“I wanna have friends that I can trust, that love me for the man I’ve become not the man I was. I wanna have friends that will let me be all alone when being alone is all that I need.” - The Avett Brothers
Sometimes I feel like I suck at following Jesus because I feel I suck at loving my neighbors.
If I'm so insecure in myself and afraid of rejection that I avoid certain people, I'm not giving us a chance to get to know each other or love each other.
Rich and I have lived in the same house for over 6 years and we’ve only spoken to the neighbors across the street once – the day we moved in. A lovely old lady offered us to use their driveway anytime we needed to, since we had a bunch of friends helping us move. Did I take up her offer? No. Did I ever come back to her and say “thank you” or ask her about herself and try building a relationship with her? No.
Our neighbors to our right have dogs, just like us. Once they were walking them down the street while I was getting groceries out of the car, I said something about how I hope our dogs don’t bark too much and she said it’s ok because her dogs bark a lot too. Then her husband said having four dogs was one too many. I could read through that subtext pretty easily. Have we spoken since? No.
I have issues. Forget neighbors for one second, it’s super difficult for me to even pick up the phone to call my siblings and friends. I know it’s 2013 but I think a lot of us, if we got a phone call out of the blue, would still be so happy that someone was thinking of us enough to call.
So why is it so hard to put myself out there? I know I’ve talked about this before, but as I struggle with my place in this world, my purpose and my faith, I’m realizing that I’m boxing myself in. I’m putting all these false restrictions on my interactions with people because I’m afraid of rejection. But the truth is, God has never and will never reject me, and those who love me for who I am have never and will never reject me. Even if I do put myself out there for strangers to get to know and they don’t like who I am… who cares? What difference does it make? It just wasn’t meant to be. We’re never going to be friends with everyone we encounter. But even a smile and a wave go a long way.
So I’m going to practice smiling and I’m going to practice waving. Then I’m going to work my way up to walking my dogs around the block and saying hi to people.
In the mean time I could call a friend or family member and vent to them about how hard it is to put myself out there and know they will listen because they love me. They’ve never rejected me when I’ve called before, so why should they now? There is no logic to my fear.
I think the most important thing I need to remember is God loves me. Jesus died for me… Debi… the woman who likes to sleep in some days then get up mad early the next, the woman who loves her dogs… the woman who has insecurities. Jesus died for me so I would no longer feel insecure, so I would find peace amongst the struggles of life and know that none of this matters. I have come a long way in the past 15 years in terms of building relationships but there's still a lot more work to be done.
Jesus said "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Of course the answer to that is no. Worry just sucks the life out of you. A friend said to me yesterday, “worry is praying for something bad to happen.”
I want to use my prayers for good. Pray the worry dissipates. Pray I can show my love for people in tangible ways. Pray I can break out of my shell.
I want to trust God and what he’s given me: ears to listen to others, a voice to encourage others, a heart to love others, and arms to hug with. To waste these gifts would be a travesty.
During a recent message I heard, the pastor said that after Jesus’s ascension people were looking all over for the body of Jesus but it was gone. But in reality it wasn’t. Jesus put it on his followers to be the Body of Christ here on earth until his return. As a follower of Jesus, it’s my responsibility to be the light of Jesus in this world through love, patience and kindness. If I’m too concerned with what people think of me that I just shut myself up in my living room every night, then my trust is not in God anymore.
As I continue to trust in God more, loving my neighbors becomes easier. I see the beauty of God’s creation in all of them; yet also see their broken humanity that mirrors my own. Then I can relate on a more basic human level. And I want to! I love hearing people’s stories and learning what they think and what makes them tick.
I’m finished making life all about me. None of this is about me. Every gift, every lesson learned, it’s all about how can I be there for others the way Jesus has been there for me. How can I love people the way God has loved me? How can I learn to be outward focused instead of inward focused?
Simple. Be present.
This is my prayer: to continue to seek God out, to learn how to be present among those I encounter, to no longer fear rejection but instead seek ways to put myself in the lives of others and build authentic relationships, and to learn how to love others abundantly.
To love abundantly I first need to break off these evil shackles and lies of rejection… and I will, all by the grace of God...
Do you ever fear rejection? How do you step outside your comfort zone and get to know people?