This thing with the neighbor is still driving me crazy, but not for the reason you probably think it is.
I’m not wishing her ill. At all. I might say I want to punch her in the face, but let’s be honest. I’ve never punched anyone in the face and doubt I’ll much like it if I ever do hit someone. What I really wish is to own a giant retractable claw like those ones in the arcade games where you try to win a stuffed animal. I’d like to use that claw to pick up Neighbor Lady and her family and possessions and transport them to a nice house in Florida so we never have to encounter each other again. She’d probably rather I were the one sent off to Florida, but who could blame her for that?
In the aftermath of her yelling at me, people have pretty consistently advised me (without solicitation) to “kill ’em with kindness”. Other popular and well-intended comments are “Pray for her,” and “Bake her some cookies.”
Question: Why do people assume that I haven’t been praying for her?
Right after she yelled at me, I walked around barefoot in the apartment parking lot, praying for her and calming my anger. I’ve prayed for her more than I’ve prayed for myself this week, and yet, that doesn’t stop me from feeling a sense of injustice. Now, at risk of sounding like a big baby, she yelled profanity at me, and I don’t think it’s sinful for me to be angry for that. Anger is not always a sin (of course you’re thinking something like, “Only people who are sinning in anger say that,”).
Throughout the BIble, God shows a ton of wrath towards injustice and depravity, and while the injustice and depravity she displayed against me may not be on a huge scale, it’s there, and it’s annoying for people to act like I ought to just float up to a cloud with naked, harp-playing babies every time I see her.
I don’t have an inflated sense of anger. I’m not hoping she’ll get selected as the district 12 tribute and have her heart eaten by the crazy guy the gamemakers had to kill via avelanche. I’m just one notch above annoyed, which seems pretty proportional here. When I see her, I feel disappointed. disconnected and confused. And, yeah, I feel angry.
But I promise I’m praying for her.
Next question: Why does everyone keep quoting the verse about heaping burning coals on her head, but they ignore the one about pearls before swine?
I know that as a Christian woman, I’m supposed to be a Disney princess who can win everyone over with my femininity and size two, floor-length dresses, but I admit it… when I bake cookies, people don’t automatically love me. Birds don’t come and help me do my laundry, and my singing voice only sounds decent when Lisa sings next to me and you listen mostly to her.
In addition to my lack of princess-like qualities, we’ve got the problem that not all mean people have warts and try to kill me because I’m the fairest in the land. Some mean people are over-worked, under-rested, curly-haired ladies who want to be left alone.
In high school, I had a friend whose neighbor hated his dog because she said it barked too much. She recorded sounds for an entire night once and gave the tape to the cops… there were something like three barks for the entire night. When the cops didn’t do anything, she threw poisoned meat into my friend’s yard and the dog ate it and died.
I don’t think my neighbor is going to try to poison me, but I could see her keying my car or throwing a punch in the right circumstances.
Baking cookies isn’t going to fix that. My cookies would be pearls just asking to be trampled.
Something else I’ve been thinking about is how David responded to Saul. He didn’t try to kill him with kindness. He fled. Sometimes, that’s the best choice. Sometimes, it’s the most godly choice available to us.
Now, when trials come into our lives, sometimes God is teaching exactly what you think He’s teaching: love our enemies, persevere, etc…
But what if God is teaching me something different?
What if my sin isn’t in hating my enemies or taking my own revenge? I’ll be honest, and say that my sin is (and always has been) self-sufficiency.
I believe I am smart and capable, and I don’t truly believe there are problems that I can’t fix.
What if this lady is a problem I can’t fix?
Do you know what I said to her as she was yelling profanities at me? I said, “Can we talk for a second?”
You know why I said that?
Because I truly believed that I could reason with her and empathize, and she and I would become friends.
I’m not even kidding.
I really imagined us going for walks around the neighborhood together.
I think God is teaching me to live with that aching feeling inside that keeps saying, “Can we just talk for a sec…”
I think He’s teaching me that He is sufficient, and I don’t need the crazy neighbor to like me.
I think He’s been teaching me that lesson for the past couple of years through my relationship with my sister, through my experience at BIG church, through my previous living situation, and now, through this. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many cookies I bake. It doesn’t matter how many times I apologize, how many years worth of Wednesdays I give up to serve another, how many strategies I come up with for making it work or how clearly I explain myself… sometimes, I’m not self-sufficient, and I have to rely on the sufficiency of God and move on.