Sunday, May 22, 2011

Love my neighbor?

From The Great Omission, by Dallas Willard:
Some time ago I came to realize that I did not love the people next door. They were, by any standards, dangerous and unpleasant people—ex-bikers who made their living selling drugs.

They had never tried to harm my family, but the constant traffic of people buying drugs, a number of whom sat in the yard while shooting up, began to wear down my patience. As I brooded over them one day, indulging my irritation, the Lord helped me see that I really had no love for them at all, that after “suffering” from them for several years I would secretly be happy if they died so that we could just be rid of them. I realized how little I truly cared for nearly all the people I dealt with through the day, even when on “religious business.” (23)

Ow, owowow. I actually like our next-door neighbors, but I remember some run-ins I had about 20 years ago with a woman who lived a few blocks away. She fed a half-dozen stray cats -- filling a paper plate with cat food and leaving it in my front yard -- thus effectively filling my wife's vegetable garden with cat-poop. When I heard my then 3-year-old refer to her as "the stupid cat-lady" (words she could have heard only from me), I knew I really was not loving my neighbor.

And how am I doing today? I hope I've made some progress since then, as the Lord has helped me and I've been willing. And as he continues to help me and I continue to be willing, in the next 20 years I'll be less selfish and self-absorbed, less cold and intolerant, than I am today. Which is good news for everyone who knows me.

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