"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.'" Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
In the two years since we'd moved into our new neighborhood, I'd seen her on my walks. Sometimes she was rolling her trash can out to the curb. Or in her front yard watering her flowers. I'd smile and say "Hi" for a brief second.
After all, my neighborhood is big; my life is busy. So I'd pop my headphones back in and keep walking to my house, just nine doors down.
Awhile back, there were flashing lights, sirens and all things alarming in our neighborhood. A fire, maybe? ... I thought as I drove into my neighborhood, returning from an errand-running venture. My mama's heart raced. My 12-year-old son was home alone. Had he burnt some toast and set the smoke alarm system blaring? Or worse?
As my car approached, I saw it was not my house, but another house nine doors down. Relief for my soul.
And though the rescue vehicles were parked in front of my nine-doors-down neighbor's house, no fire appeared to blaze there either.
Must have been a false alarm, I reasoned to myself.
Two days later, I heard the awful news. No fire. No smoke. Just a terribly saddened soul.
You see, just nine doors down, something happened in the mind of my nameless, flower-watering, smile-and-say-hello fellow human being. Something told her this life wasn't worth living anymore. And she agreed.
Now her heart no longer beats. Her flowers still grow, but she can't water them anymore. I can still walk by her house, lost deeply in the Jesus-music blaring on my iPod. Staring straight ahead. Rushing to the next thing on my to-do list for the day.
Nine doors down, there will be no more hand-waves. No smiles as I stroll by. And no more thoughts of, I should stop and find out her name. I haven't really met this gal yet. If I'd reached out and befriended her, would she have seen Jesus in our friendship?
Could we have walked the neighborhood streets together? Maybe gone for coffee to get to know each other a bit? Would a glimpse of the perfect God in the life of an imperfect me perhaps beckoned her to have a relationship with Him, too? Would she have found God's purpose and peace instead of finding a way to end her emotional pain?
God only knows.
I am a woman who wants to love God, but so often I am too busy to really love the people He puts plainly in my path. But this love, as today's key verse declares, is more important than all the sacrifices we could make.
I cannot beat myself up. But I can do something. So can you. We can pause, permitting God to tap us on the heart, gently interrupt us and rearrange our day.
We can go deeper ... beyond a hurried "Hi!" to an authentic, "How are you?" When God knocks on our hearts, we can knock on their doors.
Will you do it? Will you try? Then once you've reached out, leave the results to God. Our job is obedience. God's job is results.
Trust me, it is AWFUL to get to know your neighbor through the tales and tears of her relatives at a memorial service. I wish I had made the time and gotten to know her personally.
May we all respond to those taps on our hearts today and not ignore them. God just may use us as He saves a life.
After all, remember it isn't that far of a walk ... just nine doors down.
Dear Lord, I want to be aware of the times You tap my heart, asking me to reach out to someone. May I pay attention and respond, so they might know You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 4:17, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." (NIV 1984)
Proverbs 3:28, "Do not say to your neighbor, 'Come back tomorrow and I'll give it to you' — when you already have it with you.'" (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Was there ever a time you felt God nudging you to reach out to a neighbor, coworker or other person in your life, whom you didn't know very well? Did you? If not, how could you respond differently in the future?
© 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105