Today's post is written by Megan Scott.
Ironically, I think I may have learned a lot about love from someone who hates me. You know, that one person in your life who you repeatedly will away and yet there they are – making situations, relationships and day to day life fairly miserable for you.
I know, I know… not a lovey-dovey Valentine’s story. It’s not a tale of romance, intrigue or star-crossed love; it’s more akin to those situations in which you would really just love to doodle black teeth and horns on someone’s picture before ripping it up and stomping on it, but then you catch a glimpse of your WWJD bracelet and go, “Oh, crap...”
Until a few years ago I prided myself on being generally amicable and getting along well with all of my friends and acquaintances – regardless of our differences. So when I found myself the object of a family member’s scorn, resentment and misguided anger I was at a loss for what to do. It felt as if this person were deliberately trying to rob me of my joy during what would be some of the most important events of my life – my wedding, my first pregnancy, the birth of my son, watching him grow and develop day by day… and to make matters worse, because this person was a part of my family I truly could not escape the situation; nor could my other family members. I remember questioning why God would allow this to happen to me… I didn’t feel as if I had done anything to deserve this person’s contempt and I found myself meeting anger with escalating anger.
I prayed that God would change this person. Apparently that wasn’t his plan. What he taught me instead was how to love when it is difficult.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47 NIV
So I began to pray that God would change my heart and help me to love and forgive. To be honest, it is a daily struggle. Some days I feel nothing but compassion, others some new situation inevitably arises and it’s like salt in the wound. The good news is that God continues to encourage me through His people. One week it was Pastor Bob’s sermon on forgiveness. His metaphor about lugging around the suitcase (our “baggage”) and repeatedly choosing to drop it rather than holding onto it regularly enters my mind each time I struggle with forgiveness. Another time I was reading a book and stumbled across this verse:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 KJV
I don’t believe I had ever read this verse before and it was as though I had been waiting for God to personally tell me this… as if until he outright told me to I wouldn’t have to listen to that still, small voice. I’m pretty stubborn that way.
Again, not a romance novel, but I hope this encourages some of you to explore other types of love this Valentine’s day… not necessarily the fun kind, but rather the effortful, difficult kind of love that Jesus encourages us to pursue and ultimately modeled for us on the cross.
Whether it’s performing some random act of kindness for someone who has hurt you, letting go of an old grudge, or simply just praying for God to soften your heart towards someone, I hope God uses this Valentine’s day to encourage our hearts to love our neighbors as ourselves… even the ones who’ve installed surround sound in their living room, regularly hold band practice in their garage, and let their dogs explore your lawn.