“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father….” Matthew 5:44-45
So, exactly who are my enemies?
It’s easy to sit in my comfy leather chair and theorize that I should not harbor hatred in my heart for my enemies. Just as Saint Pope John Paul II loved and forgave the man who attempted to assassinate him, we are called to forgive and even pray for people we want to hate. God loves everyone, just not necessarily everything that we do.
God has the tendency to place me in situations that I don’t like. In turn, I am supposed to learn from Him. God recently threw two situations at me that challenged me to my core.
The first challenge involved me, grocery shopping, and five kids. I dislike going to this store in the first place—it is notorious for long, slow checkout lines and unfriendly workers. I will spare you the details, but on that particular day and moment, we had no choice but to shop there.
My kids were very well behaved in the store, but we were pushing into nap time. It was one of those delightful parenting moments where I knew I had about five minutes left before all you-know-what would break loose.
The baby wanted OUT, the toddler was shrieking, the preschooler wouldn’t stop jumping (cowgirl boots make her jump), the older preschooler was whining, and the grade schooler had lost every shred of patience that he never had in the first place.
I found the shortest check out line and prayed we could get outta there fast.
An older lady, carrying two small items in a basket, avoided making eye contact and pushed her way in line. Right in front of me!!!!
The anger that boiled up inside of me could have consumed me. I wanted to confront her and ask her why on earth she couldn’t wait her turn! Had she not learned that rule sixty years ago on the playground? I was full of rage.
I had an example to set for my children. I closed my eyes briefly and took a deep breath. I said a Hail Mary—it’s hard to stay angry when praying! Not only did I feel the anger leaving my body, my kids miraculously stopped fussing. I was so proud of their behavior—it was not easy for them.
The second challenge God threw my way happened over Memorial Day weekend. We had just spent two nights away from home, had a great time visiting family, but we were tired and ready to go home. Of course, we were stopped in traffic on the drive home, making an already long drive even longer.
My husband took some side roads home, hoping to at least keep moving. We soon followed a couple young men lollygagging around, driving well below the speed limit. The roads were curvy, but our van full of kids finally reached a safe passing zone.
We started to safely pass the slow car, when it very obviously SPED UP. They were laughing about, it too! We eventually had no choice but to slow down and get behind them again.
My husband and I were full of anger. How dare they risk our family’s safety for a few laughs? Our thoughts went from ramming them (our full size van would’ve won that battle) to stopping them and letting them know how wrong they were.
I immediately began praying. It took a good, long time of prayer for me to mean it when I prayed for those two young men. Quite honestly, I started out praying that God would bless them with many, many children so they could fully understand and feel sorry for the time they behaved like….well, never mind.
After a few Hail Marys, I felt more peaceful. It was as if Mother Mary was stroking my hair and listening. She soothed my anger, reminding me that her beloved Son said “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….”
So, I have my answer. The hardest people to love and pray for are the annoying, mean people (just like myself) we encounter every day.
The lady who butts in line ahead of me.
The man who speeds up and won’t let me pass him.
The person who makes fun of me for going to mass.
The crabby woman who asks me if I have ever heard of birth control. In front of my nine kids.
Even the moody tween or teen who just can’t seem to stop arguing.
These people are our enemies, the hardest people to love, and we have to love them. This is what Christ does, so we have to do it, too!
“And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
May Christ’s peace and love fill our hearts until it overflows to all, even our enemies!