Our next door neighbor passed away today.
If you think of it, you can pray for his surviving partner, that he would be comforted in his grief and that God would meet him through this. And for our family, that we would be able to support him and love him and be a testimony to him through this.
So our next door neighbor passed away today. I only know because I was running a half-hour behind schedule today, and I was headed out the door when I saw the gurney in my neighbor's driveway. My stomach instantly wove itself into a million knots. I had just gotten off a Skype call with my apologetics student, talking about how people need support in their pain. I thought to myself, "I should go over there. Just check if he needs anything." In an instant a million excuses jumped to mind. Better to call my parents, who had been visiting our neighbor through the progression of his illness. Better to leave comforting to the friend that appeared to be visiting, the car that was in the driveway. I was supposed to be at school. I had to leave. I stood in my living room, paralyzed by the spinning rolodex of thinking about doing.
I think a lot about doing things. During winter break I drove to campus almost every day for my J-term class, and almost every day I passed a kid with a backpack headed towards school. The first time I saw him I thought, "I should ask him if he wants a ride." But there was always a reason not to. Either there were cars behind me and I couldn't pull over, or he had headphones on and most assuredly wouldn't hear me, or I was running late to class and couldn't spare a moment to stop, or he was already almost up the hill and giving him a lift 0.25 miles wouldn't make a difference. Some days my excuse was as feeble as, I'm too tired, or my backpack is in the passenger seat. Every day I thought to myself, "Tomorrow is the day I offer him a ride." But that day never came.
I think about making phone calls to check in and catch up with people. I think about scheduling coffee dates and meeting people for dinner. I think about smiling at and making eye contact with people I walk past. I think about making conversation with my classmates. I think about stopping for those cars on the side of the highway. I think about getting treats for the kids at the Wal-Mart RIPTA stop. I think about prayer-walking the places I feel burdened over. I think about making grand romantic gestures. But I don't do. I just think about doing. Like someone exhausted after twelve hours of sleep, I think about how I have been blessed in order to be a blessing, and I hog the blessing all to myself.
I hate that I do that.
Back to my neighbor. I approached the front door and rang the bell. A man I didn't recognize answered, I guess he belonged to the car in the driveway. He indicated my neighbor was in the backyard processing, so I offered my condolences and hurried away. And as I drove to school I thought to myself, "So this is what obedience feels like?" And let's be clear, I didn't actually do anything. I never saw my neighbor, didn't give him a hug, didn't drop off some bread and milk. On the one hand, my visit was fruitless. On the other hand, I visited. This is where my thinking frequently interferes with my doing: I have spirit that insists on justifications for actions and demands proof of outcomes. There is a stubborn streak in me that answers with an insolent "why?" to any invitations outside my comfort zone.
I have a rebellious heart that is just too comfortable.
I'm very weary of baby steps, of struggling to do small and simple things like ring a neighbor's doorbell. I'm discouraged that every gesture I make outside of myself is buried under a mountain of selfish gestures. I'm frustrated that I can't seem to tap into this strength Christ gives us, to set aside the old self and walk forward as the righteous. I hate doing things that aren't easy, and doing what I'm supposed to do is not easy, and I hate it. How many times will I find the joy in obedience before I choose obedience with consistence? When will obedience become the rule and not the exception? When will I be free of the indecisive excuses that justify my inaction and instead step forward confidently with wisdom? I count this struggle as divine discontent; I grimly grasp the plow. Okay. Let me keep at this. He is faithful.