Every day at 4:00pm, during my elementary years, my family crowded around our black and white TV (you know, the one with dark wood paneling on the outside and the tall antennas) to watch Little House on the Prairie. I can vividly remember all the details of what made that little house a homey place. I remember the log exterior, the A-frame, the ladder that climbed to the loft-ish upstairs, the chimney… It was so cozy.
My husband and I live a far cry from prairie life. We have made our home in an up and coming (ish) neighborhood in Nashville. And I love our little house in the ghetto. It’s homey and cozy to me. In spite of sirens blaring through the dark hours, and trains blasting their horns every few hours, and roosters crowing next door, and graffiti with colorful language across the street, and stray cats inhabiting our front porch, and trash that daily finds its way into our yard, and a robbery; I still love it.
Last week, we were doing more yardwork (some of the weeds came back – but that’s probably for another blog post), and we met a new neighbor who thanked us for how much work we were doing to make the block look good again. She began to share with me about the previous tenants of our home. They sold drugs, had wild parties, and shared the home with roaches. The police knew that home well. She apologized for our recent break in and introduced me to her kids. She thanked me again for making the block look pretty. And then I went back to yardwork.
After I shuttered for awhile about the roaches (we haven’t seen any since we’ve lived there), a smile appeared on my face. We are bringing light to the street just by moving in and being present.
When we moved into the home, we had suspicions about the previous tenants. There were clues (bullet holes in windows, a dead roach or two, and dime bags littering the yard) that there had been darkness in the home before us. But with each stroke of a paint brush, each picture hung, each bleach application, and each weed pulling, I feel like we’re pushing back a little more darkness.
Even more, with every interaction with a neighbor, every greeting to the junior high bike gang, every conversation in Spanish, I feel like we’re pushing back the darkness. We’re pushing back on the darkness of hopelessness, racism, poverty, crime, and isolation just by being present, and moving into the neighborhood.
I love the imagery from the message translation of John 1 about Jesus moving into the darkness.
14The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
God is all about moving into the neighborhood and being a generous light. I want to do that. There’s something about city life that draws me. I should clarify, there’s something about city life in a “risky neigborhood” that appeals to me. And that’s why, for Adam and I, moving into our little house in the ghetto was the right move.
I want to be the kind of light that Jesus talks about in Matthew 5:
4-16“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
We certainly don’t have it all down. We’re learning how to be good neighbors. We’re learning how to be a light in a dark place. We’re learning how to be generous. But we’re loving the process.
So what about you? What kind of neighborhood appeals to you? How have you moved into the neighborhood and been a source of hope, light, and peace?