My life is very strange. Weird things happen to me that don’t seem to happen to other people, at least not as frequently. Those of you who know my story over the last few years can testify that this is true. And this tendency shows no signs of letting up any time soon. For instance, the mayor of Washington D.C. showed up at my door a few weeks ago. Now granted, he wasn’t coming to speak to me specifically, but to all the residents of Langdon. But he did show up in my front yard, wanting to know what I thought about the community. So I told him that the development of our neighborhood was seemingly bipolar, filled with brand new dog parks on one side, and strip clubs on the other. I asked him why liquor licenses had been approved for nearby clubs where there were frequent shootings, even against the recommendation of the chief of police. He looked at me cockeyed and asked if I wanted to take a picture or not. I said sure, why not. But as you can see, he seems none too enthusiastic about it:
Another “only-in-Peter’s-life” kind of event took place last week. I have a few motion detectors outside my house, so that I know if someone is trying to sneak around my house and steal my scooter, my wife’s shoes, or whatever. And it went off again last week, at around 4 am. Initially, I assumed that what had set it off was the litter of cats that had taken up residence under my porch, and so was in no hurry to check it out. But it beeped again a few minutes later, and so I wearily got up to see what it was. And no, it wasn’t the cats. Instead, as I peered out my bedroom window, I saw one of my neighbors taking a shower in my backyard with my garden hose.
And no, she wasn’t wearing a swimsuit.
I stuck my head out the window and hissed, “Jackie! What are you DOING?!”
The funny thing was that she couldn’t exactly locate the sound of my voice, so she stared about in confusion, trying to figure out where I was. And replying to my disembodied voice, she stammered, “Oh! Oh! I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But you know my water has been shut off all month and I’m trying to get to work and I had nowhere else to go take a shower. I knew that no one else around here would let me do this except you, so I used your hose. I’m sorry.”
I didn’t know what to say. It was 4 am, after all. But to be honest, I felt very sorry for her. I’ve taken cold showers before, and they are miserable. Even though it is warm in DC, that could not have been pleasant. And I did know that she had fallen on some hard times and her water had been shut off for a while. How could I get angry about her using a little water, something that cost me so little. So I sighed and replied,
“Okay. Just finish up fast, will you?!”
She started scrubbing more furiously than ever, and so I rushed to close the window, not wanting to see anymore than I already had.
I’ve thought about this moment over the last few days, and to be honest, I’m rather encouraged. No, not by the fact that random people like to sneak onto my property at all hours of the day. That actually really pisses me off. But I was encouraged that when this woman had no where else to turn, she felt she could count on me and my family for compassion and generosity. To her, that’s what we are known for. Did she take advantage of this generosity? Oh yeah, no doubt, and neither is it the only time that she has done so. But nonetheless, it made me feel good to know that as a Christian, I was known as a person who wouldn’t begrudge her a small blessing. I could be known for something far worse than that.
It also brought to my mind stories that I hear about North Korean refugees. When people escape from that terrible and brutal regime, the one piece of advice they are given is to head for crosses. Why? Because they are told that the people in those buildings will help them, shelter them, feed them, hide them. To refugees, that is what church buildings are known for, and by extension, the Christians who fill them. You find a similar dynamic in the gospels as well: lepers, Gentiles, the blind, the lame, all clamor to find and meet Jesus because they know what they will find from him: healing, grace and hope.
And this begs a sobering question from any of us whom would identify ourselves as Christ’s followers:
What are you known for?
What are you known for by your neighbors, your co-workers, your family members? What do people count on finding from you? On a broader level, as Christians, what are we known for? What can people count on from us? When people enter a building that sits in the shadow of a cross, what will they experience therein?
I would suspect that many of us are loathe to ask such questions because we are afraid of what the answer might be. I know I am. But we must. We don’t live just for ourselves, following whatever tendency is expedient or common. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, we are Christ’s ambassadors, his hands and feet in this world, and as such it is our duty, and privilege, to be known for the same things that Christ was. And if the image we project to the world is not in line with Christ, then we must work towards repenting and mending it, as Paul himself did with his own life.
My challenge to you is this: be KNOWN for something this week, something that causes people, in the corner of their eye, to catch a glimpse of Christ at the same time.