Last week, I found out my next door neighbor is moving. I told them I was sorry to see them go – and I meant it. They were nice neighbors. English is not their first language so there was always a barrier to communication. But we spoke the occasional “hi” from the yard. They have lived beside me for at least five years. But the thing I got a little bit excited about was that when they moved, they would be taking their dog with them! Disclaimer – I am not a pet person; I never grew up with pets, and I just don’t have a love for them. This dog has been my nemesis. Whenever I am outside the dog barks continuously until I go back in the house. Front yard or back. If the dog sees me in my living room, it will bark. I haven’t been able to enjoy any time in my yard since the dog has lived with them.
The dog is a rather large dog; mostly mutt but has some German shepherd in the mix. When the dog has been off the leash, it has charged at me – three times. The encounters have put me in a fearful mode when I attempt to go outside. I always check to see where the dog is before I venture outside. The past encounters have given me flashbacks to my childhood with other encounters with large dogs. I am not a big fan to say the least. So yes, I am glad this dog is going away. I did a little happy dance when I thought I could at last be at peace in my yard. Not only has this dog been a nemesis for my peace, I have had other neighbors bring dogs home and there’s a chorus of barking dogs whenever I am trying to write or study God’s word. I have started referring to those times as Satan’s tool of distraction. Once I submitted my annoyance to God, the dogs have no longer been an issue during those special times.
As I was contemplating these last three years of doggie distractions, I realized this was the time that Jesus had set aside time for me to begin a new work in me. I was reminded of the study we just finished up in my small group time. We studied the book of Jonah with Priscilla Shirer. She wrote (and spoke) about navigating a life interrupted. God has plans for us. Sometimes we have these “divine interventions” to get us on His plan. Over the last three years, He has been working on my heart and His plan. He wants me to be aligned with the things that He has in mind. It’s not too difficult to figure out that His plan involves people. He wants everyone to know about His love for us; His plan of salvation through Jesus, His Son; and how He wants to use each of us to reach our neighbors. Satan doesn’t want this to happen and will send whatever distractions or obstacles so the work will not be done!
For those of us who follow the commands of Jesus, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus suggested – I mean – told us to go out into the world and disciple others; to teach them to obey everything He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). I think we all understand this is what we are to do. But if you are like me, you might not actually do it. The world is too big to conquer. We can’t reach it by ourselves. But my world is a bit smaller. God has placed me beside these neighbors. For the last few years, I have understood this is my world. I was happy the dog was going away, but I should have been sad about the fact that I would not be able to be a light to this neighbor anymore. I should be heartbroken that I will not have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. The language barrier was always an excuse. Now, the dog won’t bother me, but the thoughts of missed opportunities might.
God’s plan is always about people. Jonah became angry over God’s compassion for the people of Nineveh. There are always obstacles to share the Good News. We need to have the compassion that God has because compassion always leads to action. The barriers will never stand in our way if we understand God’s perspective that everyone is worth the effort because Jesus died for them too. We will be compelled to tell! The opportunities like the dog will be going, going, then gone for good.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8