Nighttime Summer walks in Houston are some of my favorites. Yes, you read that right. The intense summer heat that we have here dies down for a short while at night, and a light breeze sometime blows through. Just enough that you may not need 3 coats of bug spray as you set out on your journey. But there is something about stepping out into a warm blanket of air right as the sun is setting that is both calming and inviting.
On Monday night, both of my boys went to sleep before 8:15pm, which is extremely rare. I knew it was the perfect opportunity to set out for a short summer walk. These days, taking a 20 minute walk is about as much as I have time for. As I set out down my driveway, I noticed my neighbor Steven across the street. He was doing some yard work and I waved hello as I set out. He was always a such a friendly person to chat with and I was looking forward to catching up with him when I returned. I heard my next door neighbors opening their garage and I knew they wouldn’t be too far behind me on their walk. Many people in my neighborhood actually come out around this time because you won’t be scorched by 100 degree heat at this hour.
As I began to walk, I became very reflective. Maybe its all the change coming my way but I thought about all the walks I had taken on this path before: Walking Jack to preschool (sometimes meeting friends to join us along the way) and the fun things we would find together; Walking down this path almost exactly 6 years ago to help induce labor with Jack (which actually did work); being locked out of my house at 9 months pregnant with Matthew and waddling down to a friends house for help, and most recently adding Matthew to join us along the walking path. I thought about how my grandparents and parents had walked this path in generations before me (they grew up in the same neighborhood that I am currently living in) and the legacy they have left for me and my family. I also thought about all the things I had prayed and cried out to God for as I walked: marriage, children, friends, family, my brothers and sisters in Cuba, direction, wisdom in many situations, and for my oldest son to be able sleep. But there was one other thing that I prayed for often and that was for God to use me as a witness in my neighborhood. That I would connect with people and have opportunities to share the love of Christ with them. I really believe our best witness is our actions. Yes, words are important but if our actions don’t match up with our words, the words are futile.
That prayer is the one I was thinking about when I turned the corner onto my street. I was one block away from my section of the street but I saw reflections of flashing lights hitting the windows on the houses I was passing and immediately had that all too familiar sinking feeling in my stomach.
I began to walk faster and faster trying to see where the flashing lights were coming from. Under my breath I muttered, “please do not let it be my house.” But after I passed the stop sign and was almost home, I saw the ambulance right in front of my house. There was a group of neighbors gathered in Steven’s front driveway and they informed me that the medics were there for him. I ran inside my house to check on the boys and then came back out. We all formed a prayer circle and prayed for Steven and then one lady asked for prayer for her husband who was receiving treatment in the medical center for a massive brain tumor and was already on borrowed time.
What I would find out over the next several minutes was that within a few seconds/minutes after I had waved to Steven and set out on my walk, he had a massive heart attack and never recovered. The talk I had planned on having with him when I returned from my walk will never happen. I went back home and just sat in my living room in complete shock. In the 20 minutes I was gone, my neighbor went from working in his flowerbed to completely gone. But I also realized something else. God did answer my prayer about connecting with people in my neighborhood over the years I have been here. I had several talks with Steven about Jesus and the night he passed, I was able to pray with several neighbors for our friend.
We never know when our time on earth will be finished. I am sure everyone reading this could tell a story of someone’s life that ended too soon. I could list 7 right now without thinking too hard. This was a reminder that we really have no control over the length of our life (no matter our lifestyle) or how sudden it can end, but I do have control over how I use my time that I am here on this earth. God, let our lives be lived with passion, surrender, and without fear to step into the lives you have called us to live.