On a sunny Thursday, I board a train near my house and get off in Richmond. A friend sitting outside the tube station greets me with a smile on her face. “Are your feet going to be okay walking in those shoes,” Elaine asks before standing up.
I am wearing black flats. She doesn’t know it but I spent 20 minutes before leaving my house debating about which shoes to wear. It turns out I have all the wrong shoes for living in an urban city where walking is the primary method of travel to places.
“I will be fine,” I tell her while gulping doubt down my throat.
We amble past charming storefronts, a panoramic view of the Thames, down a grassy footpath through a pasture of cows, all the while talking about the ways God is meeting us individually. “You are my last yes,” I tell her and she laughs. I’ve had to say some hard no’s to being present with people lately in order to meet deadlines.
A narrow passageway between two ancient stone walls opens to a quiet, hidden paradise. Of shabby chic tables and chairs, buxom flowers, and pergola’s hanging with vines. People are chatting over bowls of soup and greens piled on plates.
It’s as if I walked through a closet into a secret garden, a place my friend instinctively knew would speak my love language. But we barely know each other, except that we do.
Elaine found me through my writing and reached out shortly after I moved to London. We met for tea and then she began praying for me without prompting.
This little excursion is only the second time we’ve been together outside of being in crowded rooms for events.
Prayer, I’ve learned, unites people in ways that transcend common definitions for friendship.
The love of God, mercy of God and the provision of God are singular, they are actions of God toward us. But friendship with God is not something He does, it is about being together.
Jesus calls you friend for no other reason than because you are the point of his affection; not your job, affiliations, parenting skills, political leanings or your spiritual convictions. In true friendship, all of those variables are beside the point when you meet.
Choosing to trust in the friendship of Jesus makes us an active and expectant participant in the midst of uncertainty and challenging situations, a posture that isn’t common or novel but a peculiar way of life bringing ultimate fulfillment.
Jesus says, Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT)
In the past, when people have asked me to meet with them for lunch, I held my breath a little. I knew they wanted something from me — advise, counsel, prayer, a safe place to vent — but ulterior motive remained a mystery until our plates held crumpled napkins. But since I’ve been in London, that has rarely been the case.
Londoners are teaching me about what it means to be a neighbor.
In the face of injustice to innocent people we read about in the headlines, our conscience grapples with how to respond and the story of the good Samaritan teaches us. (Luke 10:25-37)
God says the way to eternal life is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
And just like the rich lawyer seeking justification, we are often asking the wrong question in scenarios that have dire consequences for nations. We are asking, Who is my neighbor? when God is asking How are you being neighborly?
God is calling us to be aware, not to meet every need.
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. – GK Chesterton
In our instant, drive through, Google it world, we can share on social media to soothe our conscience and go on living in an insular world. But God is asking, What will you do about it? How will you be a neighbor to the man lying on the side of the road? What will you do about the woman God has laid on your heart? Will you trust in our friendship?
On our way back to the train station, Elaine and I are coaxed inside a shoe store by a sale sign in the window. Seconds after we begin turning shoes over to look at price tags she tells me she wants to buy me a decent pair of walking shoes.
She doesn’t know finding the right shoes is something I’ve been praying about for weeks but it turns out, she has feet empathy and good shoes are a high value for her.
If you are wondering how to respond to racism, injustice, and the needs of those around you remember that friendship with Jesus doesn’t require your money, political affiliations, degrees, title or aspirations. He longs for your awareness and empathy.
Put yourself in someone’s shoes, offer a prayer, extend an invitation, come together and trust Him to lead you.
The journey might hurt a little but the beauty discovered will be worth it.