One of the things that I am getting asked by people who know that we live near the shooting sight is whether or not it makes me afraid to live in Glenwood, and honestly, it doesn’t. I figure that the shooting was an isolated incident, targeted at a specific person, not a random act of violence (although reading the newspaper article does give me pause). In some ways it bothers me how little the incident shook me and makes me wonder if I am losing compassion. I mean, the incident would have shaken me if it had affected my family or someone I knew, but instead it was a stranger on the other side of the street. Am I calloused in my heart? In some ways, I feel the same about the incident with my friend “B” – I am sad for all that has happened to him, but the incident didn’t make me afraid. It was tied to someone breaking into one of his rental units that was not lived in. The mugging at the store didn’t bother me because I know not to go down there at 11:00 at night. But I don’t want to harden my heart to protect against fear (because fear can rule me) and miss having compassion on those who are being affected.
I am also asked if it makes my wife afraid to live in Glenwood, and from all that she has told me, it doesn’t. Sure, she had twinges of that when she thinks about the kids and wonders about things like stray bullets even if an incident does not directly involve us. But nowhere is completely safe. Not the suburbs. Not the school. Not the mall. Not a university campus. There is an illusion of safety, an illusion that we can protect ourselves 100% from harm and fear, but that’s a lie. God alone holds our lives in His hands and He alone numbers our days.
I know the power of fear. For the first year or two in Glenwood, it was all I could do to walk my dog or visit the local park. I still struggle with being a fearful person, when left to my own devices apart from Christ. But there is a love that is bigger than fear and a calling that is greater than self-protection or protecting our children from the world. If we as Christians really believe that Christ is THE way; that He alone is God; that people are lost without Him; that He truly loves each and every person; and that He truly loves us and will supply all that we need, then shouldn’t that move us through fear, past fear, into places where we are forced to trust Him.
I don’t necessarily believe that God is calling all Christians to live in a neighborhood like Glenwood. But I do believe that He is calling more than the few families that I know of living there. The time for Christians to take radical steps of faith, to live with eternity in mind, is now. It is not time to wait for “those people” who are called to “that ministry.” It is time to put aside fears, which are very real feelings, and embrace faith with courage and dependence. This can be ministering to the poor; it can be sharing your faith with a neighbor or co-worker; it can be taking a stand for Christ even if it costs you money or standing in business. Fear needs to take a backseat to faith.
Near the end of a movie called “The Second Chance”, an affluent white pastor who has relocated to a poor inner-city church is leading the hymn “On Chris the Solid Rock I Stand”, and he says, “I wanted to serve God as long as I could stay comfortable, stay where it was safe. But comfort is sinking sand. Safety is sinking sand.”
I am not sure how this reads to someone outside of Glenwood. Does it seem like an angry rant? Does it seem like I am bitter? My heart doesn’t feel any of those things as I write. I do feel a prophetic passion to see more people step out of the sinking sand of comfort, people like my friends the Browns, who left a large house way outside of town to move into Glenwood with their two children. Now they deal with homeless folks coming to the door needing money, with power tools being stolen from the shed, with being misunderstood by their friends, and with the joy of meeting Jesus in the midst of trusting Him. There is joy in the margins; I see it most every day. I apologize for my second really long post. Sometimes it just pours out of me.