Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. I am but a pilgrim here on earth: How I need a map — and your commands are my chart and guide. I long for your instructions more than I can tell.
Psalm 119:18-20 TLB
Imagining the Family Circle Wider
He sat to my left at lunch last Sunday, his jeans two sizes too big, his glasses as thick as a double-paned window. Twice during the meal he shyly thanked me for the meal and as I glanced down at the greasy paper plates, the sloppy joes and chips straight from the bag, I hoped he understood that it really was no trouble. We sat beneath one small patio umbrella, six of us squeezed under its shade, bumping elbows now and then.
Overhead, the sun beat down, worshiping God by doing the very thing it was created to do with every ounce of its will.
For so long, I chased my purpose.
I spent my teen and early-adult years praying for the mystery to be revealed, filling volumes of spiral notebooks with hypotheticals and lavish puffy question marks. What if I missed it????
Then came the college degree, the diamond ring, the babies, and the mortgage. My career began to take shape and I discovered a quiet stream of creativity I hadn’t known I possessed. But those hand-drawn maps hadn’t fully led me home. My instruction book for the Good Life was working, technically speaking, so why was I still searching? What more could there possibly be?
We plunged ourselves into the Bible and when we came up for air, it was clear. God’s “more” for my family was going to look like less.
And yet, after the jobs, after the move, after the emotional whiplash of adjusting to the thrum of neighborhood living while grappling with the scorn of those we’d left, somewhere between the cracks of the sidewalks and the whistle of the train, I discovered God’s “more” was also going to look a whole lot like more. What we had lost in esteem, independence, and security we were gaining ten-fold in the pulse of everyday brotherhood, where life would feel dull and dusty without a wide-swinging door.
It shouldn’t have come as such a surprise that the elusive purpose I’d long daydreamed about was hiding in plain sight as the empty chairs around my table.
Thick throughout Scripture are invitations from Jesus to love our neighbor. He offers basic operating instructions on page after page of the Gospels. Jesus slowed down for the wounded. He created space for the ignored. He dinner-partied with the hellions. He sat near the poor, the sick, the scandalous. It doesn’t feel out of line to imagine His preference for paper plates and kettle chips.
As a child, my family often fielded lunch invitations from church friends. “Just come!” they’d say. “Bring whatever you’re having and we’ll spread it all out!” We rarely ate out back then. Why would we have wanted to? The life in Christ I cut my teeth on was a long kitchen counter laden with odd combinations of food — tacos and pork chops and government cheese. It was always delicious and I was always invited.
I’m calling for a last-minute lunchtime revival. I want it for my kids and I want it for my new friend Jon, freshly released from prison and scared to death of his freedom. Selfishly, I want it for myself. This is my purpose, to love like a neighbor with every ounce of my will.
It will be the evidence of my love for my Lord. It will also be the evidence that I am loved by Him.
Family is only as small as we imagine it. Rigid planning is overrated. And that whole chicken will feed more than you think it will, especially if he brings a bowl of watermelon and she brings the left-over cake.
We are pilgrims, it’s true. But Christ is right here next to us, bumping elbows under the Target umbrella, sucking sauce off his fingers, and laughing at our jokes. He’s shown us the way.
Bring whatever you have.
Spread it all out.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
What a glorious and freeing message to embrace on a Sunday when we bump elbows with the family of God. Thanks for this encouragement to bring what I have and to the table and to honor the contributions of others in the circle. So thankful for God’s wide open door!
Terri L Kyle says
As I read my/your/our devotion, I am preparing to go out into our community for our church’s annual share weekend. There are no weekend services so to speak; just a congregation of folks willing to venture out into the community to help others. Your words confirm we are doing exactly the right thing! Also, they remind me I want to get back to a more simple way of living life.
Beth Williams says
Such a glorious message! This country is so divided and the new generation is all about me & now. You are talking about going into the world & sharing what you have. Once a month our church along with another in the area does “Feed the Multitude”. We home make desserts & they make the meal. I love going & helping put food in trays for those people. It gives one a good perspective on what you have. I wish more people would gather with community to do church.
Hattie Damon says
You have spoken so clearly, warmly and without judgment what has been anchored deeply in my heart for a few years now. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Every day I ask the Lord to etch this very verse on my heart ❤️, in my mind, soul and spirit. Thank you!
Jayne Smith says
Yes, yes, yes….a thousand times yes!
Nancy Ruegg says
Such a timely message! Your model come-with-what-you-have Sunday lunch may be the perfect solution for a new life group with others from our church. I’m going to suggest it! Also, you’ve given me a new mantra: “rigid planning is overrated!” ( I tend to be a planner who can go overboard.) Thank you, Shannan, for a post full of truth and inspiration!
Rebecca L Jones says
I like that family can be anybody, especially a fellow believer. I like Sloppy Joe’s too.