Lately, I’ve had an idea in my head and I can’t get rid of it.
My idea-vision-calling is to work to establish a close community in my immediate neighborhood. That’s it, in a nutshell.
Here’s the thing. In our last few houses, the kids have been friends with a group of neighborhood kids – running around and playing together like kids do. I’ve had neighbor kids in my house. My kids have hung out in neighbors’ houses. They all knew each other well.
But the parents? We barely spoke. Our interaction was limited to a quick hello in passing. We didn’t sit outside and talk while the kids played. We certainly didn’t have each other over for dinner parties. And you know we didn’t breeze in and out of each other’s homes like Lucy and Ethel or Jerry and Kramer.
We stayed in our air-conditioned houses and scrolled through Facebook and contacted old friends through various social media sites, but we didn’t make the effort to get to know each other – our real neighbors in our actual communities.
Over a period of time, I’ve become quite convicted about this. I’m an introvert by nature, so limiting my social contacts to online friends, where I can control the interaction, is very comfortable for me. Intentionally going out to talk to my neighbors, especially those who are not like me, who don’t share my beliefs or my values, is decidedly NOT comfortable for me.
So the question is: What should dictate my behavior? My feelings or my theology?
My feelings tell me to stay home, take care of mine, steer clear of anyone who is different, put in my time in this house and move on in a few years.
But my theology calls me to love and serve my neighbors.
My theology calls me to be salt and light in the community where I live.
My theology calls me to share the gospel with those around me.
My theology calls me to remember that my neighbors are people God loves, who are made in his image. People who need a Savior. Even if they are hard for me to understand or relate to.
So I’ve decided that this house, this neighborhood, will be different. I’ve determined to live out my faith in a new and challenging way.
So far, I’ve introduced myself to the couple on the other side of the wall (we live in a duplex).
Hey, it’s a start. I had to psych myself up for it, but I did it.
I also nudged the kids into speaking to some neighbor kids who were out playing.
(This is a strange neighborhood in that we almost never see anyone out. It’s military family housing and almost every house has kid paraphernalia all over the porch, but we rarely see kids outside. I know it’s a million degrees out and all, but that didn’t keep the kids inside in our last neighborhood.)
So last week we saw some kids playing across the street and I encouraged my kids to go over and say hello. They came in a few minutes later and reported that it had not gone well. Apparently, the other kids yelled at my kids to get out of their yard. They reportedly said they would not play with my kids, “not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
Not an auspicious beginning there.
Despite that little incident, we are planning to host a neighborhood ice cream party in a couple of weeks. I thought we’d invite people from 7-8 houses around us – eat some ice cream, get to know the neighbors, set the groundwork for this awesome, close knit community that I’m imagining. 🙂
But if I had to psych myself up to say, “Hi, my name is Melanie” to the couple next door when we pulled into the driveway at the same time, you can imagine the mental struggle involved in going to 7-8 houses to introduce myself and invite them over!
We have started praying, as a family, that God would help us to overcome our feelings and our natural timidity and make us courageous enough to boldly love those around us. We pray that God would give our neighbors a longing for truth, a desire to know Him. We pray that we would live out our faith in a real way to the actual people in our immediate community.
Yesterday, we visited the chapel here on the base. It’s a small congregation with only a few families. The teaching is generically Protestant, so we might not agree on all the finer points of theology. The music wasn’t our favorite (although I’ve heard worse). It doesn’t have all the stuff we usually look for in a church.
We’ve been involved in a great church in town, but it’s a 30 minute drive from our house. The base chapel is practically in our backyard. If we get to know our neighbors and share our faith with them, where are they more likely to go to church with us?
And so we pray about that, too, asking God to show us what is best. To show us how we can best serve our neighbors and be salt and light in this specific place where God has put us. For such as time as this.
If you have experience in this area, whether military or not, I’d love to hear from you. Some people call it missional living. Church planters, I am guessing, might have some similar goals. I have friends whose husbands are chaplains – what do you think? Should we talk with the chaplain about this? What can we do to reach our community with the gospel? Are there books or blogs we should read? I don’t want to complicate it, but I’d also love to learn from others who have experience in this area.