This is Part 1 in my series on Familiarity.
When we hear words like familiarity, we often think of them strictly in their negative sense. We think about things like how Jesus couldn’t do any miracles in His hometown, because the people there were so familiar with Him that they couldn’t see anything divine coming out of Him. And it’s true: the closer we are to things, the less likely we are to see their beauty. In this sense, familiarity blinds us. But there is another side to familiarity that actually helps us to see.
Three weeks ago, I was with the youth outreach ministry I work with, doing a school outreach in a very small town in East Texas. Yesterday, I was on my way to Shreveport, and I drove through the town once again. As I passed the school, I began re-playing images in my mind from the outreach, and I saw the names and faces of students we had ministered to. And I prayed for them, that God would show up in their lives and point them toward who He created them to be, and more importantly, toward Himself.
Had I no previous interaction with the students, teachers and principals at this school, I wouldn’t have given the school a second glance as I drove by. But because I had some level of familiarity, I found myself remembering the outreach and praying for the students, a few of them by name.
Before I started working with the youth outreach ministry, I didn’t spend much time thinking about schools. But now that I have been doing outreaches at them for three years, I find myself praying for most schools that I drive by. And it’s funny, because three years ago, I never pictured myself becoming burdened for schools or students. Coincidentally, I was also not familiar with either one. But then I showed up at an outreach one day, sort of by accident, and in a moment, I became very familiar and aware of the need for this type of ministry.
Familiarity leads to an awareness of need, which leads to compassion, which leads to vision, which leads to action.
Because action rarely happens without vision, many of us are sitting around waiting for vision to come to us, so that we can go out and take action. But what if we’re doing this wrong? What if we need to get out and become familiar with things, so that we can see needs, be moved to compassion, develop vision, and ultimately, take action? Perhaps we need to start showing up places, until we become familiar with the cause that was inside of us all along.