"You have hears that is was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
i never knew what it meant to pray for my enemies. We grow up and we imagine an enemy as Ursula from The Little Mermaid or Scar from The Lion King. As i’m getting older, i’m learning that the Liar tries to send enemies our way everyday. He tries to make everyone he can our enemy. A year ago today, i learned that in a whole new way.
As Taylor Swift's voice came through the speakers and the bass thumped, i heard glass fall in my back seat. i turned around and my heart sank and my body went numb and suddenly the world felt too small. My entire backseat, which had been filled with groceries and my school things and my friend's stuff and more when I left, was now empty. Everything was gone and i couldn't believe it. i ran back inside and found the nearest person. i was at a loss. You hear of car robberies, but what do you do when it's your car? your stuff? your normality?
They called the police. i stood there, silent, trying to remember all that was taken. i had gone shopping that day and bought Christmas presents and groceries. i had carried extra clothes with me so i could change after church. i put my friend's shirt in the car to give back to him. i had my backpack, full with my laptop, bible, journal, iPad, water bottle, and more with me so i could do homework. i had left my purse in my car, too. All of it was gone. Left behind was a Beyoncé card and leftover pizza from lunch.
That night i was admired for my calm, collected attitude while we waited for the police. As the policewoman filled out the report, my new reality became no more real to me. i was in shock; completely denying what was happening. My counselor later humbled me in telling me that it wasn't good that I was so calm because no one should be calm when all of there stuff is taken. i wasn't allowing myself to believe the truth and so, like i have so many times in my life before, i wouldn't let myself feel anything. i was surrounded by incredible people; my roommate was strongly by my side and more people came as time went on. i was not alone.
Things changed, though. In my dorm that night, reality hit me. i was in my bed praying and it became too real. i found myself writing on random pieces of paper because i didn't have a journal. i didn't have a Bible to read, but as i cried, my vision blurred and i couldn’t have seen the words anyway.
It's interesting to be in the midst of situation you never saw coming. Allowing yourself to be labeled as a victim isn't easy (well for me it isn't) but knowing that I had an oppressor was even harder.
i felt bad for them. i didn't know these people, but i hated whatever situation lead them into the parking lot that night. i hated that they were going to be eating the groceries that i paid for, drinking coffee out of the mug intended for my friend, or spending their night trying to get get into my locked computer. i prayed that they would open my worn Bible and find hope amidst the pictures and notes written by my hand. For the first time in my life i wanted someone to read my journal so they could maybe see authenticity and love and Jesus in my prayers. There are so many unknowns when i think of them. i could assume a million things, but that would be unfair. Prejudice assumptions fueled by an old grudge and anger would be worthless.
It's been a year now. They police never found my things, but they have been replaced. i am writing this on a computer that i bought the following day. In front of me in my year-old purse and in my pile-everything chair is my backpack that i still don’t like as much as my old one.
Jesus tells us to pray for those who persecute us. He doesn't ask us, He tells us. He also tells us to love our neighbors. He always tells us to love, never to hate. The truth is that no part of me wants to love the people that took my things. i spent that week living on things and money given to me by my friends. Stripping me of my independence is enough to make me hate you. But I don't hate the people that took my things. i didn't hate them a year ago and i don't hate them now. i've thought about these strangers almost everyday, because I use my replacement-things everyday.
We serve a God who is in the business of redemption. He redeems the things we think are too far gone. i never imagined that good could come from my car being broken into, but it did. The week following the break in was hard and full of Jesus. i saw Him in everything. He is so good is bringing beauty from pain and suffering.
Tonight, just like i was a year ago, i am thinking about those strangers. This time, my thoughts are paired with dry-eyes and a light heart, but i still hurt for them. i think Jesus would too. i think that His heart in stuff like this is for us to seek the Him and love the strangers. Loving those who hurt us is not easy, but the good news is that we don’t have to do it in our own strength. We just have to ask Him to make it possible. We have to die to our own stubborn self and allow His love into our hearts even when it doesn’t make sense. Life is sweeter when we do.
Also, don’t leave valuables in your car and always back up your irreplaceable photos.