June 27, 2020
Recently, someone came to my home for an appropriately social distanced and masked meeting. The person had never met me or been to my home before. When he arrived, he was a bit tentative about which door to go to – the front or the side – as he told me later. His uncertainty gave me pause; both doors were opened in welcome. So why was he uncertain? I decided not to ask. I didn’t want to embarrass him…or me, if the truth be known!
Still, after the meeting, the man’s uncertainty still bothered me. Why hadn’t he been comfortable just coming to one of the doors and knocking? I have a friendly house, a well-cared for yard, my dogs were inside. So what was the problem….?
The problem was that I didn’t know there was a problem. I usually enter and leave my home through the garage and don’t use those walkways, so everything seems fine to me! But today, I decided to understand the problem; my answer was right under my feet!
The walkways are 25 years old – a father/children project back in the day – made of nice brick pavers. Over the years, tree roots pushed some of the pavers out of place; in other places, trees had been cut down and little sinkholes appeared where roots once were; moss and weeds grew in the spaces between the pavers….but I never noticed! No wonder the man didn’t know how to reach the ‘welcoming’ porch, no matter how well mowed the lawn was, no matter great the flowerbeds look and how well pruned the bushes are, getting to the doors and receiving a welcome was a challenge!
Just because a walkway is constructed perfectly in the past, doesn’t mean it will stay that way! Welcoming walkways take work. It was time to pull weeds, reposition pavers, and fill in sinkholes.
While I was doing the work, I started thinking.
As much as COVID-19 has been a time of chaos and isolation, it has also be a time for working on those things that have been neglected and get things back the way God intended the to be – during this time we are experiencing the revelation of lots of weeds, broken pavers, and sinkholes in our lives and in the world!
These conditions exist across the board, but in order to contribute to the whole, I need to first pay attention to the parts of my life I have neglected and are now in need of work. I recalled King David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24. Can I pray that prayer?
At first, I thought:
- I am a pretty friendly person
- I try to be a ‘good helper’
- I try to follow the spiritual disciples and develop the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) (that whole patience piece is definitely the most challenging right now!)
- Lastly, I’m a Christian, for goodness sake! Surely there are no weeds in my life……no broken pavers and sinkholes…!
And then I remembered the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18 and again in 1 Corinthians 15:2, when he talks about being saved and God’s continued work in us. Who we are in Christ is an ongoing processed! Philippians 2:12 speaks of working out our salvation.
Just because we are ‘good people,’ helpful people,’ ‘Christian people’ doesn’t mean it’s a one and done. We will always be a work in progress!
Our lives are intended to be a work defined by the nature of God’s love – and to live that life takes a whole lot of work! We may know this in our heads, but somewhere along the way, we just stopped noticing those unloving places within us that need the work!
I know that sometimes I no longer see those unloving places within myself. I stop noticing, if not consciously then surely subconsciously, lack of notice can sure make a person self-righteous and self– satisfied (notice the emphasis on self rather than God)!
So… what questions come to mind if I am willing to walk around inside myself and take a hard look? Well…
- Who do I most want others to see me with? The cool kids – or all kids?
- When I am with folks who ‘might not be like me,’ am I always grateful for their company, or do I think smugly to myself how lucky they are that I give them some of my precious time?
- How do I respond to points of view different from my own? When was the last time I was able to sit around a Thanksgiving table (or any table!) and lovingly discuss controversial topics?
- When have I chosen extreme reactions surrounding challenging circumstances rather than doing the work that reasoned, loving dialogue and consensus building with a focus on a united future requires?
- How uncomfortable is it to move into a different, more loving and unified future while leaving the comfortable, albeit dysfunctional, past behind?
- How often do I make excuses for not doing anything about those weeds, broken pavers and sinkholes in my life?
These are just some of the questions that come to mind as I take notice of myself.
How about you?
A big challenge for many of us is that, even when we ask such questions of ourselves, we don’t always accept the uncomfortable answers. But we aren’t alone in that conundrum.
Even King David, stop noticing his own places in need of repair – and he was considered ‘the man after God’s own heart!’ Read about one instance in 2 Samuel 11 & 2 Samuel 12. David was entitled to what he did in those chapters because he was king, but entitlement isn’t an excuse for weeds, broken pavers, and sinkholes in our lives! So God sent the prophet Nathan to point out the behaviors that David had stopped noticing. Whether we’re a king or not, we oftentimes we need others, like the man who met with me, to reveal the problems for us!
The next step – for David, and for each of us – is to get to work on those places that are of such concern. (You can read David’s response in the “In the Stillness” section of this blog.)
Such repairs take a lifetime of continued notice and repair because other attitudes (weeds) broken pavers (judgments), and marginalizing (sinkholes) will continue to reemerge in us from time to time. It’s up to each of us to stay open to noticing those spaces and be willing to work with the Holy Spirit so that we might remain the open, loving, welcoming people of God our Lord intended.
So, what in our lives do we no longer notice that needs repair?
I believe that God can redeem this terrible time of COVID-19 and national unrest if we are willing to notice what is in need of weeding and repair in our lives and get to work on those things we have noticed! Such work will open our hearts once more as places of unimpeded welcome to all the world so that all might live as the beloved, precious, equally loved and joyfully united children God intended for us to be ‘in the beginning.’
The question is, are we willing? That is the answer that hangs in the air!
And to God be the glory! AMEN.