Reflections on Loving our Neighbors - Fellow Amanda O'Mara '17

This is a reflection by Fellow, Amanda O'Mara from listening to guest speaker, Cary Umhau of Spacious. Listen to her talk here.

Listening to Cary Umhau’s stories was an interesting experience. In her opening, she said that for a long time, she thought that loving neighbors and those who were different from her was good for other people to do, but not for her. That stuck with me the most as I listened to her tell stories about people she met on the streets of DC, because in a way, I felt exactly like that. I’m a quiet person and definitely couldn’t imagine myself in her place, meeting random people who were led to her by the Spirit, sharing their stories and struggles, and sometimes even asking for transformational prayers.

And now that I think about it, I don’t actually think I’m supposed to imagine myself exactly in her shoes. As much as her stories are cool and moving and admirable, they are only one example of what it looks like to be available and loving to those around you. The way I’ve come to see it is that stories like hers are the ones that make the front page; but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should be competing for that front page, or defining all acts of “loving neighbors” by those headlines. This, then, gives us the freedom to work within our bounds to love others in our own unique way.

In my case, I kept thinking that these things were good for Cary and people like her, but not for me. And after thinking about it more, I don’t think this is an excuse to keep others away, but rather an acknowledgement of my limits. If I stretched myself to do exactly what Cary does, it might be great for a few days, but after that, I’d burn out. It’s the idea that in order to love others, we need to take care of ourselves too, we need to put ourselves in a position that allows us to love others better.

And while I don’t want or need to replicate how Cary approaches loving neighbors, I think a practical starting point is preparing my heart for it each day. Cary mentioned that each day, she asks like a child asking their father, “Abba, what are we going to do today?” What the Spirit leads me to do with that will, and should, look different from what another person does, but is equally as valuable. The goal is, to paraphrase from Cary, to turn a face into a name and a name into a story, to turn the uninvited to the invited, and ultimately, to make someone feel mattered and heard. We don’t have to fit a certain mold to do this, we just have to be willing to see how the Spirit can work within our own limits – which I think actually glorifies God all the more, because He can make great things come from the unlikeliest people and the unlikeliest circumstances.

Amanda has been a Horizons Fellow with us this year. To learn more about the Fellows program, click here