Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Gospel and Neighborhood Life

He appeared in my driveway this morning, this Aidan who moved in across the street. He's nine and macho, always shirtless and about to lose his pants. He builds bikes and changes tires and he offered just today to take the training wheels off of Mary's bike. He'd teach her to ride without them, he told Mary.

I like him.

Standing before me, his sun-bronzed face sported three fresh red scratches and two swollen eyes. He'd been crying earlier.

Peter learned that Aidan, before ten o'clock this morning, had an altercation with his 13-year-old sister, who babysits him and his two siblings--a 4-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl.

In a hurry to get Beth to therapy, I could say but little to this boy who pretends to be a man.

"Honey, are you okay today?"

He nodded. But more tears? A dam held them back. A quiver in that macho chin did not escape my notice.

"Let me know if you ever need anything while your mom's gone, okay?"

He nodded again and I drove off with Beth, leaving my other three with Daddy, who comes home a couple hours on Wednesday mornings to cover the therapy appointment.

A good drive ahead of me, I mourned this mother's need to be away at work. No mother would choose this, I knew. To leave three children in the care of a thirteen year old? Only desperation would create a scenario like that.

A day ago, Aidan came with his little brother and sister. My kids asked if they could all play in the playroom. So I cleaned it up good, and invited them all in.

From the front window I could see the 13-year-old sister come out their front door, wondering where the kids were. Earlier they'd been in the middle of the street, unsafely riding their bikes and I didn't know what to do.

In my mind's eye I could see their bloodied bodies on the street, downed by a teenager driving too fast. My mind always draws these pictures for me, and I respond quickly. But these kids? They're not mine and they wouldn't listen to my gentle warnings to ride in my driveway, instead. Or in their driveway.

It took my breath away, every time they'd rode around with abandon in the street.

I gently told Aidan how dangerous it was, and could he teach them to ride on the right side only?

But 9-year-old Aidan, their big brother? Just the day before I rode away to get groceries. I watched him peddle fast into the adjoining street without looking, almost hitting a car.

There's a reason my eight year old doesn't ride in the street without us, and why my ten year old can't turn onto other streets by himself.

Seeing the sister look for them just then, I quickly wrote a note for Aidan to take over, giving her my name and cell number, letting her know the kids were in the playroom and I would send them home whenever she needed me to. She wrote her cell number down, telling Aidan I should text her if she didn't answer.

I had to smile at that. A teenager asking me to text her.

I haven't the slightest clue how to send a text. Yes, I admit it. I've never texted.

Halfway to Beth's therapy appointment, my mind turns to their mother again. She'd sent me a note last night, telling me thank you for letting her little ones play here the day before, and did I have any fever reducer her five year old could use? She also wrote down her phone number and said I should call her if I ever needed anything.

And do you know? It thrilled me to receive this note. A neighbor asking for my help warmed my heart, for the days of borrowing cups of sugar are long gone. It tickled me to grab my generic children's tylenol, give it to Aidan, the messenger, and tell him we'd pray for his little sister.

But that word...pray.

He'd looked at me funny when I said it.

I closed the door after he left, reminding myself not to be ashamed of the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

The gospel can invite trouble, I know this afresh. For the woman two doors down? The one I invited to dinner along with her grandson? Not only did she never respond, but today Peter saw them both out and waved and waved. They both stared at him from their driveway, and it took three times before Landon waved back. The grandmother? She didn't wave.

"Mommy", Peter told me afterwards, "That really hurt my feelings. Why wouldn't she wave? She used to wave, before we invited her to dinner."

"It's very hard to understand, Peter. Somehow, she was offended by my invitation. I don't know why, except that maybe she's been hurt by other Christians. Some people think of Christians as Jesus-freaks--people who aren't really of this world. They don't want to get too close. It's a sort of fear. Prejudice is always rooted in fear. And honey, we really aren't of this world. And no matter how much it hurts to be rejected, we can't try to hide the fact that we're Christians. We can't be ashamed of the gospel."

As Aidan rode off on his bike last night with the fever reducer, I wondered what he would say to his parents. 

Would he mention that word...pray? And what would they think? Would we hear from them again?

I prayed. We all prayed.

What else can a Jesus Freak do next, but pray?

Prayer Time:  Dear Lord, Thank you for plucking me out of this world. Thank you for making me a Jesus Freak. I want to spread your love and your Truth, so others can feel what I feel...this deep, wild love for you. Help us all, Lord. Give us wisdom in our interactions, and give us strength through rejections. Thank you for never leaving us nor forsaking us. I love you. Fill my children up, Lord. Thank you that this summer they're learning to stand up for you. Thank you that I'm here, able to disciple them through it all. 

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.


S. Etole said...

This touches my heart ... deeply. For all of you.

Christine said...

Oh, dear Susan. Thank you for your kind words.