You know the one. You hear people say love your neighbor and you think, "well, surely Jesus couldn't have meant that neighbor." We all have one. That one person that really gets under your skin. You're utterly convinced that they exist on this planet just to make your life miserable. You stalk them on social media just so you can hate them more adequately.
She was that girl.
She married my ex. Obviously, she did this just to spite me. There is no way that they could actually be happy and in love. She exists just to irk me.
I told myself all these things for years. The first time I met her, I don't even remember what I said. I "tried" to be nice, but I'm pretty sure it didn't come off that way. It was awkward. I was awkward.
You see, I'm still friends with my ex. I don't really believe in cutting ties. If someone was once important to me, they are (generally) still a part of my life.
I was talking to him one day and I made a snide comment about her. He responded with the usual, "Abby, you can't talk about my wife that way." I rolled my eyes, but what he said next felt like a punch to the stomach. "You know, it's not very Christlike of you to harbor such hatred for someone."
WHAT?! Do you know who you're talking about?! I'm ALLOWED to hate her! Jesus understands!
Except… wait. Not really. What was that Jesus said? Love your enemies… do good to those who hate you… something like that.
I let his comment simmer for a few days. It wasn't sitting well. It wasn't the usual scolding. It stung. It made my heart heavy. I was starting to think that Jesus really might not "understand" as much as I wanted him to.
It was her birthday. I LOVE birthdays. I decided to swallow my pride. I sent her a brief message wishing her a happy birthday and said I thought it was pretty cool that she shares a birthday with the Pope. (That is pretty cool, by the way) That was it. No apology. Just a teeny-tiny little olive branch. Happy birthday.
It took her a panic-inducing 24 hours to respond.
"Oh God, what have I done? Why did I do this? Obviously she hates me. I am such an idiot. I should never have tried to be nice. Can you un-send messages?"
When she did respond, though, her message left me speechless. To say this is a rarity would be a gross understatement. I cried. Probably got a little nauseous. I am SURE I wasn't far off from a panic attack. But it wasn't because she said "please do not ever contact me again you crazy psycho person."
It was because she extended a much bigger olive branch. She said we'd gotten off on the wrong foot. She said she was sorry if she had ever made me uncomfortable. "I just couldn't get past the feeling that you didn't want to talk to me," she said. "But maybe you thought the same thing about me."
These niceties went back and forth for a little while, and there are truly no words to express how cathartic they were. We talked about hard things. I admitted that I had spent so much time thinking about how I felt that I had honestly never even considered how she felt.
You want to know the weirdest part? We actually laughed. She's actually funny! And nice. And wise. I mean, don't tell her I said any of that. ;) But she is all of that and more. Maybe I should have listened all those times when our mutual friends said "you two would actually probably get along."
It has been almost four months since we extended our respective olive branches. We have done a lot of laughing since then. She has helped me deal with some of my very own hard things. She has given me so much grace. She has showed me what it really looks like to love your neighbor, even when every fiber of your being desperately wants to hate them.
It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies. We have had some tense conversations. Our theologies differ pretty drastically. There are still days when we feel asdfhjaweouf towards each other. But instead of silently grumbling and hating each other, we talk it out. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.
I even taught her our favorite Monkee word- brutiful. My friendship with Paige has been exactly that. Brutal at times, but so, so beautiful. The word "redemptive" comes to mind.
Thank you for helping me see what this crazy life is really all about. Thank you for loving me even when you don't like me. Thank you for being you.
Together, we can do hard things.
|Isn't she beautiful?|
This essay and I are a part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project- to learn more and join us, CLICK HERE. And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE.