Feb 17, 2019 • Written by Nicki Behnke
Chances are very high that my neighbors have seen me in my underwear. In my defense, I was born and raised just outside of town. When I told people where I lived, it was often met with “Oh, out there” as though it was out in the middle of nowhere. Privacy was not something we had to give much thought to and that habit of closing the blinds (which I obviously never learned) continues to be a tricky task for me to remember now that I find myself living smack dab in the middle of the city. (Sorry neighbors!)
Despite our often open blinds, we have made it a high value on our families list over these past few years to be neighborly. In a culture where people highly value privacy and hang out in their backyards, we make an effort to be the neighbors sitting on the front porch instead. (and it is and effort!)
It hasn’t always been this way for us. The first home we purchased I would purposely avoid going outside if it meant having to interact with a neighbor. It was easier to just stay inside and on more than one occasion, I tried to convince my husband to put up a privacy fence.
But gone are the days of privacy fences for us. We have actually taken down part of the fence in our new home and in some ways, it is a subtle representation of taking down a wall in my own heart towards others.
Our families theme verse is Isaiah 61:3 “...They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
We believe that God plants us with great specificity. No detail goes unnoticed with Him, including the people he locationally surrounds us with. As a result we aim to be a presence of His glory wherever we are planted. God loves our neighbors. He created them, and for such a time as this, He has specially placed us next door to display His splendor.
Displaying His splendor takes intentionality. It won’t just happen on it’s own and it won’t always feel like an immediate success. Reaching out to our neighbors takes courage, time, and is often uncomfortable. But do it! Take the time, be an oak where you are planted because it’s part of His intent.
Displaying His splendor can take on various forms but for us it has looked something like this:.
Be a presence in your neighborhood: Get outside! Go on a walk, choose your neighborhood park, or sit in the front yard. Be sure to wave, smile, and take time to acknowledge others and lean into conversation when it presents itself.
Make a connection: Once you have a presence in your neighborhood, figure out a way to connect with your neighbors. This might look like exchanging phone numbers or send a friend request so you can connect online. For those of you who are technologically savvy, create a neighborhood Facebook group.
Invite others IN: We have had great success with using a Facebook group we created to advertise and invite others to events. Often, people are more than willing to show up if someone else will take the initiative to plan it. Be that person. Host a bonfire night, create a caroling event around Christmas, organize a Moms Night In. The possibilities are endless!
Pray and Encourage: Pray for your neighbors on a regular basis. For me, this happens most naturally while I am out running or walking the neighborhood. Go a step further and encourage a neighbor in word or deed. Make a meal for someone, drop off cookies, or simply send an encouraging text. Love them practically.
There is something beautiful when you get to begin to live in community with those who are actually in your neighborhood. Take a risk and reach out to the neighbors God has placed around you and watch Him display His splendor through your obedience.