Back in middle school, I had a strong dislike for a particular person. Her name was Lizz, and she went to the rival Catholic elementary school one town over. She was smart, pretty, and athletic. All the boys liked her, and I was definitely jealous. In my mind, she was my own personal rival– especially when it came to athletics. My dislike for her grew when she gave her phone number to my “boyfriend” (although to be fair, she did not know he was my boyfriend at the time). This dislike then multiplied when we entered the same high school and Lizz made the JV and Varsity volleyball teams while I was placed on the Freshmen team. As far as petty forms of hate go, my distaste for Elizabeth was way up there.
However, things began to change slowly. There were a lot of contributing factors, but one of the main catalysts was our seating assignment in Religion class sophomore year: we were seated right next to each other. By that point, my dislike of Lizz has lessened somewhat because we had both made the varsity volleyball team and thus spent a lot of time together as teammates. That bit of common ground combined with the daily forced proximity to one another made all the difference. It was during that Religion class that our friendship started to form and we realized how much we had in common outside of volleyball.
Over the years, we’ve attended lots of events together –mostly sporting events and social outings, but also many that were faith-based. There is no doubt in my mind that the graces we received and the heart-to-heart moments we shared during these retreats, pilgrimages and mission trips are what has transformed our relationship and solidified it as one that will last for the rest of our lives. Apparently psychologists claim that if a friendship has lasted seven years, then it will last a lifetime. Currently, Lizz and I are going on 14 years of friendship and our loyalty to each other has really only deepened over time.
Looking back, this friendship really did develop under the direction of the Holy Spirit. It’s amazing to think how someone I once “hated” has since become such a close friend, a “kindred spirit” and “bosom-friend” (as Anne Shirley would say). In other words, this friendship is a friendship of the heart, a friendship with deep roots, a friendship rooted in God’s grace.
I wanted to share this personal story in case anyone who reads this blog has ever felt such a strong dislike for another person. Looking back to when I first formed my opinion of Lizz, I wonder if Satan was trying to use my own jealousy to keep us from becoming friends. While that might seem like a small thing for Satan to go after, holy friendships are important for our souls. I know I would be a different person today if it was not for the way in which God has spoken to me through my relationship with Lizz, not only in what he has done for me, but also in what he has done in her life as well.
So, give your enemy a chance. You don’t have to jump into a friendship with them right away (it wouldn’t be authentic anyway). But maybe, you can start with refusing to gossip about the individual, or you could show them a simple act of kindness.
Authentic love, even on the most minute scale, leaves a lot of room for the Holy Spirit to work.