Over a month ago, a storm blew through and knocked down our neighbor's fence.
We knew he liked to hold on to things, but once the fence fell, our view drastically changed. My oasis of privacy crumbled, and suddenly I have a bird's eye view behind the scenes of someone else's life: and it's a mess. Despite living here for almost twenty years and knowing better, perky Amanda still thinks: Now that we know, how can we help? While he and my husband worked together, tearing apart the old fence, he rejected my offer to haul the rotten wood to the street, instead opting to pile it next to the last thing he had decided to keep; something clicked in my head.
Just because the solution seems obvious to me, he will not receive it until he agrees that there is a problem to solve and decides he wants to change. That means when I recognize that my opinions for his life aren't helpful, it is time to stop pushing them.
One of the most beautiful and frustrating things in life is free will. If I'm not wise, I can easily tie myself in knots, determined to help someone before they want to be helped. Here's where it gets confusing: people may ask for help--even brokenly beg for help before they are actually ready to do anything about it. It's a step in the right direction, but not always a sure sign that they can handle you activating all of your resources. It has taken more painful crashes of good intentions than I can even calculate to learn this lesson. When your ideas are met with excuses, when the challenging path to victory is never started, when you see the signs that they aren't truly ready to do the things that will shift their trajectory, they aren't prepared to change. No matter how much you wish they would. It's wisdom that brings you to a place where you accept that you have to let it go. Pray for them, and love them, but sometimes you just have to put the fence back up and try to forget what you've seen.
Even writing that, I feel horribly sad. I have a long list of people and situations that I mourn, but one thing I have learned from reading about Jesus' time on earth is that rejection of wisdom, rejection of change, rejection of help are choices He left on the table. When I don't accept someone's choice, the thing that suffers is me. I want people to see truth and walk in freedom so badly I can taste it. But wanting them to walk in freedom includes the freedom to choose to remain where they are.
There is someone else out there who wants all the eager passion I have to offer. There is someone who is ready to talk, work through hard things, then make hard choices. They just need a friend to walk it out with them. If I keep worrying and fussing over the junk someone is completely happy to keep piling up in their back yard, I will miss the person who is ready to clean theirs out.
I want my life to be useful and beneficial and helpful. That means I need to pray for wisdom and insight to know when to walk away and when to fight. When to keep trying and when to lovingly bow out. It helps me have compassion when I honestly reflect on the times when I was the one who wasn't ready to receive the help I desperately needed. It's humbling to remember the brave people who loved me enough to say the hard things I wasn't ready to hear. We are all capable of living on either side of the fence. Maturity recognizes when it's my time to help and when it's my time to shift.
The difference between shifting and drifting is the key to walking in freedom versus staying stuck. The distinction has been a simple, but massive revelation in my mind. Drifting is what we naturally tend towards in a fallen world. It's how we find ourselves pulled by life, drawn by the tide of group-think, reacting impulsively to big feelings. Shifting, however, is intentionally making life choices. It's looking at where you are and dreaming of where you want to be. It's seeing red flags and making changes in light of all those factors. It's accepting help and advice that we are offended by in our pride-prone nature.
Back to my current situation, we choose to see our backyard as a place to hang out with friends and spend most of our time. Our neighbor uses his differently. Both of us are perfectly satisfied with our decisions. And that is ok. So to remain peaceful, we will put up a new fence and re-establish a healthy boundary. It's an intentional shift in perspective. It's what keeps me able to fight another day.