“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” – Luke 14:23 –
I know it’s been very quiet on the pages of Grace Broke Mom for a few months. I am sorry for that. In all honesty, I have not known how to navigate all that has taken place in our society or how this tiny little parenting blog could have a relevant voice in the midst of all the pain. There is so much pain. There is so much fear. Everywhere we look there is hurt and offense and lashing out because people are tired and don’t know where to go with their struggles. No one is being heard. No one feels validated or supported. All we hear is “Get over it!!” from all angles. Everyone knows exactly what the others should be doing and how terribly the others are responding… yet very few are offering any real peace.
Racial divide is an age-old tragedy. It has been the curse of our nation from the very beginning. But it is at this time that my husband and I have chosen to press in. We believe that we are being asked to follow Jesus into some very uncomfortable circumstances. Into living situations and cultures that are very different than we’ve not only grown accustomed to but have grown to love. And it’s hard.
We have decided to relocate our family. While a move 20 minutes into the city might not sound like a big deal, when it means going from quaint suburbia to inner-city Phoenix, it feels like a massive change. Because it is. We are choosing to trade our worldly “comfort” for the sake of gaining a greater joy. And I. Can’t. Wait.
In a world that is all about making a better life for yourself, chasing the “American Dream”, and moving up – where the right to pursue happiness is written into the fabric of our culture – we want to stand in stark contrast, where we are all about others. We believe that moving our family to the center of where the city government has deemed the “black hole of Phoenix” will enable us to engage in what the church is already doing. We do not go in order to “fix” the community. We are not about gentrifying nor do we believe that our little white family has anything special to teach. We will go in order to participate. We will go in order to serve the amazing people whom we have grown to love deeply. We will go to lock arms with our brothers and sisters in order to lessen the fear and to be a foretaste of what the Kingdom of God would look like in that area. We will go because Jesus has asked us to.
In this season I have been made very aware of the fact that though I love my country, my home is in found in another kingdom. When I am with my people, my church family, my heart is at peace. I am at rest. It is not because they are like me and I am comfortable… far from it! We do life with the most diverse crowd of folks I have ever seen. It is not by accident, but we have fought for it because we believe that when we gather with all kinds of people, bound by a love of the gospel, that we are better able to reflect Jesus and love our neighbor. It takes a love of something deeper, something bigger, something more gripping than a love of ourselves that allows us to see the beauty in the faces that surround us within that community. We have grown to feel most at home in that “black hole”. We love those people. We ARE those people.
So what does this have to do with parenting?
When we sat at our kitchen table with our 5 kids to discuss with them what changes were going to be coming their way, we were met with every response we imagined… and a couple we didn’t even see coming! We explained that we are going to be leaving our home that they’ve all grown up in, the place we have spent over a decade making memories in, the neighborhood we love dearly and the school we promised we would never walk away from. We told them about how drastically our hearts had been changed and how undeniably we feel drawn to a place where we will most likely not fit in, but that that is the best part.
This is what I want to build into my children. I know that they will not have the same struggles that a lot of others will in this country simply because they are good looking, white, middle-class American citizens. Yes, the girls will have to navigate rampant sexism and objectification and my boys will have to learn how to push against the strong social currents of rape culture and what success looks like. I am not saying that because they are all of the above, that their lives are “made”. What I am saying is that in the demographic of where we live, we certainly fall into the “privileged” category. I want them to see and learn and participate in what it means to use that privilege to benefit and build the community as a whole and experience the joy of loving people.
I want them to be able to see how much we benefit when we live with the sole purpose of loving God and loving our neighbor. We have so much to gain by pursuing relationships and building friendships with people who are different than us. Our perspective is broadened, our eyes are opened, and our minds burst with a better understanding of how the world works.
What will we benefit?
Every time Jesus called someone to follow Him in the Bible, there was a sacrifice involved. When He called His disciples who were fishermen by trade, they were told to leave their nets and follow. That is no small request. Those nets were their livelihood. Those nets were all they had ever known and trade was passed down generationally. Those nets brought food, money, comfort, and stability. And now they were being asked to just lay all of that down and follow the man Jesus. WHAT?! But they obeyed, and they were always taken care of.
When the Rich Young Ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus first reminds him of the commandments – ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ – to which the Rich Young Ruler told Jesus he has obeyed since he was a child. But the story goes on to say, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” The young man was good at dutiful, law-abiding. But he lacked the desire to serve the broken in his community, he valued his possessions more than the well-being of his neighbor, and he walked away from Jesus, sad.
In the 3rd chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul begins to list his many claims to privilege. He was the epitome of “righteous” Jew. He had all the qualifications to be among the top-tier of social status. But what does he choose to do with that privilege? “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”. Paul chose to lay down his social privilege in order to serve and know God.
The benefit to us is that we get to love others more than ourselves. I am excited to live this out in front of and with our children. I believe that, though the sacrifice is significant and probably more costly to them right now than it is to me, as we choose to make our life to be more about others, and about building a community that learns how much better we are together than at war with each other, that we will all see Jesus more clearly. That we will be forced to follow Him close and that we will be blown away as we experience what it means to be taken care of and blessed beyond measure with the love that will continue to grow for our neighbors and for our city.