(A Lesson from the Neighborhood Terrors)
I grew up in a middle-class family with parents who both worked out of the home and often left us kids—my three older brothers, three stepbrothers, and me—to look after ourselves. This was not the best plan. Things occurred that just wouldn’t have happened if there had been an adult present. Over the years, though we didn’t know it, our shenanigans gained us a reputation as the “neighborhood terrors.” I was never the instigator of these hair-brained schemes, but went along with them to stay in the safety of the group, which unfortunately often backfired on me.
One evening, my mom and dad headed out for some commitments. As usual, Mom instructed the boys to watch out for me. My oldest brother, who usually did a decent job of making sure I wasn’t in serious danger, had locked himself away in his room, leaving the rest of us to look for trouble. As it was a warm summer night, my brothers decided it would be fun to round up a few other unsupervised kids in the neighborhood and do some egging and doorbell ditching. I didn’t feel great about this idea, but I didn’t want to be left behind. My brothers grabbed some eggs from the fridge and we took off down the street like ragtag bandits.
Apparently, none of the leaders in our group were strong in even the most basic of military tactics—like targeting houses where it would be less likely for us to be recognized. They decided to stop just a few houses down from our own house for our first doorbell ditch victim. We giggled and shushed each other as we snuck up to the front door. One of the boys rang the doorbell and we all took off running . . . right as the owner of the house pulled into the driveway.
My brothers hadn’t just picked a neighbor who would recognize us. As our luck would have it, this neighbor was a police officer with a K9 unit. He and his dog jumped out of the car and set after us in hot pursuit. Any doorbell-ditch victim may have chased us, but now we had a professional on our tail!
Our neighborhood backed up to a schoolyard. We all took off toward it and spread out, every kid for him or herself. I was the youngest, the only girl, and the slowest. Guess who the police officer caught first? That’s right, me. I was scared to my core!
The officer sat me down on a bench and called for the rest of my posse. Even in my terror, I knew my brothers would be in so much trouble with my mom and dad if they didn’t come and claim me. One by one, they emerged from the dark shadows at the edge of the schoolyard. When everyone had gathered around me, the policeman gave us a lecture and sent us home. Not wanting to get in more trouble, none of us told our parents what we had done.
Lesson? It’s normal to seek safety and belonging in the crowd. But when we and the people around us are living in survival mode, or from an orphan mentality, our decisions aren’t going to be coming from genuine love or a desire to look out for each other, but from self-preservation. This usually ends up putting us in scary situations!
Ultimately, true safety and belonging are experiences we must find within, as the Holy Spirit makes the Father’s love, acceptance, and protection real to us. He is the safest place for our hearts, the place where we truly belong. When we start to live from that place, we are set free from survival mode and empowered to create relational environments full of safety and connection.
How’s your heart today? Do you feel safe? Do you feel like you belong? If you are lacking in these areas, run to the Father. He is looking and waiting for you with open arms.
Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture . . . None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:35-39 MSG)