Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When Good Neighbours Become Good Friends

I’m not sure what wisdom there is to help with the nature of your countenance on being awoken from some effort to get some kip. Are the fruit of the Spirit meant to be evident when you’ve been stirred from your slumbers by something of gross irrelevance and stupidity, even if that is just perceived? What are you like in those circumstances? Does the love of Christ just ooze from you naturally to those who have disturbed you?

No that’s not the theme of this post, but it’s a good way of getting some of those illusive questions of life off my chest.

So I was disturbed from my slumbers by some people who had responded to the wife’s ebay business, so they came to collect their loot. That’s not a problem, perfectly reasonable especially as there had been a prior arrangement agreed with the wife before this time. (Apparently, according to an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, if I should refer to Authrine as the wife again it maybe an indicator that we’re separated. That’s really funny. As in that kind of deduction, not being separated from Authrine. We’re not separated. We’re very much together.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, the people coming to collect their loot. Yeah, that’s fine, no problem with that, but then some other people turned up and asked what I perceived at the time in my recently awoken state to be irrelevant and stupid questions. My ire was not raised sufficiently to unleash the full force of Dryden sardonic wit and sarcasm in a dismissive manner to establish their gross inferiority at that time. I did however make it clear that there was no further room for conversation other than through monosyllaballic answers. (What do you mean monosyllaballic isn’t a word? What is it then?)

Taking the hint the perps in question did not stay long. It was as they were leaving and the ebay purchasers moved on that my wife chose that time to make her presence known – timing indeed worthy of her relatively new name – Dryden. (For if there is one thing I love with a passion is timing things in such a way that I avoid as much fuss as possible and just live in the tranquillity of the aftermath.) As she parked up, our next door neighbour was also at the door, perhaps her attention was taken with the moving carrying on. In any case, so there I was in the arched doorway where the next door neighbour could not see me, and there was the wife coming out of the car to see both her and me in our respective though next door archways.

Ever the recluse I took this as my hint to withdraw into the confines of my front room, whilst the wife engaged in conversation with our neighbour. On finally coming into the house my beloved partner of days shared the nature of the conversation and it acted as a spur to write this entry.

If you are unaware let me make it clear to you that followers of Jesus have challenges in various elements of the following. He often calls us to do things and be things that draw us out from ourselves into Himself. It differs from person to person. For me I’ve had tremendous challenges being a good neighbour. I have not overcome totally as yet, but I can see where over the last ten years I’ve made some progress in the area thanks to a lot of good influences like my wife, my church leader Hughie, my boss Danny and others.

Recently the local church was highlighting a series on Compassion 2009 and I had the privilege of going through some of the parables of Jesus and highlighting how compassion was at His source of the mission and ministry. I spent a month or two (one session a week, not every day of the month, although we probably could have done that) exploring the story of the Good Samaritan as found in Luke. Checking that whole episode in its immediate context and relating it to other significant things that God had been outlining since Cain knocked off his brother is highly revelatory for what the basics are in terms of loving your neighbour whether it is your enemy that’s suffering, or your next door neighbour.

Funnily enough at the same time I’d moved from one area of the city to another. You may recall I’d written copiously on the subject at the time. So as we settled down in the place where we are currently residing it was one of my desires to put this in action and show an active interest in the welfare of our neighbours. It was definitely a trip on the odd for me with my tendency to keep myself locked up and reading, writing or that kind of stuff. It’s not that I’m anti-social completely, as the friends I have can attest, I can be quite the conversationalist more than capable of banter. I am also very keen to develop relationships properly – not just based on projects and schemes that we’re doing together, but based on an interest in the person for who I discover them to be, and how I can likewise share my vulnerabilities with them. So the only barrier to me being a good neighbour has always been to take the initiative to engage with my neighbour.

In the six and a half years of married life to Authrine, it’s quite something to see how she naturally gravitates to being a good neighbour in building relationships with them and striking a knowing rapport as her retiring, reclusive husband hides himself behind another book. She has such an amiable spirit that on meeting her it’s difficult to take offense, unless you’re just ornery by nature.

So in terms of where we are at the moment I remember the key was down to doing something as simple as knocking on their front door to introduce myself. Talk about ice-breaker. (No we never played the game where you have to say three things about yourself with one of them being false and the other looking to see which one it is … although I might try that the next time we move … or not.) I believe the neighbours, for it is a married couple of whom I talk, were very happy to receive such a pleasant approach from their new neighbours.

I’m not going to unfold a tale of burgeoning love and devotion among us as neighbours, but we did get to know each other somewhat. Although it took us a remarkably long time to settle down, our neighbours were alright. One particular episode that stands out in the recollection of good times was one Sunday afternoon/evening. Authrine and I had stayed in a bit later than scheduled for whatever reason and we were just off to the COG facility to engage in another church session. Authrine’s car however had suffered from the dreaded dead battery. We looked to our neighbours for help and they came out and did their best with their vehicles to see if they could get the vehicle started. As it turned out they couldn’t, but it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for the whole family to engage with the couple as we waited for the repair/recovery dudes to pop along.

I remember it as well because another neighbour from an area around the corner from where we lived also popped along and tried to help. What didn’t help the guy was that he was obviously more than familiar with alcohol and had a certain manner about him that others would have judged him on as a slovenly, suspicious, sinister, drunkard. I say that, because that’s usually my safe preference when encountering such characters. Thankfully on this occasion the compassion of Christ emerged in me to actually see this neighbour as another traveller on life’s journey who had a distinctive tale to tell. So with his mangy mutt I spent most of the rest of the evening getting to know him and share a little bit about love whilst engaging in his fascinating story and I’d like to think the brother felt all the better for a chance to have a decent conversation, and as well as that I thought he’d given me the protection of the area as he knew the crack of what went on. Funnily enough, our next door neighbour weren’t as forthcoming in being hospitable, but at least there was nothing offensive in their approach to relations.

That was just one of a number of quality episodes in getting to know our neighbours and getting on well with them. As a result I know a bit more about what it is to be a good neighbour both from the one who is being it as well one who is the recipient of it. It is good. It is godly. It is a good bridge to building relationships with those on our doorstep in the hope of shining the light of Christ through our characters so that they can have a view of it and possibly begin to share in the journey to Christ. I am aware that it costs, after all as any good relationship will testify, it is not about superficial matters on which good relations rest, it is on the costly acts of transparency, vulnerability, compassion and developing intimacy. That sort of stuff can get tricky from time to time, but ultimately when it’s lead by the source of all love, you cannot go wrong.

And now to live that further when we move on because as one prophet said that’s when good neighbours become good … friends. (Check this for more on the same lines.)

For His Name's Sake



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