My wife, Rebecca, and I had been living in an apartment we did not like, and we were ready to get out of there. The day we moved moving into that apartment, one of the neighboring apartments was making much commotion.
A man and a woman were having a heated discussion during which the woman was moving things out of the apartment. A chair, some boxes, then some clothes—and it wasn’t long before she was no longer carrying them outside, but just throwing them. The last thing to be thrown out was the man, and the door shut and locked as soon as he was out in the hallway.
Rebecca and I were no longer staring, but we had gone into our own place. We sat on our packed boxes, listening to this man yell, curse, and punch his apartment door. On the first day there, I’m sure we both thought, we have to get out of this place.
Leaving Neighbors Behind
Less than a year later, we were packing again. Due to the Lord’s providence, we were able to buy our first home—there was no doubt, this was a great place in a great spot.
A significant factor in our wanting to move was certainly the unease caused by our neighbors. And, wrongfully, I let that unease be applied generally to everyone else who lived in that place as well. My interactions with my other neighbors were always filtered through my original distrust of them all.
If I’m being completely honest, I was guilty of many things, all of which can generally be summed up as the following: I felt like I did not belong in that place while the rest of “them” did.
On our moving day, Rebecca and I were placing the last few things in our rental truck when a neighboring family came outside. We saw these people each morning, and made small talk with them. They were very nice, open people. I had plenty of chances to invite them to church, to share the gospel with them, or at least to ask them more about themselves, but I never did.
When they saw we were moving, they had a physical reaction of disappointment. It’s hard to explain, but I could see that they were clearly sad we were leaving. These were people that I knew I had kept myself from appreciating, and I discovered that day that they really liked us and that they would genuinely miss us.
As we drove away, I thought to myself: I really messed this up, didn’t I?
God’s Prepared Place
I rejected that place from the very moment I moved there, and in doing so I rejected the people who lived there. Ephesians 2:10 gives me biblically-based language to understand everything I failed to understand and do:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
I like Paul’s phrase “that we should walk in them” because it depicts “good works” as acts that exist in space and time. They are real things that really happen in real places. If it is true that God is preparing these good works, certainly that means He is preparing the place in which they occur.
I had never thought of the place I was living in as something prepared beforehand by God. Perhaps God had prepared that place, and those people, for good works that He was calling me to do. In rejecting that place, I rejected what God called me to.
This verse convicts me in a different way as well. We, as Christians, are defined here in this verse, being called “his workmanship.” The verse tells us that we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” In other words, Christians do good works because that’s what Jesus enables us to do now through the Holy Spirit.
What good works did I do while in that space? None. I was not living up to what Scripture says about me.
A New Chance
Thank Jesus for His great mercy and grace. Thank God for His omnipotence; He will accomplish His purpose in spite of my failings.
This recognition of past failure motivates me toward future good works. I want to walk in the good works that the Lord has prepared for me in my new neighborhood. And thinking of this place as a prepared place gives me the courage to talk about my faith with my neighbors.
I trust God that He has been working on their hearts long before I ever moved here. And I can trust that He has me exactly where He wants me.