We live in a community that we thought was going to be nice - atleast for awhile. And for the most part it is, however two summers ago (basically within a month of moving in) we realized there were some bad seeds in the neighborhood. It really tainted our view of kids in general - and I mean just about every school aged kid - from kindergarten to high school to college. It just really upset us. They trashed the TODDLER park, they stayed out late at night and made way too much noise (hello I'm only 25 but I feel so old saying that), and more. It just made me mad - I would sit out late at night on my computer on the patio and just watch them until 2 am sometimes.
Slowly, we've had the bad neighbors move out - from either getting evicted to totally trashing their own homes, to SWAT team invasions (hello our next door neighbors!), to simply not being able to renew their lease thanks to the HOA (one of the few things a HOA is good for). However, since this experience I've been so skeptical of all new move ins in our community - especially if there are young adults or kids. So when a favorite neighbor across the street moved out and some loud, rude, obnoxious young adults moved in in their place, my stomach turned. Their first night here didn't go well either - like us they have a super long driveway and so therefor had plenty of room to park their moving truck however, they choose to park the truck in the middle of the street basically blocking any cars from driving there. So of course, our other neighbors went and asked them to move their truck from the street - words were exchanged and the police were called. Then it came to light that these new neighbors had friends in the police department here and nothing was done. Situations have repeated like this for some time now - months now. Luckily, DH and I haven't really felt the effects of this - but because our friends and neighbors are receiving very unfair treatment and even RACIST treatment from these newbies to the community, it angers me. Because of these newbies, another favorite neighbor just moved out who would talk religion with me and teach me about Catholic cachetism (or loan me books which was great!). In short - I never had met this people and I just loathed them.
On Thursday after cleaning up our disgusting back yard - we will have to replace our backyard for now a THIRD time! - I took the kids out to play in our super duper long driveway. So nice to have. When I noticed that a very large dog with a pitbull face was roaming free and collarless. I have a huge fear of large dogs so I instantly began gathering the kids to put them back inside - the dog chased two people and then noticed us. So I picked up a chair and began backing the kids inside. Obviously, I called animal control who came and picked up the dog. Which belonged to the newbies. Who then blamed our friends and other neighbors for being "racist" and so they stole the dog. I was F-U-R-I-O-U-S, fuming! I decided to go over there and give them a piece of my mind. As I was getting ready to go to a shower and thinking over what exactly I would say to them, DH came in and began musing on what had occurred - reminding me that as Christians we are to control our tongues. Reminding me of my all time favorite Bible verse:
4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:4-6 NIV)
The Word is pretty clear how we should deal with others. And if that wasn't clear enough - James is blunt about the topic:
26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
(*Please don't leave comments on my blog, "But as a Christian we are NOT 'religious' but rather have a personal relationship with God." Christians who always get in a bunch because of the religious/religion words vs using relationship really try my patience.... :P *)
I felt so convicted by Steve and realized that I was being so ungodly in my thoughts.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.
Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
I began thinking about my day at work - I realized that my heart was fully in control of my mouth - my tongue was way out of control. I talked back to customers instead of showing grace, I smarted off to my Aunt instead of showing respect and honor, I aired my opinion to the homeless men I serve instead of showing grace and love and listening to them.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.
I decided to make Psalm 19:14 and 49:3 my prayer to God and He planted a vision in my heart. I loathed these neighbors, they totally offended me and angered me because of their treatment to my friends - yet how much more do they need grace? If, "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6) then why can't I hold my tongue and share His grace with someone I'd rather back over with my car a few times?
I prayed, then taking a deep breath walked across the street. I explained to them what had occurred with their dog and found out that they worked an unimaginable amount of hours each week. It was as if God was in the driver's seat and I was just watching, "Well if you're dog is nice, I'm a stay at home mom (SAHM) and would love to watch her for you. My kids and I would play with her during the day, take her on our walks with us, and make sure she doesn't get out to roam free again and possibly get hurt." I don't know if they'll take us up on the offer.
This does bring to question life application - as friends what does loyalty look like? I despise blind loyalty or misunderstood loyalty where one will equal loyalty to agreement or silence even when someone is in the wrong. However, another recent situation involved my friend Barbie who was wrongly accused of abusing and beating her kids! I recall feeling such anger over this issue, that someone would use her kids to try to intimidate her and now am extremly sensitive to the topic - so much so, that when a fellow ex-Mormon posted the same dirty lies about my friend, I gave her a huge piece of my mind reminding her (see my blog about lying ex-Mormons here) that all ex-Mormons are "evil" "liars" and thanking her for making this lie true. :/ Probably should have shown grace there - in fact I know I should have, however I was just so ticked off. I knew what this whole ordeal had done to my friend on all fronts - spiritual, mental, and emotional and I was extremly protective of her because of the whole thing.
So as friends, where is the line drawn? Is there a line? To what point do we remain loyal? What does loyalty look like? Are we betraying our friends by serving their enemies?
I hated offering to serve the rude and racist newbies, but God clearly showed me that it's not about ME anymore, it is about Him. God is using the uncomfortable, the undesirable, the annoying to sanctify me and make me more like Him. I may hate sharing grace with some people - but I just have to remember, that Christ shared it with me when I didn't even want it.