Today is one that I want to make sure I remember, because I think the Lord did some simple yet seismic shifting in me and in Diane with regard to our ministry here. It began with a conversation with a friend of mine named Percy Strickland, and I was challenged and shaken by the way that he and his wife have given their lives to their neighborhood in inner-city Richmond (which makes Glenwood look like the Hamptons). I began to realize that in many ways Diane and I have changed our zipcode, but we have controlled how much our zipcode will change us. We determine when and how we will minister, and I feel that in some ways we may be choking what the Spirit wants to do in the name of our own comfort. I don't have time to flesh all this out, but suffice it to say, this does not feel like a shame or guilt-induced realization.
Then tonight we had a homeless woman stay with us (our church is working with her to find her a recovery home, and she needed a place to stay; we have been getting to know her for a while now and our home was the safest place for her), and Diane discovered anew how much she enjoys hosting and loving on people in need of care. The joy we had at having our friend here made us see that we wanted a more open home. Yet each of us, on the other hand, wants life to be orderly, controlled, neat. Diane and I each live that way, emotionally and in general, guarding ourselves from being too passionate, and as we talked, we realized that we wanted God to change us. We want to have hearts and lives (and doors) open to the things God has for us, not live self-protecting lives, guarding ourselves from harm. (And yes, there is a place for boundaries, we know). Diane asked God to give her a more radical heart, and I believe He will honor that desire. And so we prayed together (not something we do regularly), and we are asking God to reorient us, to give us new love and new joy in our ministry here.
And we are asking God to raise up a community of Believers here who will move in on our street and join us in "being neighbor." I don't think that we feel lonely in the same way that we used to - it used to be a self-righteous, "why just us", fearful lonely that we felt. Now it is a longing for fellowship and community wrapped in and around mission, with like-hearted families in the Body of Christ. And we are beliving God will send them here.
I think some things broke in us tonight, and we are moving towards openness to the Lord's agenda for us and our family here, and wherever He might take us. And I want to look back one day at this Ebenezer and remember, "Thus far has the Lord helped us."