Intentionally walking with others, helping them grow deeper in their faith, becomes transformative when we make space to notice others particularly. For it is in the conditions of lives shared, honored, noticed, and enjoyed—that is, friendship—that something of the Spirit’s nurturing grace is imparted to us and through us to others. This noticing involves expecting God to work in the lives of those around us. In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson points out that we must cultivate a sense of expectancy when it comes to helping our community mature and grow. Peterson writes,
Important in any community of faith is an ever-renewed sense of expectation in what God is doing with our brothers and sisters in the faith. We refuse to label the others as one thing or another. We refuse to predict our brother’s behavior, our sister’s growth. Each person in the community is unique; each is specially loved and particularly led by the Spirit of God. How can I presume to make conclusions about anyone? How can I pretend to know your worth or your place?…
A community of faith flourishes when we view each other with this expectancy, wondering what God will do today in this one, in that one. When we are in community with those Christ loves and redeems, we are constantly finding out new things about them. They are new persons each morning, endless in their possibilities. We explore the fascinating depths of their friendship, share the secrets of their quest. It is impossible to be bored in such a community, impossible to feel alienated among such people. (page 182)
We must learn to be alert and on the edge of our seats to see what God might do next in this person or that person’s life. Our God is infinitely creative and always developmental—we never know what the Spirit might do next.
Look around your network of family and friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. Pay attention to those on the margins of your surrounding community as well. Are you open to being surprised by what God might do next in your neighbor’s life? How are you learning to pay attention expectantly to the good things God is up to in your community?