Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Didn't See that Coming

Posted by Jack

I'm leaving my job, I tell them. I am leaving this job to go work in my neighborhood. I am taking a pay cut, giving up good hours. My own little Macedonian call. I am coming on over.

I fall madly in love with children and families. I feel, with as much clarity as feeling allows, that this is the place for me. I envision staying in this place for years, growing older and growing deeper into the neighborhood. 

And then, one day, I find it is time to leave.

No, not here. Somewhere else. Even though it sometimes feels like failure, even though it causes hurt, it is right. Now is not the time, and this is not the place.

Really? Can it be true? After being so sure this is where I am meant to be, I find I must go somewhere else?

I didn't see that coming. 

So, by "community garden," you mean that garden we planted while others watched? By "neighbors," you mean those folks who watch from a distant porch, the curious onlookers who we know by sight, but rarely by name?

And then, one day, we open up the door and find that a family has moved into the house behind us. We step out and find a curious little boy riding his bike in circles around us while we work in the garden.

We meet his mom, get to know them little by little. We begin to lose track of how many times the boy connects us in conversation, how many times he bridges a gap between us and neighbors we don't know, how often he becomes active with us and invites others in. He does it so naturally, and we fall in behind him, at ease in our play.

Looking at snakes, playing in the dirt, digging post holes for a garden fence, watering the garden (I mean squirting each other with the hose), eating popsicles and sharing fried chicken. And we can't forget playing baseball in the (formerly) abandoned lot next door. And the way he says "we" when he talks about the work taking place in the garden.

Then, one day, he comes knocking at the door, asking if we can come out to play. 

Really? Can it be true? After 3 and a half years of timid ventures and near-fruitless efforts, will it be a 7 year old boy who draws us deeper into the Kingdom? Will it be a child who leads us?

I didn't see that coming.

Don't you have any neighbors? You moved into the neighborhood to build community, but really there is no one around. To the east, an empty shell of a house. To the west, an empty lot. To the north, a desolate, weedy parking lot and a crumbling warehouse.

We spend several years getting off the ground, casting elaborate visions and plotting goodness. We tell countless people of our plans... what's that? Oh yes, it is a bit odd we have no immediate neighbors. Yes, our surroundings are somewhat less than ideal. Well, of course we want to build community, and of course it would be good to have more people nearby.  I suppose someone will see the community garden we've planted. I suppose someone would make use of a picnic shelter... or park... if we put it there.

[We are secretly somewhat dejected at our lack of neighborly contact. We are thankful for many good relationships and interactions, but in private, in the the vaults of our subconscious, we are wondering, "Did we really land in the right place?"] 

And then, one day, we open up the newspaper and see unprecedented movement, uncharted momentum. The abandoned warehouse across the street? Purchased by a ministry to the homeless. The future site of 26 apartments, homes for those who have nowhere to lay their head.

And on the other side, to the east? Beyond the empty house, two shaggy parcels of unused space. The future site of two doubles, homes for four more families.

Really? Can it be true? After moving into a barren wasteland, will a neighborhood spring up around us? Could it be true that we are building a park next door not for today, but tomorrow?

I didn't see that coming.

I think that is a phrase we should get used to. How many times in church history has such a phrase been uttered? How many times has the Creator surprised His people? How often has the Savior wowed us with inventive redemption, wooed us with the precision of His grace? And how many days more do we have in store, marveling at His unfolding goodness?

1 comment:

revbloise said...

Beautiful piece - a word from God for me and many others. I read it and feel like asking, "How did you know that about me?" Thank you for sharing!