Fear of Neighboring?
I walked across the cul-de-sac with a sense of dread. I am a naturally introverted person, and I prefer conversations with strangers to be on my terms when I’ve had plenty of time to mentally and spiritually prepare. But this one couldn’t wait, and I forced myself to continue taking steps until I was at my neighbor’s door. I silently prayed, “Give me favor, Lord,” and rang the doorbell. As I waited for the door to open, I thought of at least 137 things I’d rather be doing, including scraping gum off of a sidewalk or cleaning used fish hooks.
Was I walking to my doom? No, though it felt that way. I wasn’t even heading for a confrontation. My son had made friends with another young boy a few houses away, and they wanted to have a sleepover. So, I was walking to meet his parents, and make sure everything was in order.
Our church has spent the summer emphasizing “neighboring,” urging each other to be good neighbors to those around us and be intentional with spiritual conversations. In the back of my mind, I knew that I would not only have a conversation with my neighbors, but that I’d have an opportunity to be a good neighbor, and I wanted to represent Christ well. The desire to do this, coupled with my aforementioned introversion, had me a little stressed out.
Many thoughts went through my head: “What kind of impression would I make? What if I accidentally say something offensive? What if they don’t like me? What if we have nothing to talk about and this whole thing is extremely awkward?” It is astounding the number of questions that can enter your brain in a span of 10 seconds.
After my neighbor answered the door, the next 20 minutes were a whirlwind. I was immediately welcomed into the house and offered Turkish coffee. Since I had never had it before, I was whisked into the kitchen and educated on the superiority of this kind of coffee and the intricacies of making it well. I learned all about my neighbor, how he was born in Jordan and he and his family have lived in Lebanon, Syria, San Diego, Chicago, and now Indianapolis – “It’s the best place to raise the kids,” he said.
I learned all about their children, their school struggles, their allergies, and all the work done in the house. The coffee was delicious. We then discussed our personal beliefs in miracles and the supernatural, and I was educated about a middle eastern Christian king (whose name escapes me) after whom they named their youngest son. By the time we finally got around to agreeing on the details of the sleepover, I was out the door, and extremely late for family dinner. It was a delightful experience. “What a great family,” I thought, “I hope I can spend time with them again soon.”
On my way back across the cul-de-sac, I realized something. In all my fear and stress about trying to “neighbor,” I just got the best neighboring hospitality I could have imagined. In other words, while I tried to neighbor, I got out-neighbored by my neighbors.
So I write this to encourage you to not fear your neighboring efforts. Sometimes it is scary to be intentional, and sometimes it might not go very well. But other times, you might be surprised at how much your neighbors are ready to meet you. No matter how it turns out, God is honored by your obedience. Don’t stop trying to be a good neighbor, because the good news of the gospel is worth our momentary discomfort when it can lead to eternal joy.