Yesterday the girls and I took a field trip to get a new pair of running shoes. Usually I go to a running store and get fitted and all that jazz... but who has time for that these days? I barely have time to recognize that my shoes are indeed over 2 years old and could be the main culprit in my post-pregnancy development of plantar fasciitis. So... being the loyal Brooks customer I am... I researched the type of shoe and insert I needed and then made a quick trip to Dicks to snag a pair in my new post-pregnancy size (really... who knew your feet change?! but cough, cough, Mom, I'm a size 8... just in case you ever needed it ;) ). I REALLY wanted to buy some bright pink flashy Asics... but the #1 rule of running is buy a shoe for support/make not the color... so I got these gals instead. Strong and steady.
You're probably wondering... Is this blog post about my new shoes? No... but I'll get there.
Anyways, the mini Salmons and I were running around the store with a double stroller and to my disappointment we kept getting stuck. It was really quite depressing, yet GREAT for shopping restraint. I'd see a running skirt or shirt I'd wanna look at, and as soon as I'd start to head towards it... BAM. I'd get stuck in the aisle. Or... I'd go to try on some clothes and the stroller wouldn't fit through the door. I think my all time low was when an employee caught me trying to unlock and push the clothing stand out of the way so we could squeeze through. The awkward "Uh-hem, may I help you with something?" was the polite way of saying, "Uh-hem... What the heck?! Could you stop moving our merchandise around the store?" The man didn't quite like my response of "Sure, could you watch my babies real quick while I go grab a shirt or two in that section? Thanks." Before he could explain that baby sitting wasn't in his job description, I sprinted to the shirts grabbed one in every size and color and ran back to my stroller to relieve the poor guy. (and the sad thing was it was all in vain... I didn't end up getting any of them).
All that to say, it was a successful trip, but the entire time I was walking around I never quite fit anywhere. To make matters slightly more depressing... not only did I not fit anywhere... the athletic clothes I attempted to wear also didn't fit quite like they used to. The reality was... during this new stage of life, Brittany the mom, didn't quite blend in too well at Dicks.
So I bought my shoes and walked out into the rain and started unloading the girls into the mini. As I was putting them up, a police officer walked over to me and offered to help with my stroller. He was kind and gracious, and explained that he had two kids and knew how heavy some of the double strollers could be. And all of the sudden, I felt a bit more human again.
The analogy of shopping at Dick's quickly dissipates when talking about spiritual lives... but stay with me. I think in that moment at Dick's, the Lord was preparing me to be reminded of his love for the outcast and wanderer. In that moment, that police officer's kind gesture was more than just an offer to help. It was acknowledging that (a) what I was carrying was indeed heavy, and (b) he was willing to help. And just like that, I felt a little better about my trip to Dick's.
And it got me thinking about the folks that don't quite fit in within our spiritual communities.
All around us, there are a lot of people who are hurting from the realities of living in a broken world. When they come into our communities seeking Hope and Refuge, do we, the image bearers of Christ, reflect an unconditional love for people who might not look or act like us? Do we let them know that (a) yes, the reality of living in a broken world with a sin nature is indeed real and very heavy, but (b) you don't have to do it alone. Or do we intentionally or unintentionally make it difficult for them navigate our communities and get plugged in? Are we staying within our circles of comfortability, and as a result neglecting to display God's kindness to outsiders?
If I'm honest with you, I prefer to stay within my circle. I like my small group & I love sitting with them on Sunday. I love chatting with them before and afterwards, because if I'm being honest... my small group rocks. They're funny, crazy, ridiculous people, and I just really like being around them and for some crazy reason they let me stick around. And there is nothing wrong with any of that, but the Lord pricked my heart to pray for His eyes. Because Jesus, well, he loves the outsider. Look at the disciples He picked, the people He performed miracles on, the woman at the well, the people in His genealogy, the people He commands us to take care of (orphans and widows). Many of them are outsiders. And if Jesus loves the outsider, shouldn't I?
I recently read this quote by A.W. Tozer and I've been chewing on it for a few days...
"A man by his sin may waste himself, which is to waste that which on earth is most like God. This is man's greatest tragedy and God's heaviest grief."
As I write this I pray that our communities of faith will not forget whose image we were made in, and as a result, whose image we are reflecting. I pray that that truth will inspire us to reflect God's love for the wanderer.
I'm also praying that stores will widen their aisles for double strollers to fit so I can avoid awkwardly leaving my children with strangers again... Just sayin. You can't blame a girl for askin... after all... I have not because I ask not... ;)
Jk jk, but seriously.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and pray that we will all have opportunities to reflect God's love for the outsider these next few days.