Thursday, April 13, 2017

Lent 2017 - Praying for our Enemies

After our birthday celebratory lunch for Brady last Saturday, we went to the 5:30 mass, which was the Palm Sunday service, and it was the most meaningful Palm Sunday I can ever remember attending. I was nearly brought to tears during the gospel reading. I just started reading Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly, and that history along with the gospel reading brought to mind Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, and I just felt so much sadness thinking about Mary experiencing all of this and the pain Jesus endured for us. I have heard the same gospel reading so many times, but I really felt it, this time. For once, I felt present with it.

Above, I snapped a quick picture of all our palms before mass began. Below, Brailey formed them into crosses for us. So precious!

Sunday palms mean lent is almost over. Every year, our Lenten journey is different. Last year, we wrote traits we wished to be rid of on little black rocks every day and put them in a bowl. We later buried all those rocks in the ground. I have given up chocolate in prior years - my family has banned me from ever doing this again. It turns out chocolate really is a mood enhancing chemical. This year, for some reason, I felt compelled to pray for my enemies. And so we did this as a family - we prayed for our enemies every single day, and we are praying for them twice during Holy Week. And let me share this with you - if you have never done this, it is hard. And it doesn't get easier, day-by-day. At least for me. It turns out I have a lot of enemies.
I have always believed in signs, and after this Lenten season, I believe in them more than ever. I had a few folks in mind to pray for when lent started, but the list grew. And I believe it was God's way of telling me I indeed need to pray for these people. It actually started with my kiddos - when someone is mean to my kids, that person becomes my enemy. That's fairly natural, isn't it? Except I probably take this a step too far. I feel the hurt my kids feel to my core! Their enemies become my enemies tenfold. There is a girl in Brailey's life who has been so incredibly mean to her this year, I can hardly stand it. It has been painfully hard for me to see and even more agonizing to know there is nothing I can do to make this girl stop being so hateful to Brailey. Granted, I do what I can to help Bray, but I cannot make the mean girl be nice. In trying to deal with it and to help Brailey cope, the idea to pray for our enemies sprouted -  it was the first seed that was planted.

But I also have plenty of my own enemies, that is for sure. I have known this since I was a little kid. My experiences as a child definitely shaped me into who I am, and for some reason, once someone does me wrong (at least wrong as I perceive it), or I just don't agree with their behavior, I want nothing to do with them. Ever. I need to work on this, I know. I have no idea why I feel things so deeply. I do think part of it is a protective measure for my own sense of survival. I have a very strong personality, and it is offensive to many, many people, and in disliking them, perhaps I am merely protecting myself from their dislike of me. Fear creates walls, and I definitely have walls.

But when it comes right down to it, I absolutely can't stand mean people. I can't stand rude people. I can't stand people who break my trust. And once someone has broken my trust, it is very difficult for me to overcome. I believe there are seriously toxic people in this world, and I avoid them at all costs. I completely avoid them, ironically, to the point of  rudeness. I don't like rude behavior, but I admit I can be very rude.

So while I was ready to pray for my enemies for lent, I wasn't prepared to have them paraded into my life throughout the Lenten season. Nonetheless, there they were. One by one, I was reminded of my personal enemies, of people I need to pray for. My list grew from a few to quite a few. One person, whom I haven't seen in years, I saw three days in a row (from a distance) at the beginning of lent. Similar situations happened nearly every day. I truly believe God wanted and wants me to pray for these people. And so I did. In fact, I had so many signs come to me highlighting this character defect of mine, it was loud and clear that God wants me to pray for people I perceive to be my enemy. It is very hard for me to want good things to happen to people I despise. To say lent was not easy this year is an understatement.

I like to think of lent as a season of change, a time to work on our bigger personal issues. I don't feel changed as I write this during Holy Week. Maybe it will come, I don't know. I am always a work in progress, as many of us are. The older I get, the more I try to live and let live. I work hard to just keep my mouth shut. Not easy to do. I suppose the road of praying for my enemies leads to forgiveness, which is what I really need to do in order to let it all go - forgive my enemies. Maybe I'll get there someday. In the meantime, I am going to keep listening to God.
On a lighter note, below are the traditional Easter cards the kiddos made. Britt's were made with colored pencils in "pastel" colors, so they aren't as bright, but they were still made with love. Brailey did hers in watercolors. Happy, Blessed Easter, everyone! May your Holy Week be meaningful and full of hope for the future. Love your enemies, if you can. And if you can't, then pray for them. And if you can't pray for them now, then maybe someday you will be able to.
Luke 6:27-32 But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are cruel to you. If anyone slaps you on one cheek, offer him the other cheek, too. If someone takes your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and when someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. Do to others what you would want them to do to you . If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get? Even sinners love the people who love them.

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