When I first moved into my humble house in the suburbs some twenty years ago, I was glad that the neighbors were nice. They would wave hello, and occasionally, we’d chat over the fence of our houses. One neighbor, however, was an older gentleman who always seemed to have a sour expression.
One day, I had to drop off something at a friend’s house. I pulled my car out of the driveway but didn’t close my garage door, as I was coming right back. When I returned a few minutes later, I was surprised to see my cranky neighbor, sitting in the middle of my garage in my lawn chair, looking stern.
“Shouldn’t leave your garage door open, miss. Anyone can just walk in.”
“Apparently,” I said.
He got up slowly, as he had some physical ailments. He explained that he had seen that my garage door was open and wanted to make sure that no one wandered in to take anything.
“You don’t need to do that,” I told him.
“That’s what neighbors are for,” he said.
“No, really. I’d prefer that you not do that. Thanks.”
“It really isn’t a problem,” he said.
I shook my head at him. “It is for me,” I said.
He walked back home, right next door, looking pleased with himself, as if he had helped out a neighbor.
It was as if he didn’t hear me when, in essence, I had said, you might think you’re helping by protecting me from intruders. Newsflash, dude: you’re the intruder. I didn’t ask you to go into my garage, and since you’re cranky and kind of creepy, you’re the one making me uncomfortable. Go away now.
If I’m being honest, this is how I feel when people come to my door to share their religion with me.
SueBE hit it on the head with her excellent post this week. Reaching out to help people with their basic needs – clean water, housing, food – that’s faith that heals. And if someone asks about the church that does such good works? Awesome. To me, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
But I’ve had vanloads of Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door almost monthly for as long as I’ve lived on my block. Once, I told them that a blood transfusion had saved my life when my appendix ruptured in my youth. Would they rather I had died, since their religion bans transfusions? Well, perhaps it was God’s will that you should die, and you circumvented it, they said. Okay. Way to reach out with love, pals!
And my beloved cousin (God rest) sent Mormon missionaries to my door routinely when we were teen-agers. I told her to cut it out, but she kept doing it, so we stopped being pen pals. We re-connected twenty years later, and darned if she didn’t do the same thing to me again!
To me, faith is a deeply personal journey. You’d have to have walked in my shoes and experienced exactly what I’ve been through in my life. And still, you might reach a different conclusion. It would never occur to me to show up at your house and try to convert you.
It would be as if somebody has the door to their soul open, and they were waiting for God to walk in and commune with them. And then I show up and sit down in a lawn chair. I say, listen, this is what you should believe. Trust me; I know what’s best for you.
Instead, when God shows up, he doesn’t say, here’s what you should do. He says, here is who you are. You are my child. I am always with you. Come, let us walk the path together.
I’ve learned a few things in my life: never assume you have all the answers, always pray without ceasing, and remember to close that darn garage door. Words of wisdom, learned and earned the hard way!