This woman was unbearable…
Years ago in seminary, I took a class on “Personal Development”. The whole class focused on getting to know how God has shaped and formed you, both your personality and spiritual gifts. It was an easy class with only a handful of students. Most were the typical easygoing types but there was this one person who stood out from the others. She was about the same age as me and was as far as I could tell a nice person, but for some reason, I couldn’t stand her.
There was something about her personality, the way she talked, the questions she asked, pretty much everything I observed about her drove me crazy. I tried to dismiss her as one of those people for whom a little “extra grace” was required. But I couldn’t shake it, why was this bothering me so much?
I suffered through as the weeks dragged by. Finally, we reached the end of the semester, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I would never have to have a class with this person ever again!
Part of our final course work was to take a personality test and review the results together as a class. I remember, as clear as if it was yesterday, that moment when I noticed in horror that according this assessment, this woman and I had the exact same personality.
I couldn’t believe it. All this time, the woman’s abrasiveness, forthright opinions, and joking around with others that drove me crazy were the very attributes that I possess.
The joke was on me. God got me good with that one.
Have you had a moment like that? Have you been around people you can’t stand? Have you instantly judged or written off someone as utterly unbearable?
Maybe it’s a neighbor who you can’t stand, a family member that drives you crazy, or someone in the workplace who makes it really hard to get along with them. I don’t know who that person is for you but I know that we all have them in our lives.
I can’t help but look back now at that event as a turning point where God started to reveal to me my judgmental attitude, self-righteousness, and general disdain for people who didn’t act as I expected.
I believe that God places people like this in our lives not to make us miserable but to give us the opportunity to love deeper.
God has been highlighting for me how absolutely essential it is that we as his followers and representatives on the earth show the world that the church is the ultimate place where they can find belonging, where they can be embraced by the People of God.
The apostle John, writing to the early church gave them this warning;
“If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” (I John 4:20 MSG)
Friends, my hope for you is that you are granted new eyes from Jesus. That you may be able to see people they way he does, with deep compassion and love. May we be a people who embrace others with the love of God, not because it is easy, but because that’s part of being in a loving relationship with our God.