Welcome to My Neighborhood

I think one of my favorite parts about the Animal Crossing series is the sense of community your town has. It is up to you to network with your neighbors, help them out as you are capable, and keep the town aesthetically pleasing and full of life. But you also have the capacity to invest in yourself: pay off loans to have a house, invest in new fashion pieces, and take time to enjoy recreational things like fishing, stargazing, and visiting the local museum. You know, just things you do every day.

All jokes aside though, I think the harmony between being a friend to neighbor as well as yourself is something that can easily be misconstrued. It can be seen as selfish to invest time and resources into yourself, but if you only focus on the needs of others, you will inevitably face burn out. So how do we reconcile this dichotomy?

One verse that has helped me navigate this issue can be found in Luke. In chapter 10, Jesus commands us to “’love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” This excerpt is in the middle of Jesus explaining to us who our neighbor is and how best to love our neighbor, which certainly is a relevant question for us today.

Before we even consider how love ourselves and others, we first must determine our source of love: the Lord. God first loved us more deeply and unconditionally than we could ever fathom, so we must first devote ourselves to loving God. Once we have a fuller context to the love in which we seek to give, we can more easily figure out the latter half of Jesus’ command.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So what does that mean practically? One of the ideas that has really helped me figure that out is to consider myself as a neighbor. What does that mean? Rather than viewing my needs vs. other people’s needs, I consider them all valuable and necessary in order to show the love of God. I am just as loved as by God as my neighbor, so my needs are no more or less important than theirs. Some needs may be more timely in certain seasons, but there will also be seasons where my needs are more timely. But that does not negate God’s love for me: therefore, we are called to love ALL, including both ourselves and our neighbors.

So Animal Crossing doesn’t quite get the whole image of Godly love, but we have the insider knowledge to love God and love our neighbors, including ourselves. Journal Guide: Take some time to get alone today and take about 15-20 minutes to journal through these questions. Journaling is a way we pray to God, so see what God might be telling you. – Katie Hufnagle

Journal Guide: Answer these questions alone in your journal. They will help you process what God might be trying to tell you.
1. What are some ways you are loving the Lord right now?
2. During times of stress, do you try to funnel your energy into helping neighbor or yourself? How can you start to balance that more?
3. What are some ways you are loving yourself and your neighbor right now?
4. Take some time to write a prayer to God.

Conversation Guide: Ask three questions to your siblings and parents. We think doing it over the dinner table or right after dinner is a great time to do it.
1. How have we been maintaining faithfulness to God’s promise of love?
2. What are some ways we can support and love our family during this time?
3. How can we be praying and be the hands and feet for our physical neighbors? Pray for people who come to heart.

Prayer: Read John 10 and then read this prayer by yourself:
Dear God, thank you for constantly showing us your love throughout all of time. I pray that I can love my neighbor as myself and that my neighbors are inspired to do the same. Because of your great love for humanity, we have the fulfilling call to be your hands and feet right now, so show us the best ways we can show your love to all the world, whether that be here, near, or far. Help me better learn how to love you, my neighbor, and myself, knowing you love all 3 unconditionally. I love you. Amen.