Living In The Middle

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

 
 
 
 
Disclaimer: This is not the post I was supposed to write today, or maybe it was.
Anyway, I will follow up from yesterday later, but for now, this.
 
 

Just experienced a very jarring, disheartening reality check and cruel evidence of our cultural divide. 

Sitting at the stoplight in downtown Greenville, after dropping my littles off at school,  there were children running up and down steps of a very prestigious, very private church school on my left. To my right was an elderly man, dressed in many layers of what seemed to be very old, very dirty clothing and he dragging everything he owned in a big, black lawn type trash bag down the street. 
 
Not thrown over his shoulder, dragging... Every step seemed to take so much effort.
 
In my mind, immediately flashing through my thoughts, I saw Jesus dragging his cross, my cross, my burdens heaped on His slumped, dirty and blood stained shoulders. The shame. The fear. The dread. Dragging. The sounds.

All I can tell you is it brought me to tears and it led my heart and my mind to wonder about all of the walls that are built in my life (and yours) to keep those things separate, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. And I prayed. I prayed for wisdom and that God would keep me humble enough to see division and obedient enough to in my own small ways to erase those lines that are constantly drawn to divide, the ones that keep the comfortable very comfortable and the poor out of sight therefore out of mind.
 
The street this am was the divider, but it wasn't the only thing standing in the middle of those two drastically different cultures.
 
In the middle of that street for a moment was me, in my car at that stoplight.
 
Neither the kids nor the old man could see one another, but I noticed that I caught both their attention during the 60 seconds I sat at the red light waiting for the awkward to pass and wishing for the green to flash so I could let my tears fall without notice. 

In the middle is me. In the middle is you. 

What will we do to keep from getting so comfortable that we seclude ourselves and our children by excessive means to keep them away from what the world sees as messy or dirty or quite frankly beneath us? Because let's just be real here, let's just go there, it happens. Schools, churches, social groups, friend circles, where you eat, where you shop, how you were raised, what part of town you live in, it's a constant culture war.

In the middle is opportunity to see the world like God does. To enter into it with Him and to love and to invite others into our spaces, so seemingly tightly kept some times. One thing I love about traveling internationally or even just doing life intentionally with people from other cultural backgrounds is seeing how BIG God is. We make Him so small when we only allow ourselves to see Him in our little zip code, our route to work, our level of society, our traditions, our worship services.
 
My friend Matt Reeves runs the Frazee Dream Center in Greenville with his awesome wife Jenny. It all got started because he decided to drive a different way to work one day. He hit streets he had never seen before that were in his own city. It didn't take much, just driving a different way to work... God laid a burden on his heart for the people there and He sees God a whole lot differently now than he did when he was a super successful business man and father of two traveling the same familiar roads day after day. He traded in all the safe, easy, confined and comfortable views of God and he opened himself and his family up to the place that was in front of him and He lives a life worthy of the gospel every day. He feeds dreams, truth, morals and fresh fruits and dinner to dozens of kiddos every day after school. He and Jenny and their kids are in the middle, arms out, knees bent and they are the looking the vulnerable and broken and messy in the eye and they are welcoming them in and introducing them to the Father and to the opportunity to dream. They don't shelter themselves to the lifestyle they came from or could easily come back to. Their kids don't get separated from those that may look, talk, dress or behave differently. They are living live on the opposite side of the tracks because God called them to see Him from that view. And it is beautiful. A gleaming stream of light on the corner of Hampton and Pinckney streets is that old church building that houses a melting pot of people and their God sized dreams.

 


 

 
My people at Frazee making cards for kids in Hait.... Kids Reaching Kids
Leaving our mark, handprints reaching kids across the globe. Courage to Encourage.
Reaching.
 
In the middle on a cross was Jesus, surrounded on either side by men who were justifiably beneath him hanging there, the Son of God, but even on a cross, Jesus was a connector. Until He took His last breath, He was about  a about getting people to the Father. 

As we stand in the middle of the road that divides our comforts with the suffering of others, what will we do? Are we about getting people to the father?

Will we barricade ourselves and our people in institutions and circles and neighborhoods where everyone can easily and safety carry on with things that make us feel entertained, safe and content? Or will we dare look to the left and see a man dragging his burdens and choose to see His value to the kingdom, to the Father? Will we even have the guts to look them in the eyes, to smile, to say hello? The suffering, the mom on the verge of a breakdown, the prostitute, the homeless, the dirty child in your kids 2nd period class, the pregnant teenager, the gay couple, the woman who's lost count of the times she's lost the battle of the needle, the toothless lady on the park bench with all she owns in a filthy backpack they all need to be seen from the inside out like the Father sees us. Do we dare find ourselves locked in conversation willing to know them? Do we dare be the people that lift each other up when the world is beating them down? My heart aches for those who feel so alone and broken and unworthy of anyone's love just because they are different than you or me. 
 
Will we keep driving the same roads, walking the same paths, going to the same events with the same people?

Or will we, like Matt (and Jesus, if I may point out) wake up and decide to take a different path, just to see what God looks like from a different view, from the other side of the street, in a different worship service, among different cultures? Will we be bold enough to sacrifice time, money and sense of security to jump on a plane and watch a Mamma sing songs of praise to our God for a days worth of food while she bathes her baby next to a goat in a river of muddy water or hop on a bus across town and see a woman living in a tent in 17 degree weather and be brought to our knees in repentance because we thought we had it all together, us and our children who were better off for having monogramed outfits and lunchboxes and i pads and i phones and a spot in the best school in town? Again, I dare to suggest that sometimes, those Mamma's who are praising Him for a day of food, those trusting him for enough wood to get them through the night when they can't see tomorrow, have more faith and more favor than those of us who can't even remember thanks because we are so consumed with our entitlement and expectance of abundance? Yes, I am on a soapbox, I just came off eating 7 foods for 30 days friends, I know how spoiled we are. Even with 7 foods, I have access to so much more than I could ever need and I expect it to be there without even a thought that it wouldn't. I am lumping myself right there with you. I no longer have pity for those women who sit in grass huts with naked babies, I have envy. I want to know Jesus like that, to trust him like that, and it's not guilt, it's truly transformational thinking. I have had my eyes opened to how BIG God is when I choose to embrace ALL of His creation that I can versus sectioning off the parts that I have been spoon fed or born into. His world is rich with opportunity to see Him through wide eyes.


 
Standing, arms lifted, head held high, free to dream
Tip toes, finding something to reach for and look up to.
Both living in the middle of childhood and the reality of responsibility.
Kidlike simplicity. Two worlds collide. Suburb and Project.
Peace.
 

Will we dare see the beauty in the poor who sit on front porches and bask in community, who have time for their neighbors and family and friends and taking care of one another even though by our standards they seem near destitute? Will we question whether we are the ones lacking clarity and relationship while chasing our technology and extracurricular activities, our church committees, or social calendars? Will we whine and complain while we are stuck comparing our gifts to someone else's while we could be using those gifts to invest in the kingdom unseen? Will we dare to recognize and admit our view of God is so small and so skewed by our own filtered surroundings? Will we ask for the wisdom and courage to step out of our comfort zones with our children so that they may learn to live their lives like this Jesus we spend so much time teaching them about? Or, will we live in constant contradiction and hole them up in our twisted sense of protection and confine them to what feels safer or more acceptable by standards impressed on us by whatever has shaped up thus far?





 
 


Kenskoff Haiti 2013 with my Noonday People and a New Artisan group for Chances For Children
 
Joy, living in the middle, giving a place for hope to dwell, second chances for all of us. Love.
Waiting children, living in the middle, leaving behind much, hoping for even more. Family.
All of us, family, living in the middle between the seen and the eternity unseen. Promise.
 
 
Jesus lived in the middle too. In between two worlds, Jesus, fully Man on Earth and fully God in heaven, traveled many different, often dangerous roads with severely messy, vulnerable, selfish, broken people for the purpose and opportunity to connect us to heaven. He heaped our stories, our failures, our sin on His back and then dragged them down the middle of a crowded street to a cross, where He would once and for all give us the ultimate connection to eternity with the Father.

Let's live in the middle, let's be an intentional connector to the father, let's travel different roads and see God with bigger eyes and love Him with more dependent hearts. Let's not be satisfied with passing through the stoplight with just our own broken hearts but let's press on with courage and let's reach out to be a lifter of heads to the heavens. Let's go be love.


Port De Paix Haiti 2012  
The beginning of a new brokenness  in me and a love for a people and land so foreign yet so woven throughout my soul. Me with no hair & Fatimah, my polar opposite but loved so dearly by me, a treasured friendship & unbreakable bond. The filthy streets lined with beautiful people and stories waiting to be told. Us, in the middle of it all.


with much love and many blessings,

manda

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