I find that the older I get, there are more people I have a hard time getting along with. Is anyone with me on this or am I alone?
When I was younger, I was more passive and more of a people pleaser. My role as a middle child was to keep the peace. And so I did...with everyone...and I think it's safe to say that I was generally well-liked. I naively thought that I would never be someone who would have to "love your enemies," unless you were talking about Hitler or Saddam Hussein or any other really evil person, because I did not have enemies. I was more of a "love your neighbor" type of person.
I remember the first time I realized that I really REALLY disliked someone...I was so angry at this person that it surprised me and scared me. I was 21.
But now, in the short 10 years since then, I find myself butting heads with more and more people. Feelings of frustration, anger or resentment have become more common. "Love your neighbor" now frequently is more of a conditional statement...love your neighbor if they treat me with respect...love your neighbor as long as they don't act like they control me...love your neighbor as long as they listen to me. And now, the command to "love your enemies" actually means something closer than international terrorists. I can conjure faces and conversations and actions of people who have hurt me and whom I've probably hurt or inwardly growled at.
Please don't think I'm bragging of my shortcomings. That is not my intention.
I've wondered from time to time why I find myself increasingly butting heads with others. Is it because I'm becoming more self-oriented and less servant-hearted? I think that's a part of it. How easy is it to listen to the voice saying "you deserve better!" That line of thinking can trip me up before I even realize what's hit me.
But then, today I reflected on the fact that if I had never experienced relational conflict or pain, I would never understand the joy of relational restoration. Also I would never fully understand the Lord's relationship with Satan...while God can have nothing to do with Satan's darkness, His good and love in significantly and abundantly stronger than Satan's evil. His goodness is triumphant! My own relationship and restoration with God is a perfect example of that!
"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23:6). Because of that assurance, I know that IF I try to love my enemy or even someone I just regularly butt heads with, with the help of God I truly can change my enemies into my neighbors once more. And that is what I want.