I like schedules. I like lists and orders and organization. I like how in my Outlook calendar an event fills a box and only the intended box, signaling the end of one activity and beginning of another. As such, I am skilled at compartmentalizing my life and putting various areas of my life into mental boxes. There’s my “work life” and my “home life,” my “church friends” and my “school friends,” “me time” and “ministry time.” Everything fit in its own box. Until my box system failed.
Living in the same neighborhood as the families I serve, the lines between the boxes in my life have become blurred. Where I enter my “work box” and do the after school program is steps away from my home and the homes of my kids. They don’t know that at 5:45pm I’ve entered my “home box” and want to mentally check out when my home is across the hall from their home and they want to continue playing outside with me.
When we gather as a Care Fresno team, we often use the phrase, “Take me with you.” It’s a reminder to bring the kids to the store, to your family gatherings, to whatever you’re doing. Let them watch you and go with you so they can know your life. Let them enter the boxes you have previously excluded them from and be challenged if there are areas of your life you don’t want your kids to see. A few weeks ago, I was at one of the Care Fresno apartments with some other Care Fresno team members. Kids came to the door wanting to hang out and we let them in. It was no longer “adult time” versus “kid time;” it was kids hanging out and doing what we were doing with us. And it was not the first time this had happened. I joked with one of the girls that she had come over to see how adults socialize, but after the fact, I realized how much truth there was to that statement. These kids are watching us. They meet us through the after school programs we run in our apartment complexes, but how we live outside of program is what matters. They want to see how we treat our friends, what we post on social media, how we interact with our parents, how we act when we think no one’s looking, if we really care about them, and if the Jesus we talk about actually means anything to our daily lives. This is what mentorship looks like: taking kids with me and doing life with them, letting them see what I look like as I wander from box to box, hoping that through it all, they see Jesus in me, in all of my boxes. With that in mind, there’s no room for compartmentalizing my life. Boundaries, yes, but not compartmentalization.
As I let kids into different boxes of my life, I gain a better understanding of missional living. What I’ve discovered is that missional living is disruptive. It’s messy and it’s complicated. It reveals my selfishness and desire for control, as well as the too-abundant limits I have to loving my neighbors. But Christ never intended that I box “love your neighbor” into a few hours a week. I am to be Christ’s representative and ambassador at all times, wherever I go. I’m far from having figured that out but I am learning to loosen my grip on my time and instead offer my boxes back to God. Christ called me to die to self, invading every part of my being, every boxed hour of my week, and He’s using the kids in my neighborhood to show me a glimpse of what it looks like to live that out.