Unforced Sugar

March 2015

Last Friday night, my husband and I, through a strange set of circumstances, found ourselves on a double date with our across-the-street neighbors. We don’t regularly hang out with them. We’ve never shared a meal or a movie. We had discovered in a passing conversation that we were both planning to attend the same movie at the same theater on the same night. Why not sit together? So we did. Got coffee beforehand, chatted afterwards. It was nice.

As we left the darkness of the theater and made our way to the lobby, we stopped in our tracks. There before us was ANOTHER one of our neighbors — well, ex-neighbors, actually — a couple that had lived next door to us playing the “hip, younger-than-us Ken and Barbie with no children, good shoes and an LSU obsession” role. (This had all been monogrammed on their cashmere Vineyard Vines cardigans, actually.) We chatted. They caught us up on their newborn (ha! Take that, good shoes!), their new house, and their new lives as parents. We introduced them to our current neighbors who happen to have toddler twins at home and are remodeling another house they just bought. Which will of course soon make them our ex-neighbors as well.

That strange evening of unintended neighborliness reminded me of a couple of things. One: this world is a strange, strange place. Do you believe in coincidences? Nope, neither do I. Which leads me to Two: you don’t have to force relationships. We hear so much about the importance of community, of making an effort to be neighborly and to find times to interact with your neighbors, how it’s a Jesus-y kind of thing to do, and how if Jesus lived on my street he would have already brought me banana bread and the password to his WiFi and all his toddler hand-me-downs. I don’t mean this to sound critical of myself or overly dramatic, but the truth is I am terrified of people. This kind of outreach feels very nude-beach to me. Would I throw myself into a nude beach experience? No. Would I walk over a few doors to introduce myself to an unknown occupant of that structure commonly called a “single family dwelling”? Yes. In case of fire or zombie apocalypse.

But I don’t have to force it. I just have to remain OPEN to it. Be willing for Jesus to walk me down the street. If God wants me to be a caring presence in the lives of my neighbors, opportunities will be available. Opportunites tailored to me, provided I’m willing to act, or at least willing to be willing. Awkwardness will be unnecessary, but that doesn’t mean it won’t require faith. As Barry points out in his article this month, there IS an art to neighboring, one that people who walk with Jesus should examine and embrace. Brent McKinney, in his piece on Next Steps, describes the barriers that keep us from being neighbors (pg. __). But as you’ll see in Nora’s story (page ____), sometimes being neighborly looks like being a friendly person in a waitresses’ section. There are levels of involvement. And at every level, there should be an ease of trust — that God will take care of how stupid I look with my little hand shaking yours. Maybe he’ll even do something bigger with your life or mine. Or maybe we’re just meant to exchange cups of sugar. Holy, unforced sugar.

Isn’t it fun to trust God? Ha! Your groan is audible.

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