Well, technically it was on the road in front of our house but it was the same excitement without the drama. My kids were glued shamelessly to our front windows for the better part of an hour. We thought it was just a traffic stop at first, but then it got interesting. The squeals when the handcuffs went on and the car was impounded were ear-splitting. It was a lot of excitement right before bed, but it was the highlight of our day. Sitting there watching them, I could see they were all excited about it, but it was also building anxiety in some of them. That came to a head later in the evening.
Four months ago we moved out of our very safe, upper-middle-class, Bartlett neighborhood and intentionally came to the city and to a part of town that has a lot of rough edges. We aren’t even in a bad part of town but we live on a very busy street with lots of sirens and loud noises. We lost 1,000 sq feet of house and the false sense of security we enjoyed before. It has been quite an adjustment for all of us. I say false sense of security because there was a fatal shooting in our old town this past 4th of July celebration. Our world is broken and if we think our security lies in our home address then we are kidding ourselves. But this move isn’t just for giggles. We came here because we are planting a church in downtown Memphis, and we believe we will serve this community better if we are in it. How will we know the struggle and the hurts of the people we are hoping to serve if we don’t do life with them? We have to play baseball with their kids, greet them on our sidewalk every week, know their name at the checkout counter or the street corner, and invite them into our lives. So we are here.
The hardest part for me has been the kids. They understand what we are doing and want to do it, but they see the sirens and they meet the homeless people, and their spirits tell them that this place is different – more raw. They understandably feel some anxiety about it. My oldest daughter got up later that evening and wanted to cuddle. I asked her if it was because of the arrest and she said it was and dropped a crocodile tear. We snuggled, read God’s Word, remembered His faithfulness to us, and prayed for peace. In the end, she went to bed and slept well. But each moment like this, where I have to remind my children and myself that the safest place to be is the place we are called, makes me ask myself again: are we doing the right thing? Sometimes the answer comes more easily than others. But I always arrive at the same place. Yes. So much YES.
My goal is not my children’s comfort or their happiness (GASP). I want them to have a beautiful childhood full of laughter and love. Part of that beauty will come in the form of service. Sometimes it will be uncomfortable and sometimes they will give up their momentary happiness for the good of another – but we get to keep the joy always. I don’t want to just tell them over and over again how important it is to serve others, or how all people are the same, or that love is a verb and it means putting someone else’s needs above your own. I want them to see it and live it so much that those facts are just a part of their DNA. I won’t sanitize their world so much that they have no idea how deep the need is. My hope is that seeing the need and also the transformation that happens when we offer people Truth and Hope will light a fire in them that will burn well into adulthood.
So tonight as they sleep in their beds and some have wild, silly dreams about cops and robbers, and in the days to come as the older ones mull over what we are doing and what purpose and cost comes with it, I will pray that God uses it to burn into their hearts Micah 6:8 – “He has told you, Oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” These moments of seeing injustice or brokenness or senselessness will make them uncomfortable – they will feel and experience the injustice, not just learn that it exists – but they will have the tools to make themselves ready to fight back the darkness. That’s my goal for them: courage, confidence, and kindness… and A LOT of laughing and love.