Sunday, September 18, 2011

My enemy is my teacher

The thing that gets me lately, the top of the list of things, is that as a Christian I am tasked with not just loving my neighbor, but loving my enemy. This is the teaching of Christ, the greatest teaching, the most demanding one. And I signed up for it as an adult (I was baptized and confirmed at the age of 31), so it's not like I didn't know the drill already. I can't play dumb and pretend to not have read the fine print on this one. But I'm happy to gloss over that section of the contract every Sunday, because it's HARD FREAKING WORK. Hell, it's hard enough loving my miserable, alcoholic neighbors, but I give it a shot. My enemy? No thanks.

So, it's fair to say that I've been doing a pretty shitty job of the whole "love your enemy" thing, despite 18 years of devoted religious practice, prayer, meditation, and whatnot. I've prayed for my enemy. I've examined my resentments toward my enemy. I've searched for ways in which I played a part in creating the enmity between us. I've sought forgiveness and redemption there. But I would still mostly like my enemy to be run over by a truck, thankyouverymuch, and I feel awful about that truth.

Anyway. Imagine my surprise when I got it right today, for at least an hour, maybe more. I did this little mental trick, when I felt the usual "oh God not him again" thought trying to worm its way into my brain, and I quickly did a mental gymnastic trick and gifted my brain with a different thought entirely. That thought was, "oh good, my teacher is here."

I don't even know where that came from*, but it made me smile. My teacher? Of course. And what does he teach me? Patience, with myself, with him, with God, for allowing things to unfold in His time and not in mine. Forgiveness for my own mistakes, for his. Love for everyone, including my teacher, all of us children of God. And selflessness -- stepping outside of myself and my own self-centered view of the world, and seeing everyone, all of us, as equal, and equally loved. My teacher is a gift, my teacher is grace itself.

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” 
-Desmond Tutu

A therapist once told me that the time would come when I would be grateful not just for the experience, but grateful to him. I think -- maybe -- I'm getting closer to that time.

*(God, duh)

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