Last summer, I spent each suffocating quarantine morning squeezing my pregnant body into a bright blue lawn chair. Like the rest of the pandemic experience, it was miserable, but I made do. Yet as soon as I caught the scent of changing seasons this past March, I drove to a local outdoor store and bought a patio sofa and table for our front porch. Soft cushion, wicker back, and a table big enough to hold my coffee cup and my daughter’s bubble machine. This summer would be different.
Our house sits on top of a hill, and from my cushioned seat I have full view of our small neighborhood. I watch new neighbors move in and out. I wave at the girl walking her dog. I make small talk with our elderly neighbor next door. I laugh at my daughter rocking on the tree swing and my son trying to eat sidewalk chalk. Unlike last year, I feel safe and comfortable in my new seat on my front porch.
Soon after setting up our patio furniture, we received a letter from our homeowner’s association announcing a new Facebook group for neighborhood residents. I pulled out my phone while still sitting on the porch and joined the group. Scrolling through the feed, I skimmed a handful posts about missing dogs and storm damage. I clicked out of the app and forgot about the Facebook group until a few months later.
My church women’s ministry invited us to reach out to our neighborhood by hosting a summer book club. While I may have complained about isolation during our quarantine last year, I was still apprehensive about inviting over people I had only watched from my front porch. While I was comfortable waving from afar, I didn’t feel bold enough to call out an invitation as someone passed or, even more, to knock on someone’s door.
But I couldn’t get it off my mind, and I felt the Spirit stirring my heart. Before I could second guess myself, I opened Facebook on my phone and typed a message into the neighborhood group, “Would anyone like to join me for a book club this summer?”
I was surprised by a notification a minute later: a neighbor three doors down commenting that she wanted to join. Then two more women responded the next day. I pulled out the broom and started sweeping my front porch, still wondering what had caused me to post such a bold question.
Jesus wasn’t afraid of bold moves. Sitting at the well with a Samaritan woman. Calling out to a tax collector hanging from a tree branch. Touching the unclean leper and the unclean woman. Lifting the child to his knee. Allowing an outcast woman to anoint him with expensive perfume.
Jesus had plenty of people following him—thousands were fascinated by his miracles, his words, his persona. He could have stayed seated on the mountain, preaching sermon after sermon, teaching from afar, and protecting himself from the religious leaders.
Yet he left the mountain to sail on boats, walk down busy roads, enter homes, attend weddings and funerals, and look the weary and broken in the eye. Instead of taking the comfortable road of an esteemed rabbi, he set himself apart from the religious practices of the day by getting up close and personal.
In each interaction, he healed, he forgave, he freed, and most importantly, he loved others with the same love that the Father had shown him (John 15:9). He lived his life according to what he regarded as the greatest commandment—love God and love neighbor (Mark 12:28-31). That love required Jesus’ sacrifice—of comfort, of reputation, and ultimately, of his own life. And that is the bold love to which he calls each of his followers. He made the invisible God visible through his love, and he has called us to do the same. “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
It would be much easier for me to wave at my neighbors from my comfortable seat on the front porch—guarded by sidewalk chalk and bubbles and commenting on the weather and the rising prices in our neighborhood. But I wasn’t called to live in isolation, and quarantining proved that. I was called to love my neighbor as Jesus did, and that requires a walk down my hill to join in conversation or a meal. And that relationship often begins with one bold text message or Facebook post.
When I open my front door to these new women, I open myself to truly love my neighbor as myself. I can’t love them if I don’t ever invite them in. I can’t reach my community if I never leave the patio set on my front porch.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Bold”.
If you’re looking to host a community book club, a creative woman at my church created these discussion guides including themed recipes (my book club read and discussed The Summer House, a delightful summer read).