Weekly Devotional

September 10, 2014 

by Rev. Erika Marksbury

Been thinking about neighbors, of course. A boy a year older than my oldest - so, 7 - used to live on our block. He and my boys played catch in the yard. He would bring his bike over and they'd all ride in the driveway. Sometimes he'd stay for dinner with us, but his parents cooked out a lot, so he usually liked whatever was on their grill better than our vegetarian fare.

And a couple of weeks ago, his mom came over, with him. The boys went to play in the living room and she took a seat at our table, told us she was leaving as soon as she could. She said she had to get out, had to get her son out. And a week later, they were gone, to Indiana, where she's got family.

That's what we told our boys, when they said goodbye to their friend. That he was moving because he was going to be close to family. They understood that, mostly. We didn't tell them their friend and his mom left his dad here, down the street, because his destructive addictions had made it impossible for the three of them to remain in the same house.

And I asked Rick, later, "What do we do?" The boy and his mom had been our friends - we were good neighbors to each other - but they got out of town. Now, we're left with a neighbor we probably know too much about, and what we know, honestly, scares us. But I'm sure he needs neighbors. And as I sit with that fear and that certainty, I'm reminded of Stanley Hauerwas' prayer:
knock on the door
"Dear God, we do not desire to know the terror in our neighbors' lives. We do not desire to know the terror in our own lives. We live as if we have nothing to fear, and thus we are captivated by fear..."

The other evening, my boys and I donned our royal blue and grabbed a blanket to go cheer on the high school football team, whose stadium is across the street from our house. And as his brother was buckling in, Oscar hopped back out of his seat and said, "I'm gonna go see if J's dad wants to come."

For three years, Oscar has been scared to knock on that door by himself. He's just really shy, and always wanted me to go with him to ask if his friend could play. But now - now that only this tortured man remains in that house - Oscar's got this newfound bravery. He ran across the lawns and rapped on the door. He waited a while. He yelled back to me, "Sometimes it takes a long time for them to come to the door."

Eventually I called him back. We went to the game on our own. But I'm going to try to remember all of this - the courage, the spontaneous invitation, the idea that sometimes, it takes a long time.

The end of Hauerwas' prayer is my own plea to God now:
"May your love overcome our fears so that we can reach out to one another, fearing neither ourselves, nor others, nor you. Amen."

Rev. Erika Marksbury is the associate pastor of Saint Andrew and a doctoral student in the Religious Studies program at the University of Missouri - Kansas City. You can reach her at Erika@SACChome.org.