Monday, December 22, 2008

a different kind of messy

A few posts ago, I wrote about the messiness of loving people who are often bent on self-destruction, and who will only sometimes overcome. It the messiness of loving broken people. This week, I have come face to face with another side of that untidy process called love: it is the messiness of loving when the messy one is me.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy our clients. Most are kind and grateful, quck to share a story or a laugh. Some are a little obnoxious when drunk, but well...that's alcohol for you. Recently, however, we have been joined by a woman whom I find it almost impossible to enjoy. In the large group room, and then even more once in the women's room, she is often just plain hateful. She speaks in such a rude, attacking, and accusing way that I sometimes stand there just feeling like someone is spewing poison on me. And she goes for the jugular, attacking the legitimacy of my faith, my competence as a staff member, or simply my intelligence or general worth. It causes great wrestling in me, because my inner reaction is not what I would hope for it to be. Sometimes I feel like I hate her. I don't want her to come in, hoping that she can find somewhere else--anywhere else--to keep warm. Part of this is because she not only insults me, but often attacks others and almost always ruins the atmosphere of the room for the night. It doesn't help that she snores like a chainsaw from the moment she falls asleep to the time she wakes up. Shallow as that may seem, it just makes it so I am angry with her even when she's sleeping. I pray continually that Jesus would create compassion in me, eyes that see the hurt behind her bitter hatred. It is far easier said than done.

Jesus told us pretty clearly that sometimes the world will hate us just as it hated him. This should be no surprise. But how to respond is a difficult question for me because of the position I am in: I am called to be humble and meek--to disarm her with kindness--yet as a staff member I am also called to maintain authority and order in our shelter. The latter side of things seems to cancel out the option of silently turning a cheek and letting her rage unchecked. Yet the call to the former makes it difficult to embrace the decision to demand respect and possibly kick her out for the night. Of course, mixed into all this questioning is my own ugly reaction. I'll be honest: there are times when all I really want is to get rid of her. Oh, to be like Christ in this situation. What does it look like? I do not know, and so I continue to wrestle with the question daily.

In the midst of it all, at least one thing has begun to echo clearly. Jesus did not just warn us that we might be hated. He told us that to be persecuted is actually a blessing, a cause for rejoicing. To recieve insults and to encounter suffering--we are blessed to share in these things. I pray that I might be able to internalize this more and more. Perhaps someday I will find myself doing that ludicrous thing the gospel calls us to: standing before one who spews bitter poison and somehow rejoicing.