Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Don't Want To Be In Your Army

You are familiar with the old adage "misery loves company", I'm sure. It must be a true statement, because our neighbor is trying to recruit us to join her. In fact, it seems that she is trying to create an army of miserable neighbors--and she'll be the general.

Last night I was getting ready to sit on the patio, enjoy a glass of wine and a good book while the children were all outside playing with the neighborhood kids. Patrick was out getting exterior trim paint and some replacement landscaping lights. I didn't want to leave Tilly alone in the house, because she really wanted to be outside and frankly, I couldn't concentrate on my book while she was staring at me with her big, sad, puppy dog eyes through the back door. So I decided to let her out with me.

We have a stake with a leash on it in our backyard. We don't leave her out there unattended and we don't use it often; only when we're out enjoying the patio or playset in the back yard. The thing is, the clasp has rusted a bit and that makes hooking the leash to her collar difficult. While I was wrestling with the clasp, she got away. She ran around the front of the house, saw all the kids and was gone. I knew it would be a problem because the kids were going to chase her to get her back and when you chase her, she sees it as a game and keeps on going.

I ran in the house to get her leash. While I was inside, you know who's lawn she ran around on, don't you? Of course. The neighbor who had sent us the hit'n'run and has the perfectly manicured lawn. Fan-freaking-tastic.

By the time I came out, Maggie and James had collared her and were bringing her home. As I put Tilly on the leash, the kids told me how the neighbor yelled at them to keep the dog off her lawn and that we should get a fence. Uh-oh.

Now I was mad, but I was determined to be neighborly and do the right thing. So I set off to apologize, because we were in the wrong--our dog got loose (and naturally, being our dumb dog, chose her house to run to) and it felt like the right thing to do. So I walked grimly down the street and decided to apologize politely, but not let her steamroll me, because after all, it wasn't that big a deal. Tilly didn't even "fertilize" her lawn. Although now, I'm sort of wishing she had.

I walked up the driveway where the neighbor and her husband were sitting on lawn chairs--they don't even use their own lawn!! gah!!!!--and told them I was sorry. I explained what happened and apologized--about 5 different ways--and was met with and icy stare of disapproval. This woman would not even give me enough grace to accept my apology. She gave me an earful. Then she gave me another. And another. Then I stuck my tongue out, called her a name, pushed her down and ran apologized again, told them I hoped they'd have a nice evening and walked back down the driveway.

I didn't head toward home, because I didn't want the kids to see me. Yeah, I was crying. One of the things I hate about myself is that my anger often comes out through my tear ducts. Other people scream, think of witty insults, or quietly turn the other cheek and walk away. I turn into a blubbering crybaby. So I walked to the opposite end of the block to compose myself before I headed home.

This wasn't a big incident. But there have been others--some involving us, some involving other neighbors. There is a long history of incidents with this woman and other neighbors. There is a pattern of behavior here that makes me angry and uncomfortable. It makes me want to circle the wagons and set up tall hedges as boundaries. I don't like all the drama. I certainly don't want to join her in her misery.

I don't know what has made this woman so miserable or why she is intent upon making others feel the same way. And I have to tell you, the human side of me--the side that sees fault and keeps score in all the ways others have done me wrong--doesn't want to extend any grace back to her. I want to say "I don't care--I'm done with you."

But the other side of me--the side that has been extended grace after divine grace, mercy upon mercy--whispers that Someone has never given up on me and He hasn't given up on her either. It says that perhaps I need to be the hands and feet of Jesus to her; that what she needs, only God can provide, but part of His provision can come through my actions.

This is hard, y'all, because I am fighting it! I don't want to be merciful and graceful and kind. I want to picture this woman in my head and explode her into a million tiny pieces and say "you don't exist for me anymore" and go on with my life. But I also know (because the Spirit is kicking me) that this is probably not the way things will happen. I want to be a Christian example for my children, but I also want to protect them from any future incidents. I am torn.

*Sigh* Things would have been much simpler if we had never found out the identity of our hit'n'run letter writer. Life would have been marginally easier if the dumb dog had stayed in the yard. My night would have been better had I been able to sit on my patio, drink my glass of wine and get lost in my book. But the cat's out of the bag, (or the dog has run out of the yard) the train has left the station. There's no going back now. There's nothing left to do but decide which way to go--choose which route to take for the rest of this journey.

Navigation has never been my strong suit. Pray for me.

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