Failing Big

I had a neighbor who suffered a stroke. She was a sweet elderly lady who always waved at us and we at her. She worked cleaning houses, and she went to church faithfully every Sunday. She had a son who was mentally ill, and she walked with dignity and a poise that seemed to bely her years. She was an extraordinary lady, and I wished to be that awesome when I reached her age.

When she had a stroke, I felt certain that God was nudging me into preparing meals and taking them to her. However, I let my self-doubt get in the way. I asked myself why she'd want to eat my cooking. I decided that since the neighbor from the other house opposite hers was taking her food, she'd be fine. I told myself it was none of my business. I told myself that I had three kids and a husband and I could barely handle what I was dealing with in my own life. Yet, every day as I watched the man take a plate of food into the house, something within me screamed that I should have been the one doing it.

The lady hung on for a while, and then she was gone. Suddenly, the neighbor was moving into her house, and we learned what Paul meant by a thorn in the flesh. He has been really challenging to me in particular, and maybe some of it has to do with the fact that I somehow imagine that if I'd followed God's nudging and if I'd gone to the lady when the Lord sent me, I wouldn't have to deal with this man living next door. Maybe whatever agreement he'd made with her for her house wouldn't have been made, and perhaps I would be living in peace.

Now, don't get me wrong. The man isn't usually involved in our lives, but every few months, he makes a call to a government agency reporting us for having too many cars. He assumes we're operating a repair shop, but there are 4 adult drivers in our household all using vehicles, and there are a couple of project vehicles that my husband is determined to eventually fix. He works on them in our yard on the property we own. Every time the government officials come by with their letter, we produce proof that the vehicles are all ours. Over and over, we keep proving that.

The police have been called about our spilling of toxic chemicals into his grass. I washed out the trash can with plain water and emptied the water onto my driveway on his side of the house, which I learned not to do. How is that toxic waste? We cleaned the dog's crate on that side of the house, which we learned to stop doing. Toxic chemicals are not in my repertoire. I'm not exactly a clean freak, so cleaning that much would be beyond me.

Once, he swung a stick just a few feet from my daughter's head. He banged that pole on the fence, and she was startled. We called the police. It was a he-said, she-said thing, so nothing was done.

Once I called because his dog looked like his fur was matted, and he hadn't been groomed in a long while. He was keeping the dog outside in the rain all day, and I will admit that I was looking for a reason to be mean. The fruit of the Spirit seems to go sour in me every time he's around. I lose that battle just about every time.

My son plays drums. Our neighbor knew about the drums when he moved in. He lived one house beyond my neighbor, visited my neighbor, and could have stayed in his own home without moving closer to my house. However, when he moved into the house next door, he was determined to stop my son from practicing, something my son needed to do as the church drummer. He didn't get any headway there, thankfully, and now we have an electric drum set for practice.

He keeps his daughter away from us as if contact or exposure of any kind with us would pervert her. I have always been a kid magnet. I've been entrusted with children since I was 12. I am not the kind of person anyone tends to be afraid to bring his children to. Yet, here was this man shouting at his daughter to come inside every time I said hello to her. What was his problem? That was deeply offensive to me, and I don't know why.

I'm determined to forgive. I want to stop repeating my past mistakes. I'm determined to learn to be kind even to someone who has never stopped complaining about so many impossibly stupid things. Can I fix it? I don't think it looks possible. It seems like there's nothing we can do to get along with this man. But I'm determined to pray through it.

To think differently of this man, this situation, and the impossibility of healing the rift will take faith. I'll keep you updated of any changes. Please pray for me. I'm finding that this situation is awakening me to my flaws more than ever before, and I don't like what I see.

Update: It's 2018, and he hasn't changed one little bit. He called code enforcement on us just two weeks ago, right after he cut his knee-high grass. His dog is beginning to look like a stray again, and my fingers itch to call someone and get him in trouble. I'm not cured yet. (sigh)


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