Love Your Neighbor

Love Your Neighbor

The move wasn’t my idea. Why would I want to leave my friends and live across town in a place where no one knew me?

But when my parents announced they’d bought a new house, I realized this family meeting didn’t include a vote. Dad and Mom had already made up their minds. All we had to do was pack our stuff and say goodbye to our friends.

“They can’t make me go,” my older sister, Lisa, said. “I’ll move in with Megan.”

“Yeah, right,” I replied. “Mom and Dad would never agree to that.”

Lisa sighed. “I know. It’s just wishful thinking.”

“We need Aladdin’s lamp, or a wish on a star, or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” I said, trying to find a way out of this terrible situation.

“Or an answered prayer,” Lisa added.

Yeah, that’s what we need, I thought. Lord, if You really want what’s best, surely You’d want us to stay with our friends.

Even though the decision had been my parents’, I knew they hadn’t made it without a lot of thought and prayer. Maybe I didn’t understand it–or like it–but the move did bear God’s stamp of approval.

The next month hurried by as our family prepared for the move. When I wasn’t packing, I’d turn up on Angie’s front porch or Debbie’s back patio to talk about how frustrated

I was and how much I’d miss them. We laughed as we remembered fun times and cried as we thought about being apart.

As often as I turned to my friends, I also turned to God. Day after day I’d interrupt my quiet times with such outbursts as “God, I know You approve of this move, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!”

In answer God sometimes led me to Scripture passages that told me that He knew about my coming and going and that He’d loved me since before I was born. The clincher, though, was the verse about loving your neighbor.

“But I do love my neighbors,” I practically screamed.

I wanted to toss my Bible across the room. “I love Debbie and Angie and Patty and Sherry and Susie. I’ve learned that lesson! Why are You taking me away from them?”

Deep down I figured God was talking about my new neighbors. I was just scared.

How do you go from being the top banana to just one of the bunch? It had taken me a long time to make the friends I had now. I’d worked hard at school to join clubs and be popular. Now I had to do it all over again? The thought frightened me.

• • • • • • • •

Moving day came, and I found myself in a new bedroom, surrounded by boxes. I wanted to stack them on top of each other to build a wall between me and my new neighborhood.

As I unpacked, the thought Love your neighbor echoed in my head. “I know, Lord. I know,” I muttered. “But how do I do that in a practical way?” I didn’t get an answer.

By that evening my brothers had a bunch of new friends and Lisa had met several girls her age. I sat alone on the front steps pretending I was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I kept hoping that if I clicked my shoes together and repeated, “There’s no place like home,” I’d soon be riding the next cyclone back to my old neighborhood.

As I started into the house, I noticed a girl my age come out of the house next door. She waved when she saw me, and headed over. “Hi, I’m Jenny,” she said. “I live next door.”

“I’m Teresa. I just moved in.”

“I know,” Jenny said with a smile. “My mom told me to come over . . .”

Great, I thought, her mom sent her.

“. . . to tell you ‘Welcome to the neighborhood’ and let you know that garbage collection is on Mondays. I came over to tell you school starts Wednesday, and the bus usually stops at my house at 7:10 a.m. If you’d like, I can show you around school the first day.”

“That would be great!” I said. “I was worried about finding my way around.”

“Well, I guess that’s all. I’ll see you.”

I was disappointed Jenny didn’t stay longer, but I was thrilled with her offer to show me around.

• • • • • • • •

With Jenny’s help, the first day of school went smoothly. She showed me around, introduced me to kids she knew, and even saved me a seat at lunch.

As the weeks passed, I found myself wanting to spend more time with Jenny but not wanting to force myself on her. She was so friendly and funny and popular–everything I had been before the move. If I were her, would I want some new girl crowding into my world? I wasn’t sure, so I hung back.

Surprisingly, Jenny kept including me. She’d call and ask if I wanted to go to the mall with her and some friends to look at clothes. She’d invite me to the library and then to meet some more friends at the ice-cream parlor. She even invited me over after school to do homework.

Without much effort on my part, Jenny and I–much to my delight–were becoming friends.

One night I sat on my bed with my Bible. I didn’t need to turn to God’s second greatest commandment; I knew it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Lord, until now I don’t think I knew what it meant to love my neighbor. Sure, I loved Debbie and Angie and the girls from my old neighborhood, but I don’t think I would have been open to including anyone else in our group. I know now there’s more to love than I thought.

I remembered how wonderful Jenny had been to me over the past weeks. Shopping, studying, walking, laughing . . . including.

I asked You to show me in a practical way what it meant to love my neighbor, and You did in a way I’ll never forget–You sent a wonderful new friend named Jenny.

Written by Teresa J. Cleary
Illustrated by Joel D. Springer

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Love Your Neighbor

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