Walking in stride with God is something I’ve worked on for years. I have a natural tendency to make decisions based on how I feel rather than what God wants me to do. Especially when in proximity with others I try to give way to the Holy Spirit’s direction rather than my own.
God gives me many opportunities to choose his plan over mine. Soon after I moved to our Columbia neighborhood, Tom and I walked up to our neighbors’ front doors with cookies in hand, to introduce ourselves, as I shook in my boots. Knocking on strangers’ doors is scary for me; I’d rather wait for others to take the first step. But, those uncomfortable moments planted seeds for great relationships.
It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people and this is not learned in five minutes.
My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
Opportunities to leave my shell often come as I take walks around our large neighborhood. In our area, white folks are in the minority. It’s been a blessing to meet people from different places and races. One day a handsome young man called out to me as I passed. “My mom is moving in; stop by and say hi to her.” I was taken aback by his friendliness and told him I’d like to do that. In the days that followed, I watched her house for signs of life so I could say hi.
One day I prayed, screwed up my courage and knocked on her glass storm door. I could see into her house and assumed she was there. “Geri” urged me to come inside, and what a conversation we had! She’d missed teaching school since retirement and shared stories of students by name. She’d impacted many lives during her career. How perfect strangers can connect so easily at times is a miracle I’ll always treasure. After I’d nearly out-stayed my welcome, I left with plans to get together soon. We exchanged phone numbers and I contacted her but she never replied. I continued to glance at her house and it appeared that she wasn’t home.
Another day as I walked past, I saw three people tying furniture to a trailer. I wondered if I should stop to speak, but my introvert nature kept my feet moving. After a few steps, I abruptly turned around and asked them if Geri still lived here. The young man I’d met months earlier quietly hung his head. “My mother died yesterday.”
Shock washed over me. My eyes moistened. I told him about the day I met his mom and how I enjoyed stories of her beloved students. She told me about her own children; how successful they were, saying she didn’t mean to brag. I’d told her to brag away. As I walked away from those sweet people, Geri’s son called out, “Pray for us” and I said I would. For the rest of my walk, I lifted the entire family up to the Lord. I knew they’d be okay.
I couldn’t believe I’d never see her again. Our fledgling friendship wouldn’t grow up. But, I remembered that I’d only met her because I left my comfort zone—I went against what I felt like doing when I knocked on her door. My feelings inform me about myself, but I’ve learned to not let them dictate orders.
I celebrate friendships and valuable experiences that came when I didn’t act on feelings only. I regret times I’ve given into shyness and insecurity and said no to a good idea.
We all need a smile and encouraging word. I’ve realized most folks don’t care how I look or sound as much as how I care about them.
To carry out God’s plan in the earth we must keep in stride with him; partner with him to accomplish his purposes.
Walking in stride with God is often analogous to opposing my natural tendencies. Intentional steps on my part are needed. That’s where I often get stuck– the first step.
When I’m tired and unmotivated, it would be nice if God would fling me across the street with cookies for our new neighbors. My mental, emotional and physical energies would be circumvented and good works would magically appear. At times when I feel I have nothing to say, how I’d love to watch inspired words miraculously fill my laptop screen.
Paul tells me that when I’m at my weakest point, God makes me strong (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10). If only I’d instantly feel his strength raging through my limbs, body and mind. I’d jump up and accomplish great feats. But the feat begins while I’m in a state of weakness. He gives us his strength as we go.
I wrote this story to encourage you to do something different. To be aware of the little nudges to touch someone’s life. But, I mostly wrote to remind myself to go against natural tendencies in order to find treasures not found in my comfort zone. Why don’t we hold each other accountable?
Seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family.