Jesus came down to Earth for more than 30 years. He came to live with us and do life with us and leave the Earth, changed Himself. By His model, He calls us to be in relationship with others. To be changed by our interactions with others. And, to be steadfast….not expecting change in ourselves or others, overnight.
When I first moved to Swaziland, I met an amazing young woman, Mary. She was a maid in the hotel where I was temporarily living before figuring out where to live more permanently [that took a while…..I was in no rush to leave that hotel….I loved it and the people]. Mary would come into my little bungalow and we would talk. From the very beginning, I wondered why she wasn’t in school. Over time, she shared with me that she lived with her mom, and younger brothers and sisters. She worked to support them all because her mom wasn’t able to work when she was sick [dad was around, but not living there and essentially MIA]. We became friends and I learned more about her and her family – often visiting them at their home, not far away from the hotel. A few months after we met, I started asking Mary about school [something the Holy Spirit had placed on my heart] and if she would be interested in going back. Her response was always an enthusiastic yes. [In becoming friends, God had allowed me to get to know Mary and see all of the potential He had placed in her.] Over the next couple of months, we researched private schools and found the best one for her. She started school and over the next couple of years, I [and other expats living in Swaziland] supported her tuition, expenses and lost wages from not working. She graduated from high school and then went on to do EMT and computer training. She now works for an insurance company where they too have recognized her ability and passion for learning. [Hallelujah!] I’m so proud of her. [My dad joined me on one of my trips to Africa and we spent a few days in Swaziland, where he got to meet the infamous Mary, who he had long heard about.]
God used that friendship to mold me. My heart changed as we became friends. As I was able to pour into her, I learned more about the power of the Holy Spirit and the impact of responding to His (or maybe Her?) little nagging voice. My heart softened. I learned about patience and how He has a different path for each of us. I learned about myself and the passion I have for helping people use the gifts that God has given them. I learned that He equips us all and gives us all opportunities [and that this looks different for every.single.person]. Our friendship was – and is – co-transformative. It impacted us both. We both changed.
If we enter into a serving opportunity and expect that the only life to be changed is that of the person whom we are serving……we are short-sided. One-way change is not sustainable for real community transformation. It’s also not what Jesus and His disciples modeled. They all changed each other and left the communities where they ministered, changed.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs (I think….I’m writing this from the Miami airport and my flight’s been delayed six times…so I’m a little bleary-eyed), my LifeGroup volunteers with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center. One of the biggest rewards for me, as the leader of our LifeGroup, has been watching our group members grow in their walk with God, with each other and as individuals. I attribute much of this growth to our service of others, through the CMDC. We have served families in the JT and Reid Park neighborhoods and witnessed amazing growth in the kids, adults and communities; but the change hasn’t been isolated to the families. Change has happened in each of us. God has molded our hearts…to break for what breaks His. And, He has better equipped us all by strengthening our relationship with Him and His Holy Spirit. Serving others through the CMDC has been a co-transformative process.
Charlotte is not going to become a better city if those who live in the crescent stay the same while those who live outside the crescent change and grow. He expects us ALL to do life together and to change and grow, together. We are one community. Our response to improving Charlotte [or any city for that matter] must be co-transformative.
God calls us to love Him above all others and then to love our neighbors as ourselves. [see Matthew 22:37-39 and Mark 12:30-31] God knows how our hearts work because He made us. When we love Him first and love others as ourselves….thereby investing into their lives……ALL lives are changed [simultaneously]. [Also, your neighbors are not just those who live beside you….to put it very simply, God equates your ‘neighbor’ to EVERYONE on this Earth.]
God is calling you to change and grow. We don’t grow in our comfort zones….so get out of your comfort zone and get into a space where you can change and grow with Him. Go meet a neighbor who does not live right beside you and love that person as you would love yourself. You’ll see change….in you. I promise.