The scent of bitterness filled my heart and resentment clouded my mind. I could not take one more minute of his foolishness, and I danced away from a conversation I did not want to continue. It was dark by the time I reached my room and flicking the switch on did not seem to alter my foul mood. I tried to read for a bit, but I found myself replaying the conversation in my mind. I knew it was a waste of energy and I opted for the rest that comes with sleep. I went to bed but sleep did not come easily, for my heart was heavy with anger and my mind was stuck in replay. I was too tired to sweep the floorboards of my brain and to hush the echoes of my heart. Resentment and bitterness invited all their friends and they threw a party at the foot of my bed. I always try to be a good neighbor and let people party, even if it’s late, but after a while it was time to either knock on the door or to call the police. A rushed Hail Mary served as my messenger, and soon the party was over – either my tiredness kicked in or my emotions caved in.
I like people. Alright, I like most people. But even with those I don’t really like, I do my earnest to love them – to wish and give them nothing but the best. Because I am flawed, I try my best to love the likable and unlikable alike, and even find beauty in their flaws. But sometimes I can fail miserably at loving. Once in a while, I meet someone I cannot deal with. I am not talking werewolves, vampires, or that annoying cousin – I am talking about a real human being I cannot stand at all. This is not about the lady who blocks the aisle at the supermarket or the guy who taps his pen at the bank, but the sort of person who causes a vicious visceral reaction. We’ve all encountered people like this. They are the pompous jerk at work with the annoying laughter, the friend with the insensitive and narcissistic Facebook posts, and the family friend who wants to talk politics at the Thanksgiving dinner.
I find someone like this every few months, but seldom do I let my rage take over. This guy was different. I am usually good at passing over the flaws and mistakes of others, but from the moment this guy greeted me, I began to dislike him. As life would have it, I would see this guy a lot for a couple of days. It was tiring and trying. Every single one of his comments infuriated me. It was draining to talk to him. I tried to resist the urge to judge or to assume I knew him, but there was something weird about this guy and I could smell it. I tried to temper my emotional response, but all I wanted to tell him was, “shoo away with you.” I felt an irrational dislike taking root, and though I attempted to dismiss it, anger swelled in my guts. If this happened ten years ago, I would have punched him in the face with the greatest of pleasures. That night, I could only flee to avoid making a scene in front of those around us.
The next day brought a new perspective. I suspended my dislike of him for a few moments to ponder how Jesus must love this person. The first thing I discovered was that my visceral reaction was giving away what I disliked in me. As I listened to him talk, I was unconsciously reminded of what I’ve struggled to tame and to transform in my life. But even this realization did not change the way I felt about him. With some people, I have the natural tendency to focus in what I dislike in them instead of loving them. If I was going to learn to love the guy, Jungian psychology would not be enough. I needed Jesus to teach me how to love him. I started by asking the Lord to give me the sentiments of his Heart – to see this guy as he sees him, to understand him as he understands him, and to love him as he loves him. Yet, in my eyes, this guy remained the same idiot.
I decided to imagine what it was for Jesus to be angry at someone. I am sure he got upset at someone once in a while. As a human being, he had to learn to love and to forgive. I bet he encountered a few difficult people in his life. From an early age, Jesus learned what it was like to earn a living, to save to buy food and clothes, and to care for Mary. Once in a while, he probably met a dissatisfied and critical customer who would not pay his dues. That must have driven him nuts. It was through people like this that Jesus was challenged to love more deeply. His encounters with these people stretched him in the right way.
As I pondered about Jesus’ encounter with the customer that drove him nuts, and a few others, I realized God uses people like these to teach me how to love more deeply. Through them, Jesus invites me never to treat anyone like an inconsequential token or to let my emotions get the best of me. This realization moved me deeply. Jesus’ message was loud and clear: “At all times, dare to love more deeply. Nothing else but love. Tried and failed? No matter, let’s try again. Fail again? Fail better and grow with every attempt. When you feel stretched, there’s room for growth. When you are frustrated and angry, trust me. When people annoy you, dare to smile gratefully to them. When darkness overwhelms your heart, shine a light. When irrational fears and dislikes cloud your mind, tell me what bothers you. When something seems difficult, accept the challenge. When there seems to be no reason to love someone, find some. When you are tired, come to me and I will keep you going.”
I am thankful for my encounter with this guy. I am more grateful that I realized what my visceral reaction implied: God wanted to show me how to love those I thought unlovable and to inspire me to reach the unreachable. For when I let God work in me and through me in those impossible situations, hearts are healed, relationships are recreated, and sleep becomes more enjoyable.