The Power of Transparency

“Spirit of poverty and greed are not words of every day conversation.”

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

Humility is one of the finer qualities that we can exhibit with our neighbors. We see it so clearly exhibited in the life of our Savior. We Christians at times can come off like we have it all together with those in our neighborhoods. However, one day we might find ourselves in a place where it becomes clear to us that we, in fact, fall quite short of having it all together. Nothing is more humbling than to realize that there is something that we said or did that requires open and honest confession with one of our neighbors. There is power in this kind of open confession and you will see it displayed in Annette’s story.

Annette Grable’s Neighborhood

There is nothing like the power of transparency to redeem.

Many years ago, I began babysitting my neighbors’ children. They were preschoolers when I started and I have forever loved these girls I call my Monday through Friday, 9-5 daughters. I took them everywhere with my kids and they were family.

Except for one thing. I was living with a years old spirit of poverty. Even though I was no longer poor, a life of lack still had a significant grip on me.  Fortunately, it had little impact when the girls were young and unaware of what my experience brought to our relationship. This mentality manifested itself like this: my neighbor very generously brought food over each day, enough for her kids and mine, while I made food for my kids only. I greedily thought of my neighbor’s contribution to meals as part of my pay. With a bitter heart, I didn’t share our food. No matter. The girls really had no clue and my kids didn’t see the issue. I didn’t discuss it with them or anyone because I thought I was simply being rational.

Fast forward to when the girls started noticing that there was the food they brought and shared, and the food I never shared. I can’t remember my responses when they’d asked why. Probably, it was the way I covered myself with the cloud that poverty from my past left over me.

Around the same time, we had made new family friends from our then new church. I can still hear the wife, a best friend to me still, saying, “Have anything you want,” about food in her house. I asked myself why I couldn’t be like that too.

These feelings brewed and stewed in me a long time, so long, my neighbors’ girls were now young adults. Maybe it’s just how long God needed to let it bother me to the point of conviction.

It never strained our relationship as neighbors and I often felt such warmth toward them that the girls’ mom was like a sister to me. We’d been through lots together, we supported each other, attended the same get-togethers, did Girl Scout events together, shared patio furniture for parties, had yard sales together, and had regular girls’ nights out with our daughters and us ladies.

But still, for me there was that nagging conviction and I knew God wanted me to make it right. Being a good neighbor wasn’t enough. It also wasn’t enough to just share food to make up for the past. So, as it weighed on me, I prayed about what would be a redeeming blessing.

These neighbors are wonderful friends. The mom started a Girl Scout troop when the girls and my daughter were little, and it led to a circle of friends that includes us and that continues today. These neighbors are a galvanizing force. I don’t think this circle of friends would exist if it weren’t for them and their hospitality.

Hospitality. That was the answer. I knew they could use a new BBQ with all the entertaining they did. I waited for a really good sale that my wallet could handle and bought them a grill. It wasn’t the fanciest or the best money could buy, but it was what I could do. I hoped it would last a while and provide many good meals.

When I bought the grill, I came to their door and she answered. I said I had something heavy I needed help with in the back of my car, a gift for them, and that they couldn’t say no. She looked puzzled as she listened to my story.

I really had to work hard to hold back the waterworks and explain in terms that made sense. Spirit of poverty and greed are not words of every day conversation. I explained that it had been years that God had been working on my spirit, to change my heart to one of generosity, and to redeem my behavior from so many years ago. I asked that they would forgive me and accept this small token of redemption. She was very surprised and by the end of my explanation, we were both teary-eyed as I thanked her for listening.

Now, years later, the grill sits in a prominent corner of their yard surrounded by plants. It’s no longer useful as a grill because the bottom burned out. But still, it’s there and hasn’t been replaced. I don’t know why.

But what I do know is it that every time I see it, it’s my marker for an overdue moment of transparency, my reminder of redemption, the testimony of a broken spirit of poverty, replaced by a spirit of generosity.

A time for reflection:

This beautiful story of Annette’s portrays something that none of us like to do. Who wants to go to a neighbor and expose something that has been hidden in our hearts that needs to be made right with a neighbor (or whomever)?  However, confession is good for the soul and has the power to transform a life as it did with Annette. Is the Lord speaking to you through Annette’s story? Is there someone who you need to make things right with? Humbling yourself is not an easy thing to do and in some cases, takes time. Is the time now to make things right?



Listen to Bruce Zachary's experience with Neighborhood Initiative.

Listen to Dallas Willard's word to pastors and leaders about Neighborhood Initiative.

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