The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. — 1 Peter 4:7-9
I had a friendly little squabble with my husband last week, regarding the calendar of our lives. He organizes life according to the standard Gregorian calendar, with each new year beginning in January. Perhaps because I’m the mom of three school-aged children who just returned to the sturdy brick down the street for another year of learning, I mentally categorize life according to the school calendar. As such, this year extends through early June, at which point we’ll shuck a layer or two, eat a large bowl of watermelon, and exhale.
Though my household is divided on how to define its terms, we don’t disagree that this year, the air is pushing down on all of us a little harder than it did in the past. There’s a heightened sense of heaviness draping the atmosphere. It’s easier than ever to believe that “the end of the world is coming soon.”
I have never been prone to the ways of a doomsdayer, at least not in the classic sense. Growing up in a church that camped out in Revelations for months at a time, the talk of trials and tribulations eventually blurred into a spiritual white-noise, barely noticed. I had bigger problems at hand, of the here-and-now variety. I didn’t have time to ponder the End Times, and quite honestly, it gave me nightmares when I did.
But that was back when “the end of the world” felt more theoretical. That was back before I had begun to understand my place within God’s Kingdom on earth, where my desperation to be rescued is at war with my hope that Jesus will wait as long as it takes for my friends and neighbors to know His love.
Out past my open windows and yours, the September air falls light against a humanity that bleeds.
It doesn’t make sense for the cicadas to buzz overhead and the finches to sing in the shade of the maples while men hate and are hated, women are abused, nations are terrorized and displaced, and we wage uncivilized wars with our words, so quick to forget our eternal citizenship. We cash in our calling for the paralysis of fear.
Our instincts tell us to hunker down and self-protect. Our flesh fires a warning shot straight to heart of our jangled nerves, “Retreat!” Despite attempts to distract ourselves with easy banter, we stir worry into our morning coffee and the soup warming on the burner.
Impossibly, we are both terrified of the world we’re in and equally terrified of its end.
The Apostle Peter, in his classic, no-nonsense way, points us to a solution that is both unspectacular and revolutionary – love each other deeply, and pray.
The question is, what does it look like to love deeply in the age of global turmoil and division?
He has an answer for that, too.
Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. — 1 Peter 4:9
Could it really be that simple? And could we ever exercise the courage to do something so counter-cultural, so top-heavy with risk?
A few years ago, my family moved from our cozy country acreage with its long lane and perpetual hug of cornfields to a forgotten neighborhood on the least desirable side of the tracks. I showed up wide-eyed and uncertain, and more than a little naïve. Day after day, month after month, I tried to find my footing in a world that suddenly seemed more brutal than I had ever allowed myself to see or believe.
We became friends with addicts, homeless men, single moms shoved to the fringes with their children. We became friends with pastors from different traditions, political renegades, public school teachers, and neighbors with whom a language barrier stretches far and wide. We learned to find the face of family in generations far ahead of us, taking their powdery hands in our own on Sundays, leaning in to be heard. We saw ourselves in prisoners, our own brokenness reflected in theirs.
As we began to walk with intention toward the pain around us, we found ourselves more at peace, less afraid. And that was before they literally started feeding us.
This freedom road has been paved with Salvadoran pupusas cooked over an open fire on a city block just a stone’s throw from my own front door. There have been Christmas candies shaped like mice from cherry cordials, Guatemalan ears of corn slathered with mayonnaise and speared with twigs, cold pizza, fresh tortillas, just-picked zucchinis, and sinus-clearing salsa.
Sometimes we open our door to give, but always we open our door to receive. With every offering, the terror around us hushes to a whisper. We can hear each other again, along with the cicadas and the birds.
Love, though not always easy in practice, was never meant to be complicated. Jesus cleared the path for us with simplicity and grace, shaping ministry from the ordinary divine – light, seed, salt, bread. He sat often at the table of his neighbor, passing plates with the despised, revisiting the events of the day with common scum. (Matthew 9:11)
The Giver of life was skilled at receiving.
With a bit of faith, the same might be said of you and me.
My kids’ childhood is playing out differently than mine. The world is a bit bluer around the edges than it used to be and, if we allow ourselves to believe it, much less kind. I am faced with questions I’m ill-prepared to answer, left feeling more than a little ripped off that the easy answers don’t flow like they used to. These times are tough, and complex. There is simply no detour around reality. They will remember the late night knocks on the door, the hastily made bed in the basement room, the foreboding headlines that find us when we’re not even looking. They will remember their Dad driving to the county jail every day to hang out with his buddies, occasionally bringing one home. They will continue to remember with an ache in their hearts our previous home, with its wide-open pastures. A part of them might always wish to return.
But they will also remember the haphazard Monday night pitch-in meals at the church at the end of the street. They will remember being invited to a neighbor’s party after we had already eaten, and sharing a second dinner with two rounds of dessert. They will carry these crumbs in their pockets and find themselves healed by the deep love of a God who is sovereign and good to the very end.
Against the backdrop of a world gone wild, the simple act of giving and receiving love shrinks us down, where it’s easy to remember that we all still fit safely in the palm of His hand.
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. — Psalm 27:13
Watch the Video for Falling Free
Original blog by Shannan Martin, author of Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted, copyright Shannan Martin.
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Most of us would choose the wide-open pasture, safe, cozy life over the one we’re in that’s filled with hard stories, hurting hearts, and the effort it takes to be a loving, giving, Jesus-oriented community. How do you plug into the hard spaces where people are less kind, struggling more, and needed to see more of Jesus? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily