. Bridge-builders are committed to learning the art of being present – for the sake of relationships and because of the One who became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
May we see His glory.
For additional reading on this topic, here is a post from April 2014:
“Your house smells weird!” He dramatically shook his head and crinkled his nose.
I agreed. “Yea, it smells different than yours, huh?”
I didn’t rush to open a window or light a candle. He was right. My place doesn’t smell like his. In fact it’s so different, it must be “weird” to his eight-year old nose.
As I’ve lived and worked among various cultures, I have come to recognize the unique smell of each; we all tend to cook certain types of foods, use certain cleaning products, prefer certain fragrances over others, etc. It’s obvious. And, it’s apparent even to the children.
Although I think my house smells like home, to another, it’s just plain weird.
There was a moment last summer when I sat at my counter, exhausted. That day, I had been in and out of the homes here, held the babies, ate the food offered, played with the kids. After an emotional day of ups and downs, there at the counter I buried my head in my arms. And, on my skin I could smell the smell of the families here in my neighborhood.
But, it was no longer “weird.”
In fact, in some way, the scent seemed rightly placed, for finally there was outside evidence of what my heart was carrying.
And, I pictured Jesus, in the midst of a mob of people. They were pushing to get close to Him, wanting to touch Him. He drew them close, especially the children, and held them on His lap. He loved them up-close.
And, he must have carried their scent on His body.
Can love be any other way?
How I relish the idea of watching from my window some days; loving up-close brings pain untold. Yet, that day God reminded my tired heart that it’s not really love at all if it doesn’t change me, affect me, even linger on me.It’s not really love at all if it doesn’t change me, affect me, even linger on me Click To Tweet
Without love, it’s just a charity project.
You can walk away from a project, or check it off your to-do list, or record its effectiveness in statistics. You can fall asleep at night without remembering the faces. You can talk about “making a difference” and “impacting lives” without realizing it is you who has been impacted and it is you who is different. In a charity project, you only see the lack, the poverty – for you must focus on the deficiency, or your service wouldn’t be needed.
Love stays close. It walks through life hand-in-hand. It can’t be measured or photographed. It blurs the line between the giver and the receiver, until it’s just one circle. It puts an arm around another – not a hand out or a hand up. It’s not just a warm feeling. Love sees the worth, the contributions, and the value of every life. It leaves you grateful and humbled. And real love, the kind that lays down one’s life for a friend, only comes from God; Jesus loved until it hurt.
I was comforted in that moment at my counter, with the sounds of kids playing on my porch, to know He knows. Jesus knows far better than I do about the beauty and the pain of being so close to other humans that you carry their essence with you – on your skin and in your heart.
This post was shared with The High Calling community link-up.
This month’s series is on being a bridge-builder. In short, it’s about how to be like certain individuals who let God show up in their words and deeds and forever changed our little family. But, it’s not a series about our story; it’s as series about how Redemption made our story useful, even valuable, in a greater story.
If Jay and I know anything about being a bridge-builder, it’s because we were the ones stuck on an island. If we understand anything about the power of meeting people where they are and standing in the gap, it’s because that’s how we were rescued – by God, through average people.