Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What if we actually stepped next door?

  When you're a part of a family where slowly but surely all the kids are becoming adults, you buy a lot of clothes for birthdays and Christmas. Kids grow, their shirts get too tight, pant legs become too short, shoes begin to squeeze feet too tightly. Life happens too, clothing gets worn out (no pun intended), holes in socks, thread-bare sweatshirts, stained pants. The list goes on. Then there are practical things like buying new underwear from time to time just because its hygienic to do so or, if you really don't like to do laundry, buying new ones frequently enough that you can avoid washing old ones altogether, and replacing socks for the fifth time this year because the darn washer has managed to eat all the matches and all you have is a drawer of mismatched socks left.
  We don't dwell on it too much because we can afford to buy new clothes (even if they are from the clearance rack or simply new-to-us from a second hand store or garage sale) when they are needed. Thinking of the Israelites fleeing Egypt and traveling to the Promised Land, does it even occur to us in our Midwest shopping-mall minds that their clothes were bound to wear out and that they couldn't stop and make new clothes? It occurred to our God. [Deuteronomy 8:4] He is a God of detail. He is a provider God.
  It hits me though, when we go shopping for a back-to-school outfit or special Christmas dress-clothes, just as a treat not because we need them, what a luxury that is and how I am part of the privileged percentage of the world who has that luxury. It strikes my heart as we shop for needed clothing that the little girl I packed two pairs of socks for in my Christmas Shoe Box last year has certainly long since worn through them and needs new ones just as much as I do. And what about the orphanages and baby hospitals I got to send boxes of clothes to earlier this year? Those kiddos are growing and the clothes sent over will not clothe them forever -- they are constantly in need of new items to replace the ones being worn out at this moment and bigger sizes as the children continue to grow up. 
  I love packing Shoe Boxes. It's something I look forward to each year. I give sacrificially of my finances to fill them, pack them with care and pray for the children they will bless. But even with the sincere generosity and compassion going into these gifts, I feel like I've been missing something. Its too comfortable, too disconnected. If I can pack a box full of gifts I bought with my own money and send them across the world with loving thoughts, why can't I meet eyes with the homeless man whose needs I am faced with (and able to meet I might add) as I walk by? It is easy to give online, its comfortable to drop off a donation and drive away, it feels good to think you're making a difference overseas without having to leave home. We've missed something. The man in front of me who is homeless needs socks, I guarantee you that. What's so different about giving socks to a little girl over in Africa and giving socks to this man in front of me? Relationship. It is scary to walk up to a stranger, its risky to reach out and actually take someone's hand. We love to give, even sacrificially, but we are afraid to get involved. 
"And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'"
// martin luther king jr.

 Even with our good intentions this is what we have been blinded to. Our giving is not about us, it's not for us. I want to be connected to the life that I am giving to, I want to see their need and meet it in a personal way. I want to be invested in them. I want to buy new socks for the little girl I sent some to last year but I can't because we aren't connected. However, I can walk across the street and engage with the person whose need I see right there. I can know their name, I can invite them into my story, I can reach out my hand every day to them. I'm challenged by this myself and I want to challenge you with it as well. This year lets step out of our comfort zones, lets stretch, lets go deeper, lets become vulnerable and empty ourselves a little more so Jesus can fill us up with more of Himself. This year, what if we actually stepped next door?

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