Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cocooning or Connecting?

Dare I say the sparkle in my eye and the skip in my step is back?  I have vision again and my heart is busting with passion.

I came home from last week's Bible Study with a renewed sense of purpose for right now.  Not for some day, for what could be, or for some other place.  For Elizabeth Caitlin Bricknell in Longview, Washington, for the year 2011.

I was challenged Monday night about how many of my neighbors I know by name, how many are in their household, what they do for a living, and the last time I had a 20 minute conversation with any of them in my own home.  I failed.  Miserably.  This is the best I could do for my block:
  • the renters that live across the street with a high school daughter who walks to school every day
  • "Big Red" - the monstrous vehicle parked in front of the above-mentioned house which is only there during the day, but rarely at night.
  • "11:45" the neighbor who revs his engine each night at 11:45pm to go to work.  Sometimes the truck doesn't start on the first try and I'm convinced the whole neighborhood is woken up.
  • N - our neighbor-lady in her mid 60s who shares our love for gardening
  • ? - the elderly lady who apparently lives next door but I have never actually seen her
  • I + L - the most generous couple on our block who always volunteer their tools or services for anything we might need.  They love Jesus.
  • T + C - another great couple that lives a few houses down.  He's on disability due to a knee injury and has been out of work for about a year.  They are involved with Young Life and also love Jesus.
  • R + S - they live on the corner and have two little girls.  One is 3 and the other was just born in August. They have expressed an interest in making friends with people who will be better influences. They've been associated with the party crowd for some time and want out.  They even came to our church one time.
After all of us admittedly failed at this challenge, we watched session two of "A Walk Across the Room" by Bill Hybels.  "Are you cocooning or connecting?" he asked.  Holed up in the comfort of your home, cubicle, or church and surrounded only by what's familiar and safe like a caterpillar wrapped in its silk blanket?  Or are you stepping out, breaking through conversation barriers, standing in your 'stretch zone' to make a spiritual connection with people?

I initially thought of myself as a connector.  I mean, look at what I do on a weekly basis!  Lead a Bible study, go to a Bible study, lead a small group at youth group, go to church, and host our college group.  I probably make spiritual connections with at least 50 people a week.

Conviction immediately kicked in.  Every single one of these people already knows Jesus and they are all church connections.  So what am I doing outside of church?

*insert excuses here*

  • ...But Paul is a better connector - he has "come to Jesus" talks with kids way more than I do.  I am more comfortable with follow up conversations and I think that's how I'm wired.  This does not excuse me from having them, though!  
  • But I don't know anyone outside of church!  That's your own fault, Elizabeth!  If I had a job outside of the church, then I'd be able to connect.  So what does that mean for my neighbors?  It has nothing to do with where I work.
  • It's easier to have an excuse to connect, like a holiday.  Then I could bring something over to my neighbors with a reason for it.  I'll have to wait until Easter or Christmas to invite my neighbors to a church program.  Connecting is not seasonal.  I was even in the Christmas program this year and didn't even invite anyone to come see it.  Plus, Valentine's day is a holiday and it's just around the corner...
Two days after this particular Bible study, a few of my neighbors were outside.  I walked across the street and chatted.  And laughed. And I loved it.  We "hung out" for only about 15 minutes or so and I was so excited - I couldn't wait for Paul to come home from work so I could tell him I made a connection.

Bill Hybels makes sharing Christ so simple.  As it should be, right?  It can be natural, the outcome isn't up to us, and it doesn't have to be weird.

And thus, a burden for my neighbors has been birthed.
For the teenage girl I see walking home from my position on the couch.
For R + S, our neighbors in the corner house who want to be making different choices.
Even for the mailman who I see almost every day and is a pretty cool dude.

With my excuses exposed and the reality of Valentine's day just a few days away, I don't need any more reasons to knock on some doors and introduce myself to "Big Red", "11:45", the "invisible lady" next door, etc.

The fudge is made and cut into neat squares.  Cookie dough is made.
Next step: homemade Valentine's for the residents of Maple Street.


Sarah said...

I love this post, El. So true! I've had that same conviction recently and was also humbled by how few people I know who have yet to meet our Lord and Savior. Way to make some fudge and get out there! ~Sarah

Mattanda said...

Thank you for sharing El! This is beginning to be trend of ours :) Get this...Just last night I read chapter 3 of Max Lucado's Outlive Your Life..."Let God Unshell You"!

Max writes, "Let God unshell you. And when he does, 'make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that' (Gal. 6:4 MSG)"

Max's prayer at the end of the chapter: "...I am like a clam that shuts itself up in its shell, afraid of threats from the outside. You call me to unshell myself and to partner with you on your mission of love. Unshell me, Lord, that I, too, may reach out to a lonely, discouraged, and even hopeless world..."

Thank you for the inspiration to get to know my neighbors better!

Much Love,
Your Sistaw

ryan said...

what a "sweet" idea. i look forward to hearing the results of your valentine experiment. the "stretch zone" is definitely something that stuck with me from facilitating.

i've also found that sharing about jesus is not as easy as the books or preachers claim. the process of speaking about faith is not difficult. instead i have discovered that there is simply a lack of interest... there are ears that are ever hearing, but never understanding. i've even found this attitude among christians. jesus talks about it when he mentions old and new wine in luke 5... what christian wants new understanding when they are perfectly happy with the old?