You have a strong desire to know Christ, grow in your faith and bear the fruit of the Spirit (Philippians 3:8-11; Ephesians 4:24; Galatians 5:22-26). Because of your desire to grow, you are interested in spiritual practices like prayer, solitude, meditation, fasting, and Scripture reading as ways of drawing close to God. You find life meaningful and value the spiritual gift of love above everything else, and you see ways people can incorporate spiritual practices to help them grow in their faith and relationship with God. Consider sharing your life with another person by becoming a mentor. Find ways to connect with new Christians to help them on their faith journeys. Think about the people you know who feel like they don’t have a deep relationship with God.
I stepped outside for our daily walk, breathing in the fresh spring air as the radiant warmth of that signature Florida heat touched my face. It was April 2020, and my wife and I, with our two little boys, had just moved to a small neighborhood in Tampa from New York City.
I was still not used to my surroundings — the winding, more suburban streets, each house neatly placed beside the next yet somehow disconnected and isolated, like islands holding entire lives. We were living side by side but not together in any meaningful sense. The only thing I shared with folks on my street was a mailman.
COVID-19 hadn’t brought us here to Tampa and our new home, but it sure changed what “here” felt like.
In the early days of shelter-in-place orders and social distancing, I could almost see waves of loneliness and uncertainty rolling down the driveways.
Living in Manhattan under normal circumstances, there were regular opportunities for community: church events, small group outreaches, dinner parties and game nights with people in our home.
The pandemic and my move to Tampa disrupted my normal, ready-made ministry moments and the blessings I received from being in community. For a long time, I had no idea where or how to even start building relationships with others. I felt like a sailor who had suddenly lost the wind, drifting into uncharted waters.
A question was stuck in my mind like a splinter: Are there opportunities to love others and offer a taste of the hope of Jesus during this time of separation?
I hoped to answer this question by reading the gospels to encounter and learn from Him. There is something simple yet irresistible about Jesus’ life and ministry. Some of the most memorable scenes were unpredictable and unexpected interruptions.
For the disciples, walking with the Son of God must have felt messy and unpredictable. But no matter where Jesus went, you could expect the presence and power of God to break in. This was a great source of hope for me.
As I read, several principles emerged:
See how others respond and what doors might open when you first take the posture of a listener.
These principles guided us in that difficult season. Perhaps they can help you too. It isn’t always glamorous, but as you practice these, you can begin to make a difference right where you are. Patiently planting tiny seeds can result in much fruit (Matthew 13:31-32).
We started a daily walk around the neighborhood as a family, seeking to embody the principles we saw in the life of Jesus.
These walks became sacred times of expectation and blossomed into opportunities:
And suddenly we were immersed in love, connection and hope in places we hadn’t expected.
In these small ways, we could meet real needs and share the good news of the gospel with those around us. These touchpoints with the hospitality and love of God pushed back against the loneliness that threatened to overwhelm.
So what about you? How is God inviting you to see opportunities where you are? What could happen as you pray and seek to become more available to, interruptible by, and curious of those within relational reach?
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