Sometimes we learn the most from less-than-ideal neighbors. I would know because I’ve had my fair share of neighbors I wished would move away.
In our almost ten years of marriage we’ve had neighbors (everywhere we have lived!) who smoked frequently, which forced us to close our windows (we both are allergic to smoke – both cigarette and campfire) every time they lit up because it would come into our house, robbing us of the fresh air we so wanted.
We’ve had neighbors who partied late and kept us awake.
We’ve had neighbors who were inconsiderate in general and lived their lives unaware of the effect they had on ours.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
I’ve often said that I became a better “roommate” after having so many during college and before marriage (22 before I married Brennan). During those years I was forced to recognize and reform my own bad habits, become more gracious toward those with whom I lived, and learn how to live well with people very different from me. I did NOT do this perfectly at all at the time, but looking back I can see how those experiences shaped me and made me who I am today.
And this is why I believe that good things can come from bad neighbors.
Last summer our pastor did a sermon series about loving our neighbor, but it was unlike any I’d ever heard; he expected us to actively love our actual neighbors, the ones we didn’t choose and probably didn’t want to love for various reasons. He challenged us to act on Jesus’ words and take them literally, as though the term neighbor was literal and not abstract. And we did. His challenge has allowed us to get to know some of our neighbors with whom we previously had conflict and we’re so grateful for the challenge he presented.
But just because we’ve made amends with some neighbors doesn’t mean that we’re doing well with this challenge toward all of our neighbors. We still have a lot of work to do.
Having “bad” roommates taught me how to be a good roommate.
Having “bad” neighbors has taught me how to be a good neighbor.
So, it’s because of that knowledge that I can say good things can come from bad neighbors.
It’s a choice, and it likely requires a change in perspective. It requires grace, kindness, understanding, assuming the best, and being willing to let the little things go. Being gracious and like Jesus when we’re annoyed at our neighbors is rarely easy or desirable, but we were commanded by Jesus to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, so…we don’t really have a choice.
I’m writing this instead of venting, because I recognize that the Lord has allowed us to live where we do for a reason, and if I burn bridges I may miss the purpose for being right here. It’s a reminder for me that I thought you might appreciate, too.
All of us have work to do to become more like Jesus, so let’s take these opportunities and allow Him to use them for that purpose. Let’s be the roommates/ neighbors/ people that we’d want to be around.