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Ditch the Garage

Not so long ago a friend of mine talked about his recent move to the central corridor in Phoenix. He told me about one of the distinguishing features of the surrounding homes from the 1940s –1960s: there are no garages. At first it was different for him and seemed like a drawback. However, after a few months he noticed something. When people came and went from their houses, they were outside of their homes and in the neighborhood. The result was neighbors waving and saying “hi.” Community was happening because of this one unforeseen attribute of these old homes. This become a feature to him, not a drawback.

Who really knows why, but the words my friend said that day stuck with me. The way houses without garages fostered community, even in this small way, has become a lasting metaphor for me. A metaphor of community, relationship and what it means to be a neighbor. It has also come to represent the boundaries we construct that deteriorate our sense of community and what it means to be a good neighbor.

Jesus was quite clear with his disciples about his desire for them to live in healthy, intentional community with their Father God first, and then, secondly but with emphasis, their neighbor. For Jesus, whenever someone tried to get the secret knowledge of how to have a successful life and afterlife, he always answered in similar fashion: love God, love your neighbor. All commands, rules or guidelines given by the Father, by the prophets, or by Jesus himself, are all wrapped up in these two simple ideas. (Matthew 22:34-38)

What seemed simple to Jesus seems a little more complex for me. I’m not always interested in loving God, let alone my neighbor. I’m often more inclined to drive into my garage and close it before anyone even notices I’ve arrived home. If I’m not careful, I can erect boundaries that I presume will increase my comfort level and keep a healthy and safe distance from the people around me so their dysfunction (or “mess”) doesn’t get all over me unless I want it to. My proverbial garage gives me a barrier that allows me to sleep less than 30 feet or so from another human being every night of my life, yet not even wonder what sort of challenges, grief or joy they may be feeling at that moment, or throughout the year.

Whoops. Sorry. Don’t let me get too much of my “mess” on you. I’d like to think instead that some of my silly thoughts and metaphors might encourage those who are part of Jesus Christ’s Community to take a moment and ponder what garages we might have unintentionally built in our lives. Then maybe we can ask the Lord if there is a better way to live, and love, our neighbors.

P.S. Ditch the garage is a metaphor. If you decide to tear down the actual garage at your house, please don’t hold me responsible!