Do you know who I am? Do you know how much money I’m worth? I’m worth 15 million dollars, and … A conversation with a neighbour took a dramatic turn. A misunderstanding about a pile of weeds escalated from complicated to emotionally charged in a matter of minutes. By the time he’d walked away, I was in tears.

You probably want a little bit of a backstory. We’re staying in a home that doesn’t belong to us, but we’re doing our best to take care of the property while balancing the many other things we have going on at the moment. The Hubs spent some time hacking away at a ginormous wall of weeds, spending a few weekend afternoons sweating and getting his legs scraped while he tugged and fought with long-overgrown earth. He made a couple of huge piles of weeds, since he was going at this jungle from every angle, hoping to get things cleared out before it was too late and the bushes and trees at the back of the property were killed.

I only knew about the one pile of weeds, the one the Bear had “helped” him tote to the street the Saturday before, when a neighbour came around to talk about the weeds. I would describe that first conversation as calculatingly civil — though I found it all odd at the time — why did this neighbour care about the weeds in our yard?

I didn’t know about a second pile of weeds on the other side of the property line. I didn’t know the Hubs was hoping to speak with this neighbour about working together to get it all cleared out, since it seemed we were pulling weeds on both sides of the property line, though we weren’t actually certain where the property line was.

Not knowing about the big pile of weeds on his land, I assured the neighbour that the Hubs would be clearing the second pile he’d created on our side of the line. I didn’t understand why he cared about our backyard — and I didn’t realize until afterwards that it was his vacant lot he was bothered about.

I told the Hubs the neighbour had stopped by, and the Hubs told me he was hoping to speak with him. The weeds hadn’t been cleared when he showed up again two weeks later, while HH was away, assisting with a wedding shoot. Civil turned to curt and then curt turned to downright cruel.

It’s hard for me to recall how it all started — the neighbour arriving and beginning the conversation in an aggressive manner, beginning to attack my husband’s character. I was immediately on the defensive, my head spinning, trying to think of words to say while being repeatedly interrupted. No chance to explain the misunderstanding. No chance to say “He’d like to speak with you, sir.” Just repeated attempts at replying to a fast-paced bombardment of questions.

At one point, I held my hands in the air, gently trying to bring reason to the situation: softly, “Sir, why are you so offended about this?”

It was an opportunity to walk down a path of peace, but he wasn’t willing to take it.

By the end of the “conversation” he’d given an ultimatum: a deadline for moving the pile of weeds, or a lawsuit. 

But more than anything else, those simple words rang in my ears: Do you know who I am? I am worth 15 million dollars and I will sue…

It was the first time anyone had ever told me how much money they were worth in order to tell me why I needed to do what they said.

My Mom was a witness to the event — also occasionally attempting to bring reason but not wanting to intervene. She managed to grab an opportunity to ask his name because No, we didn’t know who he was.

Once I had settled down, wiped the tears, regrouped, my Mom headed home. My Dad was angry. The Hubs was angry. I was left to ponder one of the most unusual interactions I’d had with another human being for a long time.

These days have been a struggle for me. I’ve found it hard to stay thankful and to really see what dearly-loved John spoke about: “From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.”  {John 1:16} Little foxes have crept in to spoil the vineyard — little annoyances, small frustrations — I’ve been staring at the problems, the pests, the weeds.

But thankfulness met me again, just this evening. Wise words, cupping my face and looking deep into my eyes: Remember how to see? Remember how to look up? Remember Who to see — because earth is crammed with heaven’s glory, every common bush is aflame with God.

But only he who sees takes off his shoes.

Only he who sees.

The morning after that unpleasant conversation was a Sunday morning. I eagerly soaked in a sermon for the first time in a while — I have had trouble leaving Tiger Tank in the nursery — or he has had trouble letting me go.

The pastor was speaking about serving together, living with Christ’s objective in mind: People, restored to right relationship with God, maturing and living out God’s destiny for their lives. I eagerly scribbled down the words – thoughts I’d been wrestling with seemed clearer, things I’d been thinking about seemed to make more sense.

And then these words met me, as he spoke about our need to give attention to the poor:

Poor is not simply an economic term. We are all poor in spirit because we have aspects of our lives that are broken.

And they reminded me of a Scripture I’d read to the Hubs in bed, my eyes wide, my lips grinning — I know these words because I sense them in my life:

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses […] sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. {2 Cor. 6: 4 & 10, emphasis added}

These days have been a struggle — with pests and heaps of laundry and rough and tumble boys who pull my hair and throw things on the floor and go their own way, and I forget to look up. But the reminder of God’s goodness is always there for the taking, and we have received one blessing after another — but only she who sees takes of her shoes.

That taking off of the shoes — the action of Moses when he saw that burning bush and God spoke to him and said to take off his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground — that taking off of the shoes is an act of worship. That taking off the shoes is an act of not just noticing, it is an act of observing, truly seeing. Respectfully acknowledging the glory.

I have not taken off my shoes much lately.

But this daily-a-debtor-to-grace-soul of mine met the One to whom I owe that debt again this evening and as He gently talked it out with me on paper, the conclusion of the matter was this:

I will live rich because I am thankful.

Perhaps it was a bad day, a bad month or a bad year that made a neighbour want to tell me about his net worth in order to tell me about my inferiority, my need to heed his directions. But the talk of riches belied the truth — in that moment, he was very poor. And perhaps in a lot of his life right now, he is very poor.

And shouldn’t we observe what seems like a discontent and unhappiness — a regular pattern among the wealthiest among us? The athletes and celebrities who seem to have it all, somehow so many of them still seem poor. But from where the rest of us stand, we think the grass looks green.

What is richness?

What will we have if we can’t take it with us?

Hopefully, a life lived well. Hopefully, we will have had the time of our lives. Hopefully, we will hear Well done.

Could that whole process start with taking off our shoes? Seeing the gifts in every day, instead of pining away for the gifts on the other side of the fence? It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow with it. {Prov. 10:22}

We have to observe these blessings of ours, before we can count them.