I sit on the periphery of the playground, watching girls play hopscotch and my grade-school crush toss a football to his many friends. He is popular, and I am mostly invisible. My lunchtime recess is spent sitting on a two-foot tall log, wondering if fourth grade will be any different than all the grades that came before.
One of the popular girls taps me on the shoulder. She invites me to play hopscotch. Still stunned that they would even ask, I tell her I can’t because I don’t have a trinket to toss. She suggests my necklace and I run my fingers along the gold chain and the small pendant dangling from it. It’s a gift from my grandma. I choose to join, hopeful that they have decided to be my friends.
We play hopscotch for the next twenty minutes. The bell rings, signaling the end of recess, and everyone rushes to gather their things to go inside. I search the painted boxes of the hopscotch board. My necklace is gone. It’s the third one I’ve “lost” and I know my mom will think I’m irresponsible. I also know that I’ll let her believe that because, in my mind, it’s better than her knowing I’m gullible.
After every sting of betrayal, I often felt anger – even hatred. I vowed to never trust them or be duped into giving them anything. I wanted to be invisible and I wanted them to go away. I didn’t wish them harm; I just wanted them to disappear, like the mate to the sock that’s been sitting on my dryer for eight months now.
It’s safe to say that I never felt love for my tormentors. I never prayed for God to warm their hearts or bless them with happiness. My (selfish) prayers begged for an end to my suffering. It took many years to forgive them and accept that their taunting was necessary to make me, “me.”
The topic I read in my Life’s Simple Guide to God book that reignited these memories was titled “Pray for Those Who Curse You.” The referenced scripture shined a spotlight on one of my deficiencies:
[Jesus said] You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.—Matthew 5:43-45
I don’t waste time “hating” those who have hurt me, but I have yet to say a positive prayer for the enemies who have wronged me. Just as I grew from my experiences, I hope they also gained knowledge which molded them into caring adults, capable of compassion. I hope they found the security in themselves to feel confidence without stealing it from others.
Do you love your enemies? How do you know you’ve accomplished forgiveness? When praying for an enemy, what do you pray for?