So we've been going through a conflict for over a week now with our neighbors - BB and husband. This week I've been listening to Chuck Swindoll's sermons about how to come through unfair treatment. And I wonder as I listen to this series based on the book of Daniel 6 how he would have reacted?
The short lowdown: BB was our childcare provider when I returned to work full time starting in August this year. I tried to overlook the fact that every day the kids were screaming when they had to go to her house, when I'd pick them up they mysteriously had "accidents" or one of her younger sons had bitten or scratched our kids. I mean, Paul and Anya went through phases like that where they bite and scratched other kids (although it was never a daily thing). When I realized they were walking 8 miles everyday with her to take her kindergarten daughter K to school - I began leaving them our van. I never asked for gas money or anything - although I assumed she would use the car seats that I left in the van for our kids since they were Paul and Anya's car seats. We've gone through a lot to be kind and show these people God's love - including loaning them money, lending them our car and never asking for gas money, watching their newborn baby for free, sending over food to them, and more. So I assumed, perhaps like other Christians do, that she would repay my kindness with kindness.
But Daniel learned - sometimes trouble comes because we did the right thing. The Thursday directly before our camping trip, we learned that BB had been acting illegally with our kids. The van has three rows of seats - and she would place her smallest and youngest children in our kids' car seats and then place our kids - without ANY restraints into the third row. Of course, we would later learn - this was the better of the things she was doing while "caring" for them. When confronted about the issue, we caught her in several lies to try to get herself out of it. We were shocked for sure and took the kids to different areas of the house and began asking further questions. Come to find out - that this woman whom we had trusted to care for our kids, was leaving them alone and unsupervised in her house while she took her daughter to school. Now, it's unclear if she was doing this while she was borrowing the van (which puts our kids alone in her house for 20 minutes) or if she was doing this before she had the van (putting our kids alone for atleast 2 hours).
She of course denies all of it and I don't believe her. In this neighborhood, Steve and I have often struggled with people who believe their kids over adults. We try our best to bring situations to parents' attention because they should be aware of when their kids behave badly in the neighborhood. When Kenzie kicked her younger brother Andrew in the face several times I told Becca, when kids were stoning a little girl in the park - I talked to their parents, when a little girl spit on me and I saw her mom - I told her mom. I think it's important that those in a community keep parents in the loop. Of course, these parents are more concerned about their kids' reputation and the fact that police were called (the stoning incident) than about whether or not their kids really did it OR if they had any responsibility to stop the incident. In situations like this, it's easy to see why the kids lie to their parents, "I didn't do that. No not me." I lied to my parents about tons of things I didn't want to get caught in (none of them as bad as stoning other kids or spitting on adults) simply because I didn't want to be caught. When our kids told us about what was going on with the car seats and being alone in the house - they had no reason to lie. They were super excited and wanted to sit in that third row again when we went out for pizza. It was only when we were like, "No you must always sit in your car seats." That they realized that it wasn't something good. I think taking in account the circumstances, it's pretty easy to know who to believe. Who has something at risk (in this case BB because her actions were illegal and got her fired) and who doesn't (the kids who just wanted another back seat adventure).
Daniel spent the evening in the lion's den without complaint and without petition for revenge or retribution. And yet, knowing that this woman repaid my kindness and doing the right thing with such evil, is really hard. I know God is speaking to me about this since Chuck Swindoll began this series right around the time this all came to a head - but it's still hard to think about. My friend Barbie reminded me that it is my Christian duty to forgive them.
And yet - with their continued harassment of our family (for example - flooding our backyard) it's hard. When I asked for our things that we had lent them to be returned - she screamed at me for 20 minutes through a door, the kids she babysat spit on me, and then she finally returned my ruined book that reeks of cigarette smoke with a note trying to tell ME how to be Godlike (directly following screaming at me in front of atleast 7 kids or more and then screaming at those same kids so loud I could plainly hear it outside because they came out and talked to me). I mean - we HIGHLY suspect the woman was stealing from us when she borrowed the van because several things went missing during this time period. Yet we continued to employee her because we felt that she earnestly needed the money and that we would simply go to a few thrift stores to replace what was stolen. We simply took away her access to our house and felt that her theft was probably the worst of it. When I've come home from errands or what not - I've heard her screaming to her kids, "I'm tired of your fucking bullshit. Go away!!!" - to her own kids, it makes me wonder what else she was doing to and with our kids while they were in her care. And I can only be grateful that they are okay and safe now.
This is of course not to imply that I am perfect - if I was I wouldn't need Jesus in the first place. But the first thought that crossed my now jaded mind was, "Of course - criminals always seem to find Jesus. Just look to our prisons - they are filled with 'Christians'." Which is such a jaded thought - but really. We're not the first family they've taken advantage of and since I wanted to believe her so badly, I ignored that they lived with another family in our neighborhood for two weeks, ate all their food, trashed their house, and when they moved out - refused to pay for anything OR at the very least buy that family groceries since they ate all their food. (We were friends with that family, so instead we fed them for a week until they were able to go purchase groceries.)
Daniel saw a lot of good repaid with evil in his lifetime, but was never jaded by it. It really makes one marvel at the relationship and trust he had with and in God. It never ceases to amaze me that there are people out there laying in wait to suck dry some sap (us) because they simply want to do right. So what now?
I suppose the right thing to do is to turn to God and allow Him to refine me. While Steve is angry - he already pities them and wants to continue trying to be kind to them by sending them food, etc since they "need" it so badly (which jaded me seriously doubts - they'll always find a sucker to believe their lies).
Not wanting to became jaded, I guess I'll have to take it one day at a time and atleast attempt to lift it up to God. As usual, the atheist road would always be easier - no responsibility to God there. :P