"I think this is a great idea, I just don't know if you're the people to do it."
We lay our hearts on the table along with our carefully mapped out plan to bring healing and hope into an inner city community. We'd stayed up until 1am the night before carefully choosing our words and framing our proposal to have just enough hope to be inspiring but not too much to be accused of foolishness. We were excited and confident. We knew what God had placed on our hearts and were confident that this was the next step for us. The problem was convincing everyone else. And they weren't convinced.
The people that know us were resoundingly supportive. "Yep. This makes sense. This is exactly who you are." But people who don't know us or who wanted us to prove our worth before we branched out into something as scary as living in the hood ... well. They weren't as convinced. But Zach and I have never felt the need to prove ourselves and we knew what God had called us to do, we just didn't know how to do it. So our plan was to fundraise and cast vision and then launch a community development project, because that was the model that made sense. That never really sat well in our hearts, but we thought, "We can't just do this without a plan. We need support. We need finances. We need people." So we went after those things because that is the standard way to go about things. But we were laughed at, mocked, and passed off. We were told we needed to prove ourselves, to be evaluated, and that our callings would need to be determined by a panel of peers. That didn't set well with us either.
I would like to tell you that we held our heads high, confident in what God had spoken and trusting that it would happen with or without our panel of peers. But that didn't happen. We were crushed. Understatement. We were totally, completely flatlined. Unable to function. We were so sure. And then we weren't. We felt so foolish.
We fumbled and crawled for a few months. We were confused and lost. Our compass was broken. We were completely thrown off the path we were so sure God had placed us on. God was silent and we were humiliated. It's one thing to be graciously rejected, but to be mocked and chided ... that does something deep inside you. The words bury their way past superficial confidence and fight to destroy the very core of who you are. There is no tuning the voices out. They cease to be a loud roar in your ears and become the very foundation on which you build your life and then the only voice you have to tune out is your own. And when you do that, that's when the God that's been so silent finally has a chance to speak.
When we let him speak, he whispered to us the same things he placed on our hearts in the beginning. He didn't change his mind about us. He was firm. We had to decide if we were going to listen to what he says about us, or what they said about us. It's funny when I think about it now. How could we let the words of people who didn't know us define us? Why did we elevate their opinion over our creator's? In the pursuit of validation and earthly confirmation, we drowned out the final authority on all earthly matters. But then we listened.
We unpacked our boxes in a neighborhood that makes people's eyes widen when we tell them we've made our home there. We put our kids to bed to the sounds of cars revving, regaton, and the occasional gun shot. We wave at our neighbors as they're smoking pot in their cars and we laugh with them when something crazy happens on our street and the cops are called. We bring cookies to them at Christmas and our son leans out of his window to talk to his friend next door, leaning out of his window to do the same. We're still new here and somedays I feel like, "Is this righ? This doesn't feel like full time ministry. This just feels like .... living."
And that's when the rush of peace and relief comes flooding in and I laugh, rejoicing in God's strange and perfect ways. We are exactly where we're supposed to be. It feels uncomfortable at times. I struggle to share what it is we're doing and why without feeling like I'm being exploitative or "white family on a white horse coming to save the day". We're not in the city to save it, we're here to serve it. We're here to be a part of community, to bear each other's burdens, and to love and be loved. We aren't starting a church or leading an outreach. We're just here. Living. Being the hands and feet. And sharing the hope of Jesus ... by just being here.