A few Saturdays ago I spoke at a church in my hometown back in Virginia, a church in the county where I grew up. It was like a happy family reunion. Friends of all ages were there, but these weren’t just ordinary friends.
These were the friends I played with as a child and the older friends who kept a close eye on me while I played with their children. These friends I huddled with in school hallways or assembled with in church pews. These friends laughed with me and cried with me, instructed me and admonished me, encouraged me and consoled me, but above all, they loved me. Real good.
I’m pretty sure they still do.
These are the kind of friends I’ll keep in my heart ’til the day I die.
Where in the world would I be without friends?!? How in the world could I have gotten through some of the toughest times in my life without my friends?!? I ask you.
How could any of us?
And yet, as many true and loyal friends I’ve been blessed to have in my life and as much as I would love to be loved by everyone, I know I’m not. I know there are people out there who just don’t like me. Maybe they haven’t told me to my face. Maybe they haven’t openly confessed it. Maybe they haven’t shown it in any way, shape or form. But, I’m pretty sure they’re there.
Tucked away in a safety deposit box of my memory bank is a time I was the victim of bullying. I’ve tucked it away as a reminder that not everyone in this world has a heart of sensitivity and compassion.
I can understand what it’s like to be “hated.”
I was in the seventh grade. I really don’t know why ‘this girl’ hated me. I don’t know why she just up one day and began following me around the halls, taunting me, calling me names, laughing in the face of her own hostility. I ignored and ignored and ignored her until one day I snapped. I twirled around and told her to STOP!! But she only laughed some more.
I suspect my retaliation was exactly the response ‘this girl’ was looking for. Because the next day, as she followed behind me in the halls, laughing her wicked laugh, her intense dislike for me grew to physical aggression and she pushed me.
I remember my heart racing with fear, but still…I held my head high and I walked on.
One day my antagonizer took her aggression to the next level and physically kicked me. I’m thinking she was hoping for a fight in which she would prove her dominance.
What she failed to realize is that she kicked me right smack in front of the school office. It happened before the first bell rang, early in the morning, and the office was teaming with teachers, children, parents.
I don’t know what came over me, I can only hope it was righteous indignation, but I burst into that busy office and demanded to speak to the principal. The school receptionist, who was a member of my church, stopped what she was doing…as did everyone else…and asked, “Nina, What’s wrong?!”
I pointed to ‘this girl’ whose face registered shock that I had finally found my courage and said, “She kicked me! For no reason!!!” And with that, I burst into tears.
Although my aggressor never bothered me again after that, I still always wondered, “What did I ever do to make her hate me so?”
I honestly couldn’t come up with a reason. Although we grew up living in the same county and attending the same schools, we never spoke again. Ever.
But, I can still see her face.
David had a lot of enemies. Sometimes I’m sure he wondered, too. Wondered what he’d done to make some people hate him. I imagine those in high places have a lot of enemies, but I like to think that David did the best he could to be fair. To be honest. To be kind.
No, David wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But, he was a God-seeker and he strived to keep short accounts with God.
When his enemies came against him, I’d like to think he, too, asked the question, “What did I ever do to make them hate me so?”
Because David wanted to have a heart that was pure before God. If he had wronged someone, he wanted to make it right. If he had hurt someone, he wanted to know and he was willing to accept the consequences.
In Psalm 7, he tells God, “O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is injustice in my hands, If I have rewarded evil to my friend, Or have plundered him who without cause was my adversary, Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it: And let him trample my life down to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.”
All through the psalms we see prayers lifted up to God for deliverance from the enemy. Deliverance from those who hate. Those who trample all over the lives of the innocent. Those who give no thought to the sanctity of the human heart.
When I wonder, “Why, Lord? Why are people so cruel?” I may not get an answer, but I get a prayer…
“O Lord my God, in You I have taken refuge; Save me from all those who pursue me, Or he will tear my soul like a lion, dragging me away, while there is none to deliver…Arise, O Lord, in Your anger; Lift up Yourself against the rage of my adversaries, And arouse Yourself for me; You have appointed judgment.” Verses 1-2 & 6
…because God is on my side. When I am innocent of wrongdoing and I don’t deserve someone’s hatred and wrath and rage, God is my Vindicator. My Judge. My Deliverer.
It’s a sin-sick world and many don’t know the love of my Jesus. All they know is hatred and rage. And who knows all the reasons why they hate? I could name a million of them, but I don’t have the time or the space.
All I know is…Jesus said in John 15: 18 & 19, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
With that, I will close. Because I really don’t know what else to say except maybe this…
I wonder, “Is ‘that girl’ I once considered an enemy still filled with hatred?” Maybe not for me, but for someone else.
Because I can still see her face and I pray she’s found the love of Jesus instead.
I’d like to think that if I knew her now, she wouldn’t be my enemy.
She’d be my friend.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Martin Luther King, Jr.