December 28, 2009

"Hi-dee-Ho Neighbor!"

If you've ever watched The Simpsons, you've heard that line before. It's from the infamous Ned Flanders. The Bible-thumping, God-loving, goofy-talking neighbor-extraordinaire of the Simpson Family. He's famous for his 'Christian ways' and his "hi-diddly" positive attitude.
As an actual (rather than cartoon) Christian I laugh at Ned's antics and the way the writers choose to portray Christians, but for some people - who don't believe or follow Jesus (or maybe those that have at one time, but fallen away from the faith because they've been hurt by a church or religion) - that's what Christians are like. Corny. Super-religious. Judgmental. Christian-eise talking.

I (and my husband) actually try quite hard to NOT be that neighbor. We're us. Genuine. Mistake-making. Imperfect. Friendly, but not overbearing. Just us.

When we first moved into this house we hit it off really well with the neighbors to the right of our house. They're two, Puerto Rican, middle-aged guys from Miami with a big white American Buldog named Bruno. We met them when we found them mowing our lawn shortly after we'd moved in. Such nice people! We love them to pieces - we share meals, exchange gifts at holidays and house-sit for each other. Through the years we've talked about religion, they ask about the church we go to - we learn that one of them used to be a priest in the Catholic church, and both have roots in Catholosism, but aren't practicing it currently. That's really as deep as we've gotten, though. We try our best to show them what Christianity should look like. Without being "Ned Flanders Neighbors."

But you know where we've fallen short? The biggest area we could, probably. We've never invited them to church. I guess I've always been worried I'd scare them away or they'd close up and not be as open with us as before. Or maybe I was worried they'd feel judged for living an un-conventional (un-Biblical) lifestyle. I don't know, but I finally got the nerve up to ask them to church the other day. We were over exchanging gifts and when the time was right, I asked. It helped that it was Christmastime - the most popular time of year to go to church even if you aren't a Christian. It helped that our church was having a special event too. But it's been three years. There's been three Christmases. Three Easters. Dozens of special events. I'm a little disappointed in myself for waiting so long to ask. Because you know what? They said yes.

I was a little skeptical at first. I mean, it was a Tuesday, what were the odds that when Sunday came around he would actually come? I hoped hey would, don't get me wrong, but he's the type that can say things 'just to be nice'.

So Sunday morning rolls around, we're in our PJ's watching "Sunday Morning" as usual. Then the phone rings. It's our neighbor asking if he can still come with us to church. Not only did he say yes when we asked, he called us to confirm and get a ride! Where we'd fallen short with following-up the Holy Spirit was working overtime and prompted him to call us!

Our pastor says sometimes that people are just waiting for you to ask them to come to church. I always believed him, but in the back of my head though, "yea, uh-huh." But it's so true and I can attest - we only had to ask, and our neighbor said yes!

I'm so excited to see where this will lead. Since it was a special event, we ended the afternoon with, "You'll have to come check it out on a normal weekend to see what it's really like." And his reply? "Yea, I liked it. It was different, but I liked it."

All it took was once. Seven little words with a little inflection thrown in at the end. So who are you going to ask, "Want to come to church with us?"
The worst they can say is, "No." And who's to say you can't ask again after building more of a relationship. But when they say, "Yes," - and they probably will - it's SOOO worth it to know you could be introducing them to TRUTH, to the REAL deal - not to another Ned Flander's Christianity from the media.