It’s true that we don’t get to pick our blood relatives. Those are chosen for us. It is also true in most cases that we don’t get to pick our neighbors. Sometimes we luck out… sometimes, we don’t.
I am blessed with wonderful next door and across-the-street neighbors…some of them further down the street, I struggle with. To be honest, depending on my mood or if I’m in a rush, I may even try to avoid them. I have sometimes waited to take my jog or walk my dog because they may be out working in the yard and I know I’ll have to stop and talk (ugh, what if I don’t do that stuff I have to do tonight because they talk too long or ask me to help with something). I may walk the other way around my neighborhood hoping that by the time I’ve completed my couple of miles they will have already gone back inside. I mean, I’ve got to get back home and work on that “To Do” list.
Sometimes I am not good at fully engaging with what is closest to me because I am too busy.
Too busy being busy.
Too busy doing stuff.
Too busy pondering what to do next.
Too busy being….BUSY. And not just BEING.
I don’t think this is quite what Jesus had in mind. Scripture shows that He was available, and though He was preparing His disciples for what was to come, He was very present. He was fully engaged. He looked people in the eye and cared for them – even the ones no one else cared about.
This is what we are supposed to do. Being “busy” doesn’t excuse passing by that neighbor’s house…offering a little help in the yard… asking how their grandkids are doing…engaging in conversation, and showing compassion and the love of Christ.
Maybe this is one reason God called Himself “I AM THAT I AM” and not “I do what I do.”
A neighbor isn’t just the person who lives next door… it is a person who is near to you. Up the street. A cashier that works at your local grocery store. Your fellow human being.
One of my favorite books is called “Love Does” by Bob Goff. If it’s not on your reading list, put it there – at the top. I could write all day about Bob’s amazing life stories. He has amazing stories because he learned to be fully engaged with whomever God put in his path from day to day. For now, I am just going to share a very short statement from the book as it relates to what I’m saying.
When he was young, Bob’s father was teaching him how to properly shoot a rifle with a scope on it. Here is a short excerpt from that story:
“Son, you need to look through the scope at the things that are far away, but you also need to take your eye away long enough to see what’s close.” The life lessons in that statement escaped me at the time, but I’ve come back to words of wisdom like this when I was about to pull the trigger on a trial or a business deal or a caper of some sort.
The big point of Bob’s book is that LOVE does… LOVE doesn’t just think about doing, or plan on doing. LOVE DOES. The Lord has been using this concept, and the quote about looking near and not just in my scope, to speak to me lately. I get so focused on my Outreach in India that sometimes I forget to stop and look around at what’s close to me. Sometimes I put so much effort into what I’m “doing” that I miss, or even purposely ignore, what’s right in front of my face every day. Sure, I’m doing good every day for others, but am I missing the obvious?
These past few weeks I have been determined to spend more time walking by my neighbors and initiating the conversation, making some phone calls to check on friends who cross my mind, sending emails and fun cards in the mail. Checking with my 80-year-old friend a couple of houses down to see if she needs something from the store.
The thing that you’d expect to happen has indeed happened. Once I opened the door to building better relationships with the people I see day-to-day, the relationships have started to grow. I have spent more time being engaged, but somehow I still get all my “stuff” done too. It is amazing what kind of joy you can bring to a lonely widow by just stopping to ask how she is doing, AND not rushing away to get back to whatever you were supposed to be “busy” doing.
Beware, once you show that you are sincerely interested in someone, you may make a new friend – and, you may also be asked to drive someone to their colonoscopy. But, that is the result of being fully engaged and taking time to love as Jesus loves. And it’s worth it.
My challenge to you: Take time to look that store cashier in the eye and sincerely ask how he/she is doing. Stop and talk to that strange neighbor you always try to avoid. Acknowledge the people you meet and spend time making a phone call to that person you haven’t talked to in a while because it’s always impossible to get off the phone (you know the one). Make the time. Some of that busy stuff you do is just that.
Slow down and take a look around.
It’s being fully engaged with that human standing right in front of you that matters most.
John 15:10-12 ESV
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.