Ed, my neighbor next door, really hates it if someone gets too close for comfort. “There are contrary cattle that barely stop at a fence in front of them. Likewise, there are bullheaded people who come right up to your nose before they stop an inch or two from you. They have no understanding of another person’s personal space. It’s as if they think that if they get right in your face you can’t avoid them,” Ed complained the other day.
“I think it happens to everyone and it usually happens when you haven’t been eating garlic. Sometimes, plain bad breath will cause them to back up, but even that doesn’t always work,” I commented. I then added, “You are spoiled as a farmer, Ed, as most days you don’t have anyone about you while you are working on your farm. No one is there to get in your face or in your way. It is pretty great to work independently.”
“Generally it is, unless you have trouble or really need help because of an unusual situation,” Ed replied. “At least with people that get too close for comfort, they usually leave fairly quickly. Bills, ills and death not only get too close at times, but they keep coming back like a pain in the neck. Some people and certain circumstances are as much fun as a cold or the flu,” Ed stated.
In the Bible, there is the story of a woman who suffered when death got too close for comfort. Naomi left Bethlehem with her husband and two sons. They moved to Moab where her sons married women of Moab. After ten years of living in Moab, Naomi’s husband and sons had all died and she decided to return home to Bethlehem rather than remain alone in a foreign land. There, she had no one to help her as a widow.
The only family Naomi had where her two daughters-in-law in Moab. She told them to return to their own families and remarry. Naomi was willing to go back to Bethlehem alone and be a widow there by herself. Her one daughter-in-law, Ruth, refused to leave her. Ruth was determined to be part of Naomi’s personal space. Her words for vowing closeness are celebrated yet today. Ruth said to Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth’s determination to keep close to her mother-in-law was blessed by God and resulted in goodness and joy coming to both Ruth and Naomi after they returned to Bethlehem.
Perhaps, we are like Ed and don’t want people getting too close for comfort except if we need help or there is an unusual situation. Could it be that we like independence with no one getting in our way if at all possible? Perhaps, neither God nor our neighbor are welcome to come closer than three feet of us unless we need help? How close will we draw to God and our neighbor when they need us?