Friday, August 27, 2010

Who is my neighbor?

In this self-centered society in which we live, with its insulation from one another because of social networking sites online where everyone pursues his own high-tech individual pursuits, it would seem that we don’t have time or occasion to know our neighbors face to face. People who live in high-rise beehive apartments in urban areas put multiple locks and chains on their doors and often don’t speak to people who live down the hall in their own “cells” behind closed doors. Fear of strangers often pulls them into seclusion.

Even when people live, as I do, in a more relaxed suburban development of quiet, five acre wooded lots and on a cul-du-sac, we might be hard pressed to name the people who live within sight of our own driveway. If we walk for exercise, as I do, we may know the canines and felines who live behind fences or electrified borders of well-manicured lawns. However, we may know little about the needs and problems of the people who own the pets.

We are all so busy in the particular orbit of our routine lives that knowing our neighbors doesn’t even make it to our list of priorities. Until an emergency vehicle speeds by, and then we may wonder to whose house it is headed. As it did last week.

In my private prayer each morning I ask of God, "This day bring into my life everything and everyone whomever You choose--in person, by letter, e-mail, phone call, thought, impression, prayer, event, or in the course of my responsibilities or circumstances for today. Since they are filtered through Your perfect will, interruptions and changes are not accidental or incidental. They are my opportunities and Your appointments for my good and for Your glory. Please give me good sense to avoid all those other good things to do or be concerned about, or those over which I have no control, which are not Your "main thing" for me, and which would take my time away from Your priorities for me. Help me avoid them and leave them gratefully in Your hands."

Someone has said that people may come into our lives for a season but always for a reason. I've tried to live by the principal that God brings someone into the orbit of my life either to contribute something good to me, or that I may build something good into his or her life.

She came to my door one morning. My neighborhood friend. We had had some contacts through the years but we were not close. Sometimes we met on our exercise walk along our quiet street. She asked if she could talk to me and of course I welcomed her warmly. She had deep emotional problems coupled with some serious but not life-threatening physical challenges which had thrown her into dark depression. A beautiful woman 25 years my junior was despairing that she had nothing left to live for. I asked if I might pray for her and she consented. We hugged and shared some tears, but I felt some barrier, some unseen, seemingly insurmountable struggle that I couldn't penetrate. I assured her I was there for her and suggested we talk again soon.

I had a busy week or two and didn't follow up our encounter, although I remembered to pray for her, my neighborhood friend.

Last week while working at my computer, I was startled to see through the window several rescue emergency vehicles speeding by. Where could they be headed?

An hour later I received a phone call.

My neighborhood friend had taken her own life!

In the throes of my own deep emotional shock, I took it personally. I went over and over a roster of "what ifs" and was overwhelmed with thoughts that I could have done more but didn't do so, didn't see this coming, and now it was too late.

I beat myself up about the tragic choice my neighbor made. I didn't turn her away in her time of need but I didn't reach out further to her.

Her choice was so, so sad, but I have to accept that it was ultimately her choice. I have to leave her to God and trust Him and pray for her immortal soul. I believe that God's incredibly generous mercy and forgiving love covers such happenings when a person's reason is clouded by depression. I must realize that to focus on "I could have done more" is not always amenable to rational argument.

But where did I miss God's guidance? Or did I? I know I can't go there. I can't turn back the clock. So there--I guess I needed to lay it all out and now I have to lay it all down at the foot of Jesus' cross. I must move on and pray henceforth to become more sensitive, more discerning, to let God show me "Who is my neighbor?" and what He would have me do and say and pray.


1 comment:

Jennifer Botkin Phillips said...

Dear Leona,
Thank you for sharing such a poignant and sensitive experience. I see that you DID reach out and offer comfort and care AND the touch of the master's hand. I'm so sorry your troubled neighbor saw no other way out and took her life but as you mentioned, she really did make that choice. The enemy would want you to question yourself etc., but you reached out to her in a beautiful way. God bless you, Jennifer