Jennifer Slattery is our guest blogger for this week’s devotional. I must say this one really hit me on the head. Thank you, Jennifer for sharing your heart with us.
We were like a combustion waiting to ignite. My goal—to leave the encounter without saying or doing something I’d regret. My preference would’ve been to avoid the individual entirely. She was angry, negative, hostile, and verbally combative. Quite frankly, she drained me. And irritated me something fierce!
Oh, to spend my life in my nice Christian bubble surrounded by those who look like me, talk like me, think like me, and actually like me!
Except early in this encounter, my heart sensed a whisper, one so soft, so gentle, I could’ve missed it. Or ignored it.
But I didn’t. Not at first, anyway.
Rather, I paused to pray, and that whisper grew to certainty. God had me encounter this person for a reason. The reason was simple: He wanted me to demonstrate His love and grace. The same grace He’d shown to me, back when I was angry, negative, and hostile.
I knew this, and yet, by the third encounter, I erected an emotional wall equal to hers. Frowning, I sat with my arms crossed, my words few, my ears closed.
So what happened? When did my surrender turn to avoidance?
The moment I took my eyes off my Savoir and His beloved—the hurting child of God hiding a wounded heart with hateful words—and placed it smack dab on myself, which is sadly where my view tends to land.
It wasn’t long before God called me out. The next day, my husband I attended an Art of Neighboring seminar where we learned how to be, well, good neighbors. We learned about being kind, helpful, compassionate, nonjudgmental…
“Yes, yes!” I thought, “I excel at these things! I take time to deliver meals and clean houses and send text messages…”
But before I got too far in my list of self-accolades, the woman I’d been called to engage but longed to avoid came to mind. Only it wasn’t her scowling or harsh conversation that rushed to the forefront. Rather, it was mine.
I’d fallen short. So very short, and in my self-sightedness, I’d ignored something so glaringly obvious, it’s like a punch to the gut: I ignored the evidence of the deep, deep wounds driving this woman’s behavior. I ignored the evidence of self-loathing and discouragement. Of incredible loneliness, a loneliness so pervasive, it causes her to spurn the relationships she longs for most.
So now what will I do with this new-found clarity?
Hopefully, I’ll begin to look deeper, listening for more than words but for heart-whispers that call out for hope and healing. And then I’ll begin building relational bridges, even if it means taking a few hits in the process, because sometimes relationships get messy, but that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel. Rather, it means we go for reinforcements, and the best reinforcement we’ll find is Christ living in us. If we’re a believer, He’s already there. Our role is simple: to get our eyes—our thoughts—of ourselves and surrender to the One who loved my neighbor and my enemy so much, He gave His life for them.
We all have nasty neighbors, those folks that seem to feel a special thrill in making us squirm. But what if that’s not their motivation at all? What if rather, their behavior is but a symptom of something deeper, something broken?
Will we take the time to find out?
What about you? As you read this, I imagine a name or face rushed to mind—that person you’d do anything to avoid.
What if that’s the very person God’s asking you to love? Will you? Not just today, not just for a week or a month, or until you lose patience?
***Jennifer Slattery writes missional romance for New Hope Publishers, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, dramas for Christ to the World Ministries, and devotionals for Internet Café Devotions and her personal blog, JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She also manages the social media and blog for Takin’ it to the Streets, an Omaha Metro ministry for the working poor and homeless. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hanging out at the mall with her teenage daughter, going on long walks with her husband, or losing herself in a great book.
Beyond I Do (available for preorder at a discounted price): (Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-I-Do-Jennifer-Slattery/dp/1596694173/ref%3Dsr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397064427&sr=1-1&keywords=Beyond+I+Do+New+Hope)
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