We flipped houses until the housing market flopped. Then, we were stuck with a house on North Seneca Street that proved unable to be sold.
It was a former model home that had been damaged by an internal fire. We blew off the ashes, ran new trusses, and restored the house from top to bottom. Our dream was to move it to a quiet, serene, and quiet lot that was quiet in the quiet country. In the end, we couldn’t find a lot, not any lot, much less a quiet one.
The realtor called us with our only option, after multiple possibilities had fallen through: a lot on north Seneca St. We agreed out of necessity and under a time-crunch, knowing it would now be impossible to both repair the house and sell it for any profit; we’d have to move in.
The week we decided to make it our new home, we read three police reports about our new neighborhood – for drug-dealing, a shooting, and a stabbing. We, along with watching family and friends, wondered at our wisdom in moving into such a supposed dangerous part of town.
The truth is this: we later learned that shooting was a BB gun from an unsuspecting kid playing around. The stabbing was with a pen during a domestic dispute. The drugs? Well, they were real, but that’s another (ongoing) story. Moral of the story is that this neighborhood is busy, yes, but it’s not dangerous. It’s home.
But, at the time, moving in felt like a huge stretch outside our comfort zone. And, stepping out is scary. Every choice to interact outside of our familiar surroundings requires some courage and bravery.
Being a bridge-builder means stomping down some insecurity and fear on the way over to extend a hand and a smile.
And we need to do just that – not for “their” good, but for our own good.
Friends, if we cease to engage with people who challenge our mentalities, our perspectives will shrink and atrophy, like my daughter’s quad muscle after 3 weeks in a leg brace. If we aren’t stretching ourselves and pushing our brains to open to new ideas, cultures, and points of view, our thinking muscles start tightening up around narrow concepts and “how it used to be” and “in my personal experience.”
The greatest threat to bridge-builders is not language barriers. It’s not differences in political opinions. It’s not one’s lifestyle choices or amount of time required or belief system.
I believe the ominous trap for those committed to building relationships and making the Gospel tangible in everyday lives is this: a narrow and fear-based mindset.
It nearly kept us off Seneca Street, the community that’s become like family to us.
It can keep us from taking new steps.
It justifies pulling in the garage, locking the doors, and never engaging with people around us.
It keeps us fixated on safety and preservation rather than faith and development.
It keeps us hanging on every word the media says rather than looking in another’s eyes and listening to a true story.
It keeps us circling the same social circles with people who look like us, think like us, worship God like us, talk like us, have stories like us, and eat foods like us.
It keeps churches looking monochromatic and eating perpetual potlucks of casseroles and jello salads (with marshmallows, please) instead of egg rolls or tamales or injera.
It fosters hate instead of love, and defensive rather than welcoming hearts.
But the Gospel is for all and for every. And, it’s supposed to come alive in this world through us. Christians, we are called to be among the most friendly, most caring, most welcoming creatures breathing on this planet. Why? Because we recognize what’s at stake, and if what we proclaim about the Gospel is true at all, it should be good news to the outsiders and strangers and lost among us.
Challenge yourself: How many new individuals have your welcomed into your home and life recently? Or, how many individuals who are profoundly different than you do you maintain a friendship with? Do you see the world from another’s point of view often? Do you put yourself in a setting where you can hear true stories that challenge your thinking? How often do you interact with those of supposed lower socio-economic status than you, those of other nationalities, or those whose lifestyles create tension in you?
Keep stretching, friends. It’s worth it.
Only then can our minds begin to handle the full, wide-screen picture of our Heavenly Father who created nation after nation after nation containing hosts of unique individuals, in His image and for His glory.
For more reading on this subject, here is a post from October 2014:
“Do they ALL have to come in, Mom?!”
“There will NEVER be enough cake!”
“Dad!!! She’s letting everyone in!” A couple of my kids were stage-whispering to us, a mixture of frantic and frustrated.
And, there was the birthday girl – twirling and dancing in the middle of the room with open arms, her best opera voice singing out, “Let them in! Let them all in!”
Well, it was her party, so her choice.
She didn’t want a sleepover or to invite any school or church friends, just “all her neighbor friends in for cake.” Cake is a big deal around here, the standard for neighborhood birthday parties.
So, we compromised and had everyone in for cake, just for cake. Then, everyone had to go back outside to play…
And, yes, the stage-whisperers were the door-holders and ushers on the way out.
So, what’s the point of this post?
Well, I could put up some happy pictures of a birthday party and lead you all to believe that everyone was equally celebrating inside. But, the truth is, this setting and lifestyle challenges all of us – and that includes my kids:
The introvert is learning to be stretched as well as the necessity and benefit of quiet space. The crowd-lover is learning to stand up against (daily) peer pressure. The social butterflies are learning about healthy boundaries and choosing friends wisely. Dad and Mom are learning about the beauty of both opening and shutting the door regularly. And, we are all learning about how to live out compassion and sacrifice and hospitality in His strength.
We are always on a journey around here – but one I would never change (well, not typically anyway).
So, enjoy the pictures today. After all, it was a great birthday, splattered with laughter and joy and smears of cake icing.
But, just know, behind the scenes is a real family with unique individuals and personalities that God is at work redeeming for His glory – just like yours.
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.