Friday, March 22, 2013

FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

I was twelve. And painfully shy. I had one close friend. But I longed to have the other girls in our small class like me.

Instead of including me in their tight little circle, they giggled when I walked by. They left ugly notes in my desk to greet me after lunch and recess. One morning, I arrived to see a sketch someone had drawn of me on the blackboard. It was crude and ugly, and it highlighted the fact that I was the only girl in class who'd developed a figure. A nasty comment was scribbled underneath.

"Ignore them. They're just jealous of you," our teacher said, trying in her own feeble way to soothe my aching heart. But her words were insufficient medicine.

One day, I got an invitation out of the blue to attend a sleepover. It was from one of the girls who'd been picking on me all year. Was I finally being given an open door to new friendships?

I wrestled with butterflies the next couple of days. How had I found unexpected favor with this girl? I should have seen what she was up to, but my heart wanted so badly to be accepted and liked. Who knew? Maybe our teacher had gotten through during one of her little lectures on how to treat people.

The eve of the sleepover, my mom dropped me off at the girl's house. I was so nervous, I'd been unable to eat all day. When I knocked on her door, I was greeted by all of the girls from the group. They ushered me in and showed me where to set my things down. Were they all wanting to be my friend now?

But I soon realized otherwise. At that point, I seemed to become invisible to them. The girls acted as if I wasn't even there. I tried to jump into conversations, but my words felt rejected and unheard.

Later that night, a game unfolded. Each girl was to take a turn in the hall while the other girls chatted behind close doors. The first couple of girls took their turns. In each girl's absence, the group shared things they liked about the girl who stood in the hall.

When it came to be my turn, I wondered optimistically what they would say about me. Perhaps they were beginning to see past my maturing body and noticing the real me inside.

Tears stung my eyes as I heard every word. The girls were brutal in their comments. The insults mixed with cruel laughter were too much. I ran to the phone and called my mom. "Please come get me," I begged between sobs. When she arrived, I was too upset to share my injuries. They remained locked inside, too painful for me to revisit.

I should not have allowed the girls' cruelty to affect me. But it did. For years. All through high school, I shied away from developing friends with females. It felt too risky. Peers assumed I was "easy" because I befriended guys. And I found myself being unfairly labeled because of it. Once a reputation develops in high school, it doesn't matter how unfounded it is. It tends to stick. And insult was added to injury.

Even today, I find my guard has a tendency to go up when it comes to the female population. It's silly, I know. But wounds that cut so deeply have a way of staying with you.

Today, those who I call "friend" are like gold to me. I would walk through fire for my friends.

"Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you." These words that Jesus spoke hit home with me. I can see it's the only appropriate response. Otherwise, the wounds they inflict continue to fester. Jesus knew this.

Love your enemies. Pray for them. Ask Jesus to change their hearts. In the process, you will find your own being healed. I know this to be true. I have precious friends to prove it.

Lord, please use this painful memory from my past to bless someone today, whether friend or foe.

"Jesus' enemies were the people who crucified him, and he prayed for them even until death. Such a beautiful act of love does not come easily, but brings grace to all involved."  ~Matt Sciba

"Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath...Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. 'I'll do the judging,' says God. 'I'll take care of it.' If you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good."
~From Romans 12, The Message

"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives His best."
~From Matthew 5, The Message  
     

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