I ran into a woman at Fred Meyer the other day. We were both dropping off our kids at the while-you-shop daycare, and I said something to her about how nice it is to be able to shop without distraction. We talked for a few minutes, and then she commented on how I looked familiar to her. After rattling off a few places we might have met, she finally mentioned one of the parks within walking distance of my house, and I remembered her as a mom I had chatted with on several occasions while our kids played last summer.
We talked some more and then exchanged phone numbers for future play dates. And just like that, I made a new friend in my neighborhood.
I’m not even a person who willingly makes small talk with strangers, but on that day as I stood waiting in a line, I initiated: I smiled, I made a comment, and I was hospitable.
This bold move by a shy girl was sparked by Pastor Mark’s teaching on Nehemiah 9. Folks gathered to read the Scripture, the story of how God had initiated toward them, and the people had responses — worship, prayer, and confession. Scripture is how God speaks to us, he said, and prayer is how we speak to God.
We must first listen before we speak.
This idea of responding to God’s initiation has been Mars Hill’s mantra since the dawn of time – it’s the reason we take communion every week and sing after the sermon instead of before. It’s gotten to be so ingrained in me, that when I visit other churches I feel a bit stunned when we are dismissed after the sermon, or it’s not the once-a-month week they serve communion.
But after this particular sermon the concept became more than just white noise in the background – I began to understand it as a model for relating to the people God puts in front of me. God initiates toward me, and calls me to initiate toward others. This is uncomfortable, because the American Dream is to be left alone. But God’s Dream is to be disruptive, and to challenge me out of my excuse as an introvert. So as God initiates in my life, I respond to him by stepping out of my bubble to initiate relationship with others.