When I read this*:
“…we should live missional lives…we should befriend people who are different from us…”
And“…he was talking about loving people just because they exist…”
And“…praying…that God would teach us…to notice people who needed to be loved.”
I thought,God is telling me to love people – people who may not meet all the bullet points on my check-off list. And I need to love them merely because they, like me, are beloved children of God, no other reason. And I need to be on the lookout for these people, to pray for the discernment to see their pain.
I believe,God is revealing the mission he has for me, the one he hinted at four or five years ago with the prayer vision of a sun-bleached, sawn-off tree stump, with a growing green shoot and the words, “You think you have reached the end. But I have a new direction for you.”
At the time, with our life settled, prosperous and happy, I wondered what the “end” was and what the new direction was to be. Now I believe I know: the end of me being reclusive and non-confrontational and the beginning of a journey of interaction.
When I think about it, it seems as if my spirit has been in secret communication with The Spirit, for I realize God has already implemented this plan, that God has been attuning me to people who need to be loved. And I have been a willing participant.
I have stepped out of my comfort zone in several instances to open or deepen a relationship with someone I would not normally be inclined toward. Many have been my co-workers; my employer’s place of business seems to be a clearing house for broken people. But there are others in my day-to-day life – neighbors, parents of my son’s friends, etc – to whom my standard rhetorical question, “How ya doin’?” no longer suffices.
And this has been happening for 3 or 4 months: I told one co-worker I was worried that she had given up on her health and sent her an inspiring video that showed God has no use for diagnoses like "You will never walk again." She responded positively to what I said, something that could have been mistaken as hurtful and vicious on my part. Another friend told me she was forgoing her college-education plans due to the expenses that were racking up faster than she anticpated - and I boldly told her, "It sounds like you are giving up on your dreams. Don't!"
Who is this guy with the big mouth?? The old me would never be so bold!
I’m surprised to say I am “hungry” to extend myself toward others. How ironic that God has replaced my hunger for unhealthy food with a hunger for human interaction with people I would normally stroll past, tossing out a circumspect up-nod as I hurried past.
Two days ago I actually approached a co-worker whom I had avoided for two years, and shared a personal story – running, weight loss and goals for endurance running. This led to a surprising and warm conversation between us and ended with an encouraging word for both of us.
I knew several hours before it happened that I was being directed to initiate the conversation. I even tried to procrastinate, secretly hoping he would leave for the day before I followed my direction.
But follow the instructions, I did. And it felt good and right and, most important, obedient. Obedient to this scripture (which announced itself loudly the following morning while I was searching out a different one):
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
I recently had a long talk with God and named and gave him all my fears. I don't know if this one - Fear of Meaningful Interaction with People I Barely Know - was specifically addressed in that discussion. But apparently he opted to include it in the scrubbing. Which is good, as this feels like it could be a bumpy ride. Wish me Godspeed!
*Thank you Donald Miller for bringing these gems to my eyes in your book, “Blue Like Jazz”.