Until last year when my husband and I moved to Minneapolis, I had never lived more than a few hours from “home” – meaning the place where I was born and raised. To be honest, Minneapolis would have been pretty far down a list of choice relocations. No offense to Minnesota, but locales like Key West, San Diego, or Honolulu would have been more prominent in my imagination. Those were not options.
So, I suited up with my best “let’s-make-the-best-of-it” attitude and bought a heavy coat and a pair of snow boots. Confession – my “let’s-make-the-best-of-it” attitude was really more of a “let’s-get-through-this-as-quickly-as-possible-and-get-back-home” attitude until I received a great piece of advice from someone who had moved around a lot – “Make Minneapolis home.” Essentially, make friends and build relationships even though you know that you may not have all of the time you’d like to build those relationships fully.
Over the last year and some change, Minneapolis became our home. We explored. We made friends. We became involved. We knew that we wouldn’t be in Minneapolis forever. As we now pack our bags, we will have to leave some relationships before they could develop fully and sooner than we would have chosen.
Well, doesn’t that about sum up this life whether you live all over the world or never leave your hometown. We aren’t here forever; but we have to live as if we are. We explore. We get involved. We make relationships – some of which end before we are ready.
We are now on our way to Cincinnati, Ohio – or as I like to call it “half-way home” – which has become my new outlook on this life. We are all living in a place that is just “half-way home.” So how do we live where we are planted? How do we live in “Ohio” when we are so eager to get someplace else?
Maybe I should back up for a second and redefine “home.” For me, “home” is heaven. Home is the place where we will live in eternal glory in the presence of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. My problem, so often, is too much focus on getting to heaven and not enough understanding of how I’m called to live in “Ohio.”
Do you ever do that? Do you ever get so caught up in being done with this broken world that you forget that we still have purpose in this broken world? Do you stumble and fumble through the obstacles of life’s course because your eyes are “too” focused on the end?
Don’t get me wrong. I am excited about the prospect of arriving at heaven’s gates as anyone possibly could be. And, it’s really easy to put our focus on that end prize – especially when this life is uncomfortable, unfair, and down right wrong. It is tempting – especially when grieving the loss of someone we love – to check out of this world. The visions of glorious reunions with the ones we love are so much more uplifting than the evening news with its constant barrage of divisive politics, catastrophic storms, falling financial markets or whatever mayhem consumes the news cycle for the day. Focusing on getting home is great but it’s not the ultimate purpose of being placed in Minnesota, Louisiana, Ohio, or wherever you may find yourself.
Wherever we are planted, this life is about “living.” Living is more than just biding time until we get to heaven. It’s about walking one another “home.”
How do we walk in this world when we’d rather run home? We engage. We make relationships. We stretch beyond our own needs to grab the hand of another broken life pulling them onto the path home.
In a book entitled “Dwell: Life with God for the World,” Dr. Barry Jones encourages us to reignite the passions of the “parish” and the “neighborhood.” Growing up, we attended our parish church, which meant the one that was closest to our home. With the growth of mega churches and an increasingly mobile society, the concept of the parish church is getting lost. The idea of a parish church is that it serves not only those who worship inside its walls, but more importantly those who live just outside its front doors. A church should be an integral part of the neighborhood. A church has a duty to instill a sense of community within the community it is physically located. How does a church do that? Well, I guess kinda the same way we are called to serve those around us – become neighbors.
The concept of “neighborhood” is about getting to know your own community starting with your neighbors. How many of us know all of the neighbors who surround us? I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know all of my neighbors when living back “home.” And despite making some wonderful friendships in Minneapolis, I didn’t learn the names of all of my immediate neighbors. I can call upon a host of excuses – I’m an introvert. I’m busy with the demands of life. It’s a two-way street, and they didn’t reach out to me. Whatever the excuse – it’s just an excuse. We can’t walk one another home, if we don’t even know one another.
Whether you are an individual (or a parish church) – it starts with opening your doors. Living calls upon us to serve not only those who live within our walls, but those who live just outside our front doors. Living tells us to break through our excuses (some of which are legit – life is so busy these days). Living encourages us to learn who our neighbors are and what they need. Living is letting our neighbors get to know us. Living is letting them learn what we really need. This is how we connect. Then together, we can make the best of this world.
Together, we can live knowing that we are all just “half-way home.” Together, we can flourish living in “Ohio.” We can make it all the way home – together.
(No disrespect intended to my Ohio neighbors. Had we been relocated to Wyoming, Arizona, or New Jersey, then I’d have used a different state for the metaphor. Looking forward to arriving in Ohio and making the most of our time there. Howdy, Neighbor!)