We live in a beautiful community, surrounded by lakes and natural preserves. When we walk by the lake, we are reminded of God’s presence. A crane moves with grace through our yard, calling to mind the freedom and grace we enjoy in this community. We marvel at our community’s philanthropic mindset to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves and invest in the schools, military families, and homeless missions around us. This is a community who serves, and loves their neighbor well. This is a perfect venue for us to settle into, and live out our vision of helping couples in the restoration of their marriage. For the last twelve years we have committed our lives to helping others have unity in their marriage relationships. We are doing life together, and helping others to have the abundant life they were blessed by God to have.
Three years ago, there was a knock at the door, and we are made aware by our homeowners association that a neighbor is suspicious of what we are doing in our home. As a result of that action taken three years ago, we found ourselves “going underground” with our work. We stopped having couples groups and limited ourselves to working with one couple at a time. We stopped sharing with our neighbors the miracles that were taking place in our living room, and while once we had neighbors who contributed to the cause by baking goodies, lending their driveway for our couples to park, and praying for us, we are now doing it alone and secretly keeping the good news to ourselves.
We knew that to keep “underground” about our ministry would result in a limited ability to reach out to a community in need. We created relationships with pastors and listened to them tell us what their congregations needed to have healthy marriages. Pastors began sending members of their congregation who wanted a healthier marriage. This was starting to look more like a movement. We knew it was time to multiply leadership by teaching others what we know works to create healthy marriages within their community.
So we opened our home again. We started having community events in our home to promote healthy marriages. Couples come for an evening of fun, relaxation, good food, and listen to a talk about marriage. There is no business conducted, no money exchanged. We are simply sharing with them what a biblical foundation for marriage looks like. We are loving our neighbors well. We are praying that this new excitement about marriage will be the catalyst to help us open a Relationship Center in the near future and we won’t need to meet in our home any longer. Then we could love more neighbors well.
This week there was a knock at the door. This time it is the local police. They have a complaint that we are conducting “illegal business” in our home. No sir, we are having a bible study. They sheepishly apologize for their presence and leave. We are loving our neighbors well.
Yesterday we get a phone call from the homeowners association as there has been a second complaint about the business we conduct in our home. We must lay aside our personal outrage at the negative energy these complaints (from the same person) are interfering with our time to love our neighbors well, and we must love her well. We must love her by telling her the truth, listening to her fears, and helping her realize that she is responsible for her home, and we are responsible for ours. We must do this in love, because we must love all neighbors well.
I love her enough to pray for her. I pray she will find purpose and meaning in her own life, and focus her energies on what God has for her that will love herself and others. I pray she lives a full life in harmony with God and with those who He has brought into her life to be in community with.
I love her enough to tell her the truth. I am so busy right now helping other people have full and productive lives that I don’t have the energy to fight this negativity, and will have to hire someone else to do it for me. If I begin to feel physically or emotionally unsafe because someone is watching my every move, I will have to draw boundaries to ensure that I keep myself emotionally safe. This might require me to exercise legal action to protect my home and my environment. Not only do I love my neighbor well, but I also love myself enough to take care of myself.
I love her enough to not give her the power to impact me and my focus. I will not spend any mental energy thinking about her, what she might be doing, what might happen next. I will live in the present moment, and focus my energy and attention on what God has called me to do — to love Him, take care of myself, and serve others. That is all I have energy for. I will not spend my time talking about what “might happen.”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.
Cindy Jacob Southworth is a marriage and relationship coach, certified through the American Assn of Christian Counselors and a member of the International Christian Coaching Assn. Cindy is a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, and coach. She and her husband David are the owners of Breakwater Coaching.