Wednesday, 25 November 2015

My neighbour makes me paranoid

Let me start by clarifying that not everyone who lives in my block of units is from college.  Some of the units are privately owned and rented.  The units either side of us fall into this second category: not-college people.

We've had difficult people living on our left the whole time we've been living here.  You may remember me writing about our noisy neighbour in first year.  He moved out towards the end of our first year and since then we've had a noise-sensitive neighbour who has gotten progressively more hostile and paranoid.

Mostly he just glares at us, and will never respond when we say hello.  But we've also heard from other neighbours that he thinks J and another college student are hacking into his computer and stealing things.  We think he probably has paranoid schizophrenia, and I find myself sadly thinking: how do you love someone who is determined to hate you?

But God did just this, didn't he?  The whole world was determined to hate him yet he was determined to love us.  While we were still his enemies he sent his son as a gift to us (Rom 5:8).  If God did this for me, how can I not also love my neighbour who hates me?  Jesus even tells us to do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27).  But how do I do good to this neighbour who wants nothing to do with us and believes lies about us (and will probably take anything we do the wrong way)? 

One way that I try to love him is by walking quietly on our stairs.  Our stairs are against the wall we share with this neighbour and they can be quite noisy (if his stair-walking is anything to go by.  Seriously, it sounds like someone else is in the house with you!).  I know he is noise-sensitive so I try to keep our noise levels low.  How much of this is being loving and how much is fear of him reacting, I'm not sure.

On to why I'm paranoid.  Because I know that our neighbour hates us I'm afraid that he's stealing our mail.  I'm sure this is a silly fear, but we've had two undelivered parcels this year and I'm anxiously awaiting a parcel that Australia Post tells me will arrive today.  What if it comes while we're out?  What if our neighbour takes it from our front door step, or signs for the parcel himself, saying he'll pass it on but really just keeping it from us? (Sometimes the posties don't care who signs for it, which is admittedly helpful if a college friend is the one who signs for you).

But I now realise that I'm doing just what he's doing.  I'm being paranoid that he's out to get me.  I'm believing untruths about him (or at least worrying that they're true) when there's no evidence for it.  So loving my neighbour in this situation is not worrying or thinking the worst of him. 

I'm not sure how else to love and do good to our neighbour.  Anyone have any ideas? 

Monday, 23 November 2015

What this community has taught me about being generous

People in our community are so happy to just give things away, rather than trying to sell them!  I was particularly struck by this when I saw a friend on Facebook trying to sell his stuff before he went overseas.  It was such a contrast in my eyes.  Fair enough if you need the money, but I feel like the students here probably do need the money, but they have an attitude of generosity and happily give their things away to other students.  

Just as an example: we've had two offers of a cot for the baby, and they didn't want any money for them (I asked!).  Someone is giving us her stick blender when she moves out.  We've had many offers of baby things that we haven't always been able to accept because we just don't have room for it yet.  And this is just a taste of the generosity of this community.  

And it has taught me to be generous too.

We have college friends who lives just outside our college community (down the road a little bit), but who are still considered part of the community.  I think they know us best and so often will ask us for help in the form of "Can I borrow some baking powder? I thought I had some but it's baking soda."  They also used our washing machine for a few weeks while theirs was broken.  

And a couple of days ago another friend from our community knocked on our door twice, the first time to borrow some cocoa powder, and the next time a muffin tray.  The other day a friend knocked on my door to ask for some sewing advice (not that I'm anything of an expert!), and then again later in the week to show me the finished product.

I'm not saying that I'm the fount of all help in our community, this stuff actually happens all the time between everyone.  Sometimes people will send an email to ask the whole community or sometimes they'll approach someone individually.  

I have realised that I love being asked to help. I love that people think to ask us for help. I feel that often people don't like to ask for help, or think that they are being inconvenient or a free-loader when they ask to use something you have.  Sometimes I feel like that!  But I actually enjoy helping people in this way.  So that has changed my attitude to asking for help.  

I remember a sermon I heard a few years ago, and the preacher said that being a good neighbour can sometimes mean asking them for help (rather than offering help), because it gives them a chance to bless you with the skills and resources that they have.  I can certainly say that I have enjoyed blessing my neighbours who have needed help.  

I'm now in the process of cleaning out our second bedroom to get it ready for the baby.  It's currently a study and store room so it really needs a big cull.  Occasionally I find myself wondering what I might get if I tried to sell some of the things I want to get rid of, but that's a rare thought.  I really want to be generous and able to bless my community by giving things away.  This community has been a blessing to us and that has in turn encouraged us to be generous, with our time, resources and attention.  I hope others around us can see this generosity and know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

When life is hard

Generally I like my life.  Sure, more storage space in my house would be nice, but I can’t really complain about my life. 

But when life is hard (read: I have any sort of deadline coming up) I sometimes wish that I didn’t exist.  Or, more like I wish that I was a bird or a tree and didn’t have to do things like exams.  I just want to escape. 

Or I could wish to be a bird-tree...

Last night I had a panic/depressed/pessimistic moment about my upcoming exams and the study that I’ve done.  I don’t feel I know my material like I should, there’s not enough time to learn it properly, and I feel like I don’t know enough to do my exams. 

But when the thought of being a bird came into my head last night it fizzled out.  I realised that the escape–my–life–and–its–problems feeling wasn’t there.  It’s not just my life that I’m in charge of at the moment.  I’m supporting another little life inside of me.  I couldn’t wish to not exist because a little life relies on me to exist. 

Of course, I know that it is God who sustains our baby but my involvement in this has changed my outlook on when life is hard.  I am humbled.  I am maturing.  I’m not so focused on myself.  Life is more than just these upcoming exams. 

I’m glad that this exam period is my last.  I’m sick of study–stress.  But I have to get through four exams before it’s over.  Please pray for me as I study, and for my memory during exams.  I don’t know if I have baby–brain (yet?), but it’s a convenient excuse if I don’t do well in my exams.  But I don’t want to have to use it.  I want to finish college well and be satisfied with my exam efforts. 

I am reminded by a friend who also posted about exam study today that while exam results are correlated with my effort, life results are not.  It’s incredibly freeing that none of my effort counts when it comes to God.  I don’t have to worry about if I’ve worked hard enough, or performed well enough.  I don’t have to wish for an escape when I feel like I’m failing.  Jesus has done all that is necessary for my salvation and my everlasting with God.  Hallelujah!