We all have them, am I right? The friend who tags along by default, the person you are often around but can't ever seem to agree with, that certain someone in your circle who unintentionally (or intentionally) who always seems to stab you right where it hurts. The girlfriend who knows how to get under your skin, or that special someone you need to tread carefully around. However it may look for you, this specific group of people is the hardest for me to love.
I believe deeply in the value of walking in relationship with others. One of the most defining characteristics we see from the Trinity is community. The love dance between the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Father makes it clear that relationship is highly valued by our God. In fact, the only thing that the Lord said that wasn't good about His creation was for man to be alone. We are meant to live in steadfast community with others.
My friendships over the past two years have shifted a lot. Meeting new friends, seeing less of old ones, friends moving away, community changing, growing, expanding and decompressing. I have always been the type of person who keeps friendships close. I've never experienced a "falling out", where I am no longer in relationship with someone due to a disagreement or experience. I fight hard for the ones I love and do not hesitate to confront the tough stuff head on. I'm also not the type of person to dislike someone. Generally, I can easily extend empathy to the places in others' words or actions where I do not agree or understand. But this season of life has given me a new set of challenges when it comes to community: I can't seem to figure out how to handle feeling rejected. I have this vision of inclusive community, and when it doesn't come to fruition my heart is crushed and my feelings turn bitter fast. And this has proven to be one of my biggest vices: feeling pushed away or cast aside in friendships. Perceiving that I am unwanted or not good enough gives me so many feels I don't know where to put them. So I stuff and shove deep inside the recesses of my mind, and try not to let it simmer, but it does. Oh, it does. And for the longest time I couldn't seem to figure out what to do with the intensity of the feelings I was experiencing.
When Jesus gave the command to pray for our enemies, I don't think He was just making an arbitrary statement. Yes, it is about praying blessing over others. But I think, more than anything, Jesus asks this of us because he knows that prayer changes our hearts far more powerfully than we could ever imagine or change on our own. In the process of asking for lavish love to be poured out on those who cause us to feel cast aside, less than, or unworthy, our hearts will grow ten sizes. The focus becomes less about us, and more about the mission of God. When I pray for those who have hurt me, it doesn't completely fix the fact that I feel a degree of pain. It doesn't change what was done to make me feel this way. It doesn't mean an apology or even restoration will follow. But it does allow for supernatural grace- grace so big and mighty that it has nothing to do with my own ability to forgive, and everything to do with the Spirit softening my heart. Grace that enables me to keep pushing forward, keep pursuing regardless of how many times I am rejected, and ultimately, grace that gives the opportunity for Jesus to be made more, and for me to be made less.
So now, when I am hurt, I try to run first to prayer. Praying extraordinary love over the heart of the one who hurt me, praying full peace, love, and goodness into their lives, and praying that the Spirit show up in big ways for them. When I am again hurt, I again have the opportunity to practice grace more than ever before. And again, I am reminded that I am here to build His kingdom, and not my own.