I was in the kitchen grabbing a bottle of water when I heard the thud, bam as if the house was shaking. Couldn’t be, could it?
I looked out the kitchen window to the shared driveway with the neighbor and saw the headlights of his car as he maneuvered it into his usual parking space. He always turns his car around in the driveway facing outbound. We live on a very busy road, making it easier to pull out than back out. There have been times when it looked like he would hit our house on the garage side but so far that hadn’t happened. Until this night.
I rushed out the back door to see the newly erected fence annihilated at the corner of the house. What the @#*^!, is what came to mind.
As my neighbor got out of his car, I had a few choice words and asked for an explanation as to how this sort of thing could happen. It’s like a three-lane highway in this shared driveway. He headed straight to his door – barely a word. My immediate assumption was that he was drinking on Thanksgiving and lost control of his vehicle in his turnaround maneuver. He said “no” to my question and went into his house. That was it. No, I’m sorry, no I’ll pay for it, no nothing. I’m left stunned standing in my driveway, picking up the debris that had scattered over 20 feet of landscape. What the what just happened?
During the subsequent days I was able to connect with a family member to find out that our neighbor, who rarely speaks to us even though we do quite often to him, had suffered a brain injury years earlier. He was in a motorcycle accident that required surgery where a steel plate was implanted in his brain. I also knew he lost a daughter to suicide over 15 years ago.
That explains a lot!
Immediately I was convicted by my overreaction and headed over, rang the doorbell and apologized. Even then it felt like there was a disconnect with reality from deep inside him.
Colleen and I prayed for him that night and many times since.
Friends, we just don’t know the whole story behind someone’s life. It’s impossible. Even our closest friends often leave out the most intimate details of the traumas and wounds that have plagued them in their worst days.
It’s why seeking to understand before being understood should be our mantra. Always. Our selfish inclinations hinder our ability to do just that. Usually, it’s the other way around. That should change for every friend of Jesus. It’s just His way.
The Bible is clear. “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:4-5 (NLT)
For years I struggled with a false identity believing lies that the enemy had whispered in my ear. That I just couldn’t measure up. I didn’t have what it took, especially in ministry. At its roots, those messages were heaped upon me constantly by a father that expected perfection, or at least that’s what it seemed like. Mom wasn’t much better. All lies. YET, when I understood what my parents went through in my adult years it all became crystal clear. They were wounded in the same way, by imperfect parents and caregivers that believed the same lies for generations. Passing those lies down was second nature. No one got it.
I think I finally get it.
That doesn’t make it easier, it just makes it understandable. The fact that I was raised by imperfect parents simply means I’m human, sin-ridden, but forgiven.
I forgave my neighbor for his bad behavior and myself for my reaction. It’s not the end of the world as we know it. Stuff can be replaced.
When we look up, not out, we get answers. I’ve found it’s best to slow down before speeding up. The scripture instructs us to do exactly that. “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33
Whatever those things are that shall be added to me, I want them. I want the Jesus inside of me to represent Him well. I want the best for my neighbor and will continue to engage with him and pray for him and drop off meals (that have often been rejected) because I understand. Because I want to understand.
Think about it. What conclusion have you reached lately in a relationship that has gone sideways? Might it be best to seek first to understand, even if the evidence is not obvious for the dysfunctional behavior or sin that may have been perpetrated upon you?
I think we both know the answer to the second question.
With the Holy Spirits’ help, I’ll seek out the whole story!
Blessings all, Steve Adams