Last week, I felt spiritually sick. Perhaps you know the feeling.
It was like my soul was nauseous, bent over, and invisibly heaving inside. My chest felt like it was caving in under the pressure of a sorrow, discouragement, and confusion whose source I couldn’t pinpoint. I told Lily that I felt like I was dying inside.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, I was scheduled to meet with someone that I thought hated me for the last two years.
This person had publicly attacked my character and tried to ruin my ministry, because I asked difficult questions and called for deeper Christian thought. This episode was extremely painful and consumed a lot of my time and energy. I felt like someone I didn’t even know was trying to assassinate God’s calling on my life after Lily and I had sold our things and risked our livelihood to serve in Ethiopia.
So, as 3:30pm approached on Tuesday, I thought about rescheduling the meeting. I was already deeply discouraged, and I wasn’t sure I could handle another shot of toxicity in my soul.
But I went anyway, and I was shocked by what happened.
We talked for four and a half hours, and I left that meeting feeling born again and newly invigorated to chase God’s calling on my life.
Little did we know, the two of us share the same passion for loving and serving people who are ignored and endangered. I told stories about Wudenesh and Eyob and our need for eyes that can see others as precious neighbors rather than strangers or enemies. They told stories about children in a detention center and a diabetic man shaking in the streets and our need for intentionality in the way we care for others, especially girls in our neighborhoods.
As we listened to one another’s stories, we both cried. I was brought to tears by this person’s powerful commitment to forgive and to advocate for the most vulnerable people in our community after surviving their own pain. We also laughed heartily and shared our dreams for a peaceful Ethiopia where young people can thrive.
The time raced by, and I felt my soul filling with hope, freedom, and energy to press forward. We ended our meeting by asking how we could help one another. I left that restaurant like a newborn child with lightness and sweetness and tenderness alive in my heart again after that terrible spiritual sickness.
My enemy had become my healer. My enemy renewed my hope and inspired my faith. My enemy was the encourager I needed when I felt like I was dying inside.
Two years ago, I would have said this could never happen. But it did.
As I walked home in the darkness Tuesday night, I pondered questions: How much hope, imagination, and practical change do we waste because we don’t reach out to the people we think hate us and/or we ourselves hate? What if Jesus’s call, “Love your enemies” is more of an opportunity than an obligation? Why did it take me two years to do this?
My new friend said it so well in a message afterward: “I keep thinking about the stories you told me, and I was saying to myself, ‘Oh God, we really don’t know each other until we meet and talk.’”
We really don’t know each other until we meet and talk.
Is there someone in your life that you need to meet and talk with this week? What if the person you have seen as your enemy can serve as a healer in your place of sickness and distress?