There are hazards that come with living in general, but some are naturally more pronounced in the city. The fact that it’s not safe to walk alone after dark, the rise of gun violence on the streets, gangs and drugs, exposure to homelessness, foul-mouthed neighbors bringing their arguments out into the yard for public consumption, needle-strewn sidewalks and broken bottles on the treelawn, air pollution, the potential threat of lead in the soil and water, child abductions, burglaries, and so on.
I grew up in a nice neighborhood in the country and wasn’t exposed to any of that as a kid. My heart grieves about the conversations (age-appropriate, of course) we’ve needed to have with our children, ones about sexual abuse, human trafficking, strangers, gangs, and drugs. What they should do if they found a needle (which they have), what they should do if someone has a gun, what they should do if an adult they don’t know approaches them outside, and what they should do if someone tries to snatch them. We’ve never plainly stated our neighborhood isn’t safe because we don’t want them to live scared, but we do want them to be informed and aware. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if they’ve deduced as much.
My son was out mowing the grass a few weeks ago when the neighbor approached him and asked if any of us saw someone run through the yard. We didn’t, and he went on to say that he’d just been robbed. A guy smashed his back window, stole the money on his dresser, and took off. It’s not the first time that house has been robbed, either. I locked our doors a little tighter that day.
One Sunday years ago, I came home after being gone several hours at church to find the front door ajar. Ironically, it was the same day my husband and I co-preached a sermon on generosity, where we talked about life not consisting in the abundance of your possessions, not to worry about your life, and how where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Racing out of the car and onto the porch, I paused. Everything that just came out of my mouth during service, things I thought I truly believed in my heart, suddenly took on the skin of reality. Standing there at the threshold, both literally and figuratively, with the realization that, aside from the wedding ring on my finger, we may have lost everything we owned was a pivotal moment for me. I either believed the gospel I just proclaimed before the masses--that less really is more, and life isn’t found in a collection of possessions but rather in the act of laying it all down--or it was all a sham, and I was a liar.
I decided right then and there that everything we had belonged to the Lord, and if He allowed it to be taken away, that was His call. He had given it all to us in the first place, and even moreso, He was plenty capable of replacing it if He desired. Bracing myself for the worst, I pushed the door open and stepped inside.
The house was in utter shambles. But it was our own mess, exactly the way we had left it that morning. The TV still hung on the wall above the fireplace, my computer lie on the end table, and all of our electronics were in their rightful place. Everything was as it should be. The only thing I figured could’ve happened was that I left the house in such a nervous hurry that morning, I must’ve neglected to pull the door completely closed behind me as I ran out. It stood ajar for hours while we were away, and as far as we could tell, no one noticed.
While most of the other homes on our street have been burglarized at least once, ours has never been touched. Home invasions are scary and violating, and I don’t take for granted the Lord’s protection in this area. But we are far from naive: we know full well that we could come home to find the contents of our home cleared out, much like our neighbors did one Fourth of July evening. The sad thing is, on a street teeming with rentals, no one thought twice about moving truck parked in a driveway, even late at night. They took everything, even the little, black dog.
The road we are called to walk in Christ is sometimes treacherous, lined with stumbling blocks and those who seek to kill and destroy, but we need to walk it anyway. Because it’s in those very moments of loss and uncertainty that we have unparallelled access to step in and love our neighbors in their time of need. We have the privilege and blessing of living out the gospel in the flesh.
There has been a rise in break-ins in the area lately--groups of burglars aggressively and violently invading homes in the daytime. And while I will keep the door locked and peek out the window before answering it, I’m not afraid. The Lord keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
This post is part of a series I’m writing for the month of October called, 31 Ways God Paved the Road to Urban Missions. If you’re interested in the reading the rest of the series, you can find it here. To receive these posts directly in your inbox every week, subscribe below!