Yesterday we did a spontaneous invite and had a couple of our neighbors over for a good old-fashioned Independence Day hot dog dinner. My family and I had been debating earlier that day whether or not we’d go out at dark and see the big city display of fireworks, but we ended up opting for the local supermarket bundle that we bought and lit in the driveway. Given that we knew we’d be around, we took advantage of the chance to build better relationships with our neighbors while enjoying some good grub in the process.
Speaking of which, one of the immediate benefits beyond deepening a new friendship was the fact that even though we had all the food covered one of our neighbors brought over some cheesy potatoes. Oh… my… lanta! They were amazingly oozy and delicious! In fact, she even offered to give us some of the leftovers. Mmm… leftovers.
On top of it, though, the same gal works for State Farm Insurance and shared about the “CARS” tour that came to our area the day before. Apparently it was a word of mouth deal, so we didn’t know about it until it was too late. However, a nearby town was hosting it today and she gave us the tip on when it all was going down. Needless to say, it pays to know a guy… er… a girl.
Turns out we are neighbors with the “right people.”
I grabbed the boys and we saddled up for the event in the family mini-van. Since I didn’t know exactly where it was (because it’s a big hush, hush thing), I didn’t tell them where we were going (just in case we couldn’t find it). When we did locate it, though, they went ballistic as we drove up to see “Mac,” “Sally,” “Mater,” and (of course) “Lightning McQueen.”
That is… until we got out of the van.
My five-year-old was initially pensive, but then he eventually got into it. My two-year-old, though, didn’t know quite how to handle it. Here my boys were - seeing a full-life representation of characters they had only seen in digital format on a two-dimensional screen – and they weren’t sure how to process it all. In fact, my youngest even wanted to stay clear of the vehicles… even though he’s completely into the toys we’ve taken home over the past several weeks through McDonald’s marketing campaign.
Hmm… why does this sound all too familiar?
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to back away from God when he blows away our 2-dimensional perception of him? Ever get those moments where you have him all nice and tidy on a controlled screen in your brain that compiles the projection of your thoughts and feelings about him… only to have him break through the “fourth wall” of your life and show you something that completely catches you off guard? It could be a major blessing you that feel unworthy of (which you are), a crisis where you are stripped down to nothing but him (which is all it’s supposed to be anyway), or a new way of understanding him that blows away what you previously imagined (which, no doubt, will be blown away in the future when you make another similar shift).
In moments like this I’ve found that it matters less how you initially react to what is happening and matters more whom you are processing it out loud with.
For instance, first I went to where my boys where at so that we could regroup a few steps away from the whole experience. Then we went over to a safe area where we watched a video screen on the side that was playing clips from the movie. Since they knew that and could handle it in the midst of the unknown, they were able to acclimate themselves better to the moment. Next, I put my two-year old on my shoulders and held my five-year old’s hands as we walked by each vehicle and talked about the colors and details of each as a way to help them process what they were experiencing. We even had someone take a picture of us so that we could remember the event in the future through a snapshot of it all.
Which I think is kind of a good way to think about the people we journey through life with. We all need those folks who will help us step away from a hard experience in a safe way, taking gradual steps in order to process it accordingly. People who love us like family, whether they actually are or not, and give of their times, resources, and wisdom to help us nail down a God who can’t be nailed down.
That is… unless it’s to a cross.
Which, by the way, makes a pretty interesting snapshot of it all.
Turns out we are neighbors with the “right people.”
For my boys it means they got to see Lightning McQueen today.
For my family as a whole, though it means a bit more. We’re finding out more and more these days how many people are praying for us and long to be solid friends in ways we really need. Likewise, we are looking for all kinds of ways to bless the lives of those around us who are just as messed up as we are in following a chaotic God who never makes sense… even though he absolutely does.
I think it is a vital thing that we all have people who embody to us what Jesus represents.
Speaking of which, be praying for us this weekend as we’ve invited someone my wife works with to church services and dinner at our house afterward. He’s a bit lost in the world with homosexuality and has been shunned a bit by the church he grew up in. He may very well be in our lives for a reason - one that we need to process a bit at a time together. Maybe we’re supposed to bless him… or maybe it’s the other way around… or both.
Turns out we are, in fact, neighbors with the “right people.”
Whomever the "right people" actually are.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Sonn into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice forn our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-11)