Let me start off by saying that I love my parents’ neighbors. Growing up, our neighborhood was charming but most of the residents were elderly. We hardly saw them and clung to the few families near our house when we wanted to engage in conversation. Now that Nick and I have moved out and away, Euclid has been the dream street. You know the movies where the kids run from yard to yard and they all play together? Euclid. The 1950s cliche where the moms are bouncing babies and the dads are playing catch with their kids or pushing the toddlers in strollers? Euclid. They huddle on sidewalks or in front yards and chat about their weeks. There’s even a free library stand in the median. It really is picture perfect. It seems half of the street goes to my parents’ church where my dad pastors and they all just really enjoy doing life together. Euclid Avenue has become a sought after neighborhood for young families and it’s done a complete 180 since my family moved in 20 years ago. My parents love it. My mom, especially, loves being one of these social stops. She always keeps a bucket of candy next to the front door hoping the kids will pop in and grab some.
This is why the beginning of this story set me off. It was out of character. Last Sunday, I climbed in the car and headed down from Michigan. Three hours of podcasts, pandora, and coffees, and I was drained. I was there to be emotionally or physically supportive in whatever way I could. It was no secret that my aunt was having a really rough weekend and had been admitted to the hospital. It weighed so heavily on everyone that my dad (for maybe the third time in my entire life) asked another pastor to preach for him last minute. He’d rather be in the hospital with my aunt. And that’s exactly where he needed to be anyway.
It was even announced to the church. And as I mentioned earlier, half of the block attended that morning and knew full well the circumstances of our family life and probably how exhausted, helpless, sad, fearful, and overwhelmed we all were. So when I pulled up to the house after that boring three hour drive and saw four bouncing girls running up the steps, I had to brace myself for being social, upbeat, and outward focused. I walked up the steps and they were grabbing their usual candy inside. They thanked my dad and ran out the door.
I set my bags down, hugged my family and caught up on all things Jackie. I looked out the window to see not one, not two, but five full families walking down the sidewalk toward our house. I will admit that I sighed. I didn’t want my dad to be the pastor that day. I didn’t want him to chit chat, to engage in conversations that I couldn’t be a part of. I wanted to focus on my family. After all, that’s why I was glad my dad took that Sunday morning off of church, I told myself.
But my dad loves them (as do I) and he loves being their neighbor and doing life with them, so he walked outside to chat. I glanced out the window then naturally turned my attention back toward our living room and asked Nick about the weekend. We chatted a bit. I mentioned that dad was outside too long and I wanted him to come in. I swiveled my chair around to look outside and immediately regretted every selfish thought I had since arriving minutes earlier. “Oh craaappppppppp,” I said aloud. “They’re praying for him.” I teared up a bit.
Heather later told me that she wasn’t expecting us to be home. She had rallied the troops and asked them all to meet at our house to pray at the steps.They weren’t here to steal their pastor’s time or tell him about their week. They weren’t asking questions about the church schedule or even saying that they missed him that day at church. They weren’t there for themselves at all. They were there for him. Not just their pastor, but their neighbor – their friend, and his sister.
I later relayed the story to Jackie, showing her pictures. And she said it best. I’ll paraphrase: Sometimes you discover that those moments weren’t actually interruptions, but planned events.
Less than an hour before this happened, I drove through the sleepy town of Wabash, just northeast of Marion. I spoke aloud to God. I admitted that I’d seen Him present. Despite the absolute hell that 2020 has been, I’ve still known He’s been here. He’s shown up in my little shoebox of a shop in very big ways. He’s orchestrated other events to make room for more precious moments with family. He’s provided. And yet, here I was asking for more because he wasn’t showing up in all the ways I wanted or expected Him to. I asked Him to be so overwhelmingly present that weekend for us. I asked for an interruption – for Him to move in a new way for me simply because life felt heavy and I wanted more.
Interestingly enough, one of my favorite verses this year has been “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14. In that specific version with those very specific words. That’s been my anthem. My reminder. My hope. He is present and He will fight for you in ways you didn’t expect.
Invite the intrusion. After all, that’s where the very best of life happens: in the midst of planned events disguised as interruptions.