Some quotes I find worthy of keeping close by are by Brennan Manning and Eugene Kennedy. They read:
• ” The kingdom of God is not a sub-division for the self-righteous or for those who lay claim to private visions of doubtful authenticity and boast they possess the state secret to their salvation.
• Eugene Kennedy notes, “(The kingdom of God) is for a larger, homelier, and less self-conscious people who know they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.”
• (The kingdom of God) “The men and women who are truly filled with the light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their own imperfect existence. Jesus came not only for those who skip morning meditations, but also for real sinners, thieves, adulterers, and terrorists, for those caught up in the squalid choices of failed dreams.”
Pretty heady stuff I know. We can say that we don’t think we are better than anyone else. Yet there are times when God challenges us in this thinking. I know that I was challenged in it this week along with my 3 colleagues. We had an issue.
By the time you get this blog, our issue will be settled. So you don’t have to vote on it or anything. If you think I’m writing this because I want you to side with us or “the other guy” you have missed the point. So let me tell you the issue….and the point happens to be in the bulleted list if you want to stop reading now.
Here it is: We are soon approaching our local city council to ask for a variance on a piece of property in a residential setting. Actually, the property is beyond beautiful. A woods and a creek and a little bridge. Huge windows with a deck overlooking the whole thing. Our clients would be in a peaceful place to heal and so would we. And hopefully work. Things were going just great. A wonderful and grateful donor had found the property and she and her husband wanted to buy it and rent it to us for a very low cost. WOW! We thought the Lord had shone His light right upon us. We were so excited. As the days went by we were jumping through hoops like nobody’s business. All the neighbors were pleased and ready to welcome us. Paperwork in on time, realtor helpful. All we needed was the council’s approval, and it looked great. Everything seemed like it was going to be approved and we would move by spring. Except…
Then we got a call. One of the prospective neighbors called and had re-considered his position. Questions about his own property value, possible traffic, and just having someone disturb the peace and quiet were upsetting to him. Well noted. When we were honest with ourselves we all knew that he and his wife’s questions and fears were reasonable to ask about. But there were a lot of conclusions we felt he was jumping to…and we wanted a chance to talk, to hear their fears and let them hear our answers. Reasonable again. But the day of the meeting we got another call. The couple not only decided not to come to our reasonable meeting but they were getting a lawyer to fight us coming to the sub-division. They would not talk to us except through their lawyer. LAWYER? US? Peace loving and helpful as we try to be? I asked myself, “Do these people get it?” I mean, we see most of our clients for free because they can’t pay. We believed God chose this property just for us. We go to the jungles in Guatemala and Africa to help people with trauma. We are joyful and happy peppy people who would invite them over and take them our left over cookies and have our prayer team PRAY for them for heaven’s sake. Get a lawyer? Fight us on coming to the neighborhood? I found myself asking from within, “HEY, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
Then that quiet voice that is so gentle (but to the point,) seemed to whisper in my mind, “Darla, who do you think YOU are?”
“Who do you think YOU are?”
Yes, with me He often has to repeat Himself. I struggled and thought about the beautiful property, our plans to make it a “home” for LifeTouch so we could stop moving around all the time. I thought about how I truly love what we do and the people we have been so blessed to serve.
Then I remembered, “Who do I think I am?” I am no better than my “potential” neighbor. He and his wife had every right to be afraid of what they could not see or understand. I realized that God knew rather this place was really for us, and if it was….well, it would be good for all of us. Especially our neighbors. Not in spite of. At that moment something happened. The relationship became more important than the rules. I realized what we wanted their blessing, not their permission.
We really don’t know what the local council will decide in a few days. It will be on a wintry evening here in the north of the U.S. and it will be a small gathering. Our potential neighbor still plans to come with his lawyer who knows more about zoning than I ever will or care to know. But obtaining the property has become a secondary issue now.
“WHO DO I THINK I AM?”
Let me tell you. I am one of the people in the first paragraph of quotes in this longer than usual blog. And so are you and so is the man and woman opposing our “wanna-be” new digs. If we don’t love “our neighbor” then we are not loving God. Period.
We have done some of our best work from a sawdust floor in a hut in Guatemala. We can stay where we are if God asks us to.
Thank you to the ones who have challenged us. Believe it or not, we are on your side. We are glad that you have made us think about the fact that you have a right to question and to be afraid and protective of what you have. You have reminded us of who we are. Not better or worse than you. In my book, you guys are standing up for what you believe is right and that takes a lot of courage.
To those of you who read this far, the greatest point to you and to us and to everyone reading is left for the end. It is:
This life is definitely NOT the main event.