Loving My Neighbor: How I Get Over the Inconvenience of People

I’ve slowly been discovering that I can’t peel my relationship with God apart from my relationship with other people. You’d think this is Christianity 101, right? But somehow I’ve often reduced my faith down to a list of rules or a collection of doctrinal statements that I affirm that do nothing to change how I interact with these other people who are different from me, who believe differently than I do, who irritate and frustrate me, who inconvenience me and cause me pain. Maybe that’s why I’d like to separate the two, to insist that I can truly love God and walk blindly, unfeelingly, past those around me.

Jesus didn’t mince words about what He wanted. Mark 12:28-32, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Vacation and New Creation: Finding Eyes for Eternity

Every September for the past three years, we’ve spent a week at the beach. As you’re reading this (at least if it’s the first week of September when you’re reading it), we’re digging in the sand and wiping mud off little boy faces. The memories linger longer than one week though; I’m reminded of the beach all year. I’ll take the boys on a walk and, when one of them zooms by on a bike, I’ll picture the asphalt sidewalks and our parade of bicycles. We’ll order pizza in the evening and I’ll think about how, most nights at the beach, we put the boys in bed and get take-out for ourselves.

I’ve never been to the new creation. I’d just say “heaven” but for most of that that conjures up thought of some other-worldly place where we sit on clouds and strum harps and that is decidedly not what I mean. I mean the new heavens and earth where God will dwell among us (Revelation 21:3) and be our light and we will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:5). I’ve never been there but I have seen glimpses. Every flash of beauty, life, peace, joy is a signpost to that future existence. It’s a remembrance of how God made all things to be. It’s the half of reality that exists right along with the brokenness. I, myself, am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), even if I’m not fully like Jesus yet (1 John 3:2). There are tastes, glimpses, just enough in the Bible to know that something familiar and yet completely different is destined.

Learning to Handle Theological Differences

I used to have a “checklist Christianity” mentality. If I do these things and I affirm these doctrinal statements, I’m a good Christian and that means, of course, that I’m a mature believer as well. Right along with that went the belief that all other faithful Christians believed exactly as I did and checked the same things off of their lists (otherwise, heresy!). Since then I have learned that a checklist isn’t a sign of a mature faith or spiritual growth and that many believers I respect have different viewpoints.

There are so many interpretations on every single topic or idea in the Bible, each held by people who think they are being faithful to Jesus and the Bible. If I am going to be involved in the church, and I’m supposed to be, I am going to be interacting with people who believe differently than I do. My reaction is to run away and gather with people who think just like me. I think that’s the reaction of most people because that is most comfortable. We get social validation from people agreeing with us; it makes us feel confident that we are right.

Holding Fast to a Slippery Faith

We should ask our questions.

Don’t even bother pretending that you don’t have them. We all carry questions, some more on the surfaces of our lives and some we’ve probably never told to another soul. People don’t always like questions. They challenge our comfort or security. They might make us doubt our faith. We might worry about life running off the rails.

We don’t even like our own questions. To find answers that matter, we have to sit in pain. To sort through some issues, we’re going to have to walk through those issues again. To ask our questions means admitting that there might not be answers.

But regardless of how people feel about questions, God is not put off by questions. Life is full of challenging situations. Job asks questions, and then more questions. He complains about even being alive. Abraham seems silent, choosing belief in God’s victory over death, as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac, but I’d really like to read his mind as he traveled to that mountain. Elijah asked for God to kill him following a tremendous victory. Jesus spent time in the wilderness being tested by Satan and He was led there of the Holy Spirit. Jesus asked God why He had forsaken Him (that will tie your brain in knots if you think about it too long). The Bible is full of questions and doubts.

Read through Psalms. It’s full of admittances that life does not add up like we think it should. Things look bad even though we are promised redemption. Sometimes, maybe more often than not, it seems like we would be better off if we jumped off this Jesus train that we are convincing ourselves to stay on.

People Who Have Influenced My Faith: Hurrah for the Internet

Yesterday finished #the100dayproject. I’m relieved and satisfied. I intentionally set out to take off weekends and I only missed a handful of days outside of that. That’s a lot of talking, and honestly, much more prep work than I expected. But for all that work I have a book full of notes and ideas and reflections, some of which I’ll turn into podcast episodes.

In yesterday’s video (go check it out if you want), I mentioned that we all need to be students. Read the people that inspire you and then read the people that inspire them. Would that be an inspirational grandparent? It’s one reason I’m sharing all the books I’m reading this year in an Instagram story highlight; that, and I really like to track things.

What I’ve Learned from Houseplants

(I know, I know, everyone who starts gardening makes theological connections. But if you’ve grown even one plant, you understand why.)

In December 2016, I bought some air plants for our anniversary. I hung them in glass globes in the living room and misted them every week. They are notoriously hard to kill, which is what I needed since I’ve killed every single plant I’ve ever owned, including the love fern that we bought when we lived in the apartment. (Name that movie!)

In the months following, I kept adding one cheap plant (no need to waste that money, after all) after another. Succulents. Vines. Things I no longer know the names of. Every single Monday I still write water plants in my planner, gather them all into the kitchen, and water away.

(A friend pointed out that some plants don’t need watered every week. I told her that mine get watered every week and they like it.)

Letting Future Dreams Shape Your Now

One day I want to go to seminary.

I haven’t said that out loud too many times, but I already know where I would go if this were to ever work out so I might as well throw it out there, right? It’s not for this season and it honestly might never happen. That’s totally not the point. You know what that dream does for me? It shows me the direction I want to go. It reminds me where I want to invest my time and my effort. It shapes what I want to do with my life.

That dream to go to seminary one day means that today I listen to podcasts and take notes. It means I chase the fascination of learning about the Bible. It means I read books and discuss theology and listen a lot.

My big “someday” dreams, whether they happen or not, influence what I choose to do today. That’s why those dreams matter.