Practice Makes Good Neighbors

A couple of weeks ago, Holly and I facilitated “What is God Doing Here?” the first in a series of summer Pop-up Labs about how to discern God’s activity in our community.  

 We made a case for neighboring - a way of being that intentionality engages healthy relationships with one’s neighbors.  We professed the world and church-changing power of neighboring well. We claimed that building relationships with the people right next door had changed us, stretched us, allowed us to grow closer to God. We confessed the beautiful complexity that comes from attempting to follow the simple command, “Love your neighbor.”

 After the event several participants shared their appreciation for the lab’s helpful teaching content and practical examples. These conversations revealed that for each of these folks, neighboring was not a new concept. And yet, each person shared how profoundly important it was for them to be reminded of these truths. It’s not that any of these lessons are particularly tough to grasp. At the same time, these lessons are often hard to put into practice. Meeting and building relationships with our neighbors feels awkward. We are much more likely to treat our homes like our castles and keep to ourselves.

 During the workshop, Holly used the image of muscle memory to help describe how we might grow into building relationships with our neighbors. At first, any activity is going to feel strange and awkward. Over time and with practice however, the awkward swings of a baseball rookie become the powerful, fluid motion of a home run hitter.

 Neighboring well is the same way. While we know intellectually that we ought to and perhaps can imagine what it would look like, it can be hard to get our bodies to enact those motions. Though challenging and perhaps awkward at first, the more we intentionally try to build relationships with the people next door, the more natural it will become. Through practice, we can develop muscle memory for neighboring. Reminders like all of us got on Sunday encourage us to get back out onto the practice field.