Sometimes God Doesn’t Whisper
Shortly after we moved in, we were excited to find out that there is a family just down the road with 2 boys – one who will be in kindergarten and one who will be in 3rd grade. They are great kids and their parents are awesome too. We hit it off immediately. This was exciting for us because as much as we loved our neighborhood in Rogers, Caleb really didn’t have anyone his age to play with.
Not long after that, another new family moved in down the block. This was a whole different story. There are 2 boys and one girl and they are all older than Caleb. It was obvious from the get-go that these kids weren’t held to the same expectations that we have for our kids. They came in our house one day and went through Caleb’s room like a tornado. They played rough with all of his toys, inside and out. We found out pretty quickly that they had a pit bull tied up in their front yard. After Caleb went over to their house once, he came home and said that the kids’ dad laughed at him for saying “please” and “thank you.” Rudy and I came to the quick conclusion that we had to lay some ground rules.
We decided to tell Caleb that he was welcome to play with these kids in our yard as long as there was an adult out there to supervise. That has ended up being Rudy about 99% of the time, because (a) it’s been hotter than blue blazes all summer, which I can’t stand and (b) he has WAY more patience for the kids than I do. The kids were not allowed to play in our house because the one time they had come in, they made a huge mess and got into everything. Caleb was not allowed to go to their house – inside or out. We explained it by telling him that we don’t feel comfortable with him going to anyone’s house where we don’t know the parents. He seemed to be okay with that. Truth be told, I don’t think he felt comfortable there either.
It didn’t take long for these kids to figure out that Caleb has fun toys. They began ringing the doorbell 5-10 times a day asking if he could play. They would ask for Caleb to play and if we told them we were eating dinner, they would ask if they could just wait on the front porch. If we told them we were leaving soon, they would ask what time we would be home. Once, they even asked what time we were getting up the next morning so they would know what time to start hitting that doorbell button. They showed up as late as 8:30 at night, when Caleb was about to go to bed and Nola was already there.
Sometimes they would ask for Caleb and if he wasn’t home, they would ask for Nola. She’s 2 1/2, for crying out loud. They didn’t want to play with her. They just wanted to play with our kids’ stuff. They are particularly fond of Caleb’s battery-operated 4 wheeler, bike, scooter…even Nola’s tricycle! As soon as the garage door went up, they were like wolves in a butcher shop.
I made a sign for the doorbell to put an end to the constant ringing (and peeking through the front door glass). We put it out during mealtimes and any other time that we didn’t want the doorbell ringing. We don’t have to use it as much anymore, but it’s still hanging by the front door, just in case.
My initial response came from a Mama Bear place deep inside me. I was going to protect my kids and the things that we owned and worked hard to buy and take care of. It irked me to no end that these kids who apparently had no supervision were pretending to come over here to play with Caleb, when what they really wanted was to be entertained by his toys.
Yet, for the past 2 months, I have felt that still, small voice in my heart telling me that I needed to love the unlovable. I needed to show them the love of Jesus. I needed to remember that it wasn’t about “stuff”, but about sharing and loving and being the hands and feet of Christ. That’s really hard to do when kids are running amuck in your front yard, fighting over toys and challenging every rule and manner you’ve worked hard for 6 years to teach your kids.
Rudy did a great job of laying some ground rules for them. He taught them that they are welcome to play with the toys – as long as they ask first, share them, and take care of them. He had to use his “teacher voice” a few times to lay down the law about fighting, being disrespectful and other behaviors that we don’t tolerate.
Even though I knew that my distaste for these rowdy kids was not the right response, I just couldn’t bring myself to open my heart to them. They irritated me. (Okay, they still do…) I know they can’t help it. They don’t know any better. They haven’t been taught any differently, but it was just really inconvenient and aggravating and quite a nuisance for me to have to deal with it. Really nice, right? WWJD, right? Ugh…I’m working on it!
One afternoon, I thought I’d try the olive branch approach. I took popsicles out to all of them. Well, if you give a mouse a cookie… They all started wanting a drink every time they were over here. Now, they’ve started coming in the house to get ice & water from the fridge. Last week, I was folding clothes at the kitchen table and on 2 different occasions, kids (who don’t live here) came in the front door, pilfered through the kitchen cabinets to find a cup, got a drink & left their cups on the counter without ever saying so much as hello to me. When they came in the door, I said, “hi” and then stood there with my mouth open as they ignored me and went about their business in MY HOUSE. (This was the part that made me really mad. They were so disrespectful to me in my own house. I know they don’t know any better, but I couldn’t help feeling so appalled at this behavior that I would absolutely string my own children up for if I knew they did this in someone else’s house.)
Just as I was about to say something along the lines of, “Don’t y’all have water at YOUR house?”, I stopped short. My head was filled with these words:
When I say it was filled, I mean FILLED. Roaring. Yelling. Singing. Shouting. It couldn’t have been any more clear if it had been a flashing neon sign. Wouldn’t it be nice if God always spoke to us this clearly? To top it off (just to make sure I was listening?), my daily devotional the very next day was based on this same verse. So…what does one do when God speaks directly to you? Well…you quit fighting that still small voice and start listening because apparently, He means business.
I can’t say that I’ve completely embraced being the playground/watering hole for the neighborhood kids. I’m making an effort, though. I have made it my goal to be more hospitable and tolerant. I bought more popsicles. The next time the yard is full of kids who aren’t my own, I plan to take out a pitcher of ice water and a bunch of cups. Maybe when they prove that they can take care of our outside toys, I’ll go a step further in the verse and fulfill the part about “you received me in your homes”. This passage ends with verse 40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
That’s pretty powerful stuff, y’all. If I wouldn’t let these kids have a drink of water, it would be no different than telling Jesus I didn’t have a drop to spare for Him.
I didn’t plan to include this video, but as I’ve been writing this post, the song has been in my head. It’s pretty convicting…