Uh-oh. It’s happening again, without even bothering to ask. Days are shorter, leaves are turning and beach chairs are disappearing from the backs of our cars. Football is flooding tv screens as scarves and boots fill the malls. Children are moaning, teachers are panicking, and mommies are high-fiving each other from coast to coast.
As sad as I am to see summer fade, I do love the excitement a new school year brings. There’s a distinct enthusiasm in the air, the hopeful feel of a fresh start. I guess it’s the teacher in me, but back-to-school always seems like a good time to set some goals and make a plan. Last year my plan was yoga. I was all in. I bought two mats, three pairs of yoga pants, a set of blocks and a new gym bag. My Year of Yoga lasted a total of three weeks (turns out I hate yoga).
However, in keeping with the optimism of the season, I’d like to try again. This school year, my plan is to love someone who is downright difficult to love. Care to join me? Anyone in your life you’re having a hard time loving lately? We’re not talking someone you rarely see or a person who is only slightly difficult (that’s cheating). No, this is a person who really annoys you. Someone with whom you disagree on practically everything. The person you vent about with your spouse or your best friend, the one you avoid, the one you simply, honestly, do not like. Anyone come to mind? Family member? Neighbor? Work colleague? Someone you know from church/school/your kid’s soccer team?
Loving a difficult person is, well, difficult. We’ll have to set a few ground rules before we begin…
1. Don’t forget to forget. We tend to hold on to things, don’t we? Things get stuck in our craw; insults can stay in our hearts and minds for years. And the bigger the offense, the harder to let go. But we must remember that God sees. God knows. Our willingness to release and forgive does not mean that it doesn’t matter, it simply means we’ve chosen God as the one to make it right. “May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me…” (1 Samuel 24:12)
2. Know you don’t know. Keep in mind that no matter how well we think we know a person, we rarely (if ever) are aware of the whole story. Most of us don’t walk around with signs advertising our troubled histories, painful secrets or inner turmoil. If we did, if we could truly see life through another’s eyes, we’d certainly find it easier to love. Not excusing bad behavior, simply remembering that a little insight into another’s burdens leads to greater grace. (“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2)
3. Give and you’ll be given. Some people make it so darn easy, don’t they? But we can’t exactly expect a trophy for loving the sweet, kind, funny, supportive ones in our lives. God takes special notice, though, when we decide to love the hard ones, the ones we’d rather not. We never know when or how God’s blessings will come, but we can be sure they’re always worth the effort. “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?” (Matthew 5:46, NLT)
So are we all set? Do you have your person in mind? I’ve got mine and I’m ready to give it my best shot. (Although I have a feeling this may be a little tougher than yoga.)