Roughly 15 years ago I returned from my first big church conference. Myself and seven others had travelled down in a bus from Darwin. Having grown up in the church, this conference was particularly foundational in reigniting my faith. I remember returning home and agonising over a simple question many have wrestled with at one point or another: “God, what is your plan for my life”? Like many of us - I’m sure - I was desperate for some kind of “divine message” that would reveal what direction I should take my life.
Like many millennials, (the curse of Gen-Y, I guess), I grew up being fairly consistently told that God had a plan for my life; that I was special; that God was going to do great things in my life. The concern with this line of thinking is that is it very individualistic – it put me in the centre of God’s will, instead of God being in the centre of my life. Ultimately, it made my time on earth about me, instead of others and the Kingdom of God.
Thankfully, since that conference the way I understand of God’s call on my life has significantly changed. Through many different lessons and experiences over the years, there has been paradigm shift regarding ‘God’s calling’ on my life, prompted by the question “am I loving my neighbours”? This has led me to engage in the world around me in a very different way.
Matthew 22:36-40 clearly outlines ‘The Greatest Commandment’ - to love God and love our neighbour - this is a theme that recurs throughout the Bible. Loving God is intimately linked to how we love people in our communities and neighbourhoods. What if “love God, love others” is the ultimate plan for our lives?
In his book, ‘God Next Door’ Simone Holt breaks down biblical concepts of neighbour - “…the laws of neighbourliness are not primarily about nurturing close and intimate friendships among neighbours. Rather they have to do with fostering neighbourhoods in which every resident is treated with dignity, respect and compassion” . In our western and individualistic culture, I wonder if we become so obsessed with self and finding God’s calling for our lives that we have forgotten to look out our front doors? As a teenager I was so consumed with finding God’s will for my life that I missed the opportunities to engage in God’s Kingdom that were right in front of me.
I was at house party at the beginning of the year and many of the conversations I had centred on the question, “so what does this year look like for you”? I was surprised by how many people did not know what to do next and were just waiting for what was next - waiting for God to reveal the plan for their lives. For some, there are definitely seasons in our lives where we wait on God and seasons where God provides specific direction. But God also says to us, “Get on with it! Join me in my Kingdom work”. This Kingdom work is encapsulated in loving our neighbours. The commandment asks us to look around and see where people need God’s love. How can we join God in promoting dignity, empathy and kindness for people?
 Holt, S 2010 ‘God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighbourhood’ Acord Press, Australia.