Many years ago, when I was still a single lady living in the suburbs of Brisbane, I ventured out with two of my closest gal friends in search of this social gathering we had heard about. Since I had just gotten my Australian license, I was just getting used to driving on the left side of the road. And because I was also just getting used to driving in a foreign country, I was also just getting used to the map of the city outside the boundaries of the train system. Needless to say, we got ourselves pretty lost.
Back and forth, circling and winding around the streets, we finally came to a point of frustration sooo great that we decided to give up and head home. Annoyed and irritated by the level of effort we had put in, we were beyond disappointed to turn back void of the fun experience that we had so highly anticipated. Upon arrival back in Brisbane, we turned to the local Woolie's grocery store to cure our mood with some chocolate. Somewhere between those aisles, one of us got the brilliant idea to buy an entire chocolate cake and head to the park. That's exactly what we did!
The moon was out and shining brightly that night as we sat in the center of a big open field just a handful of blocks from our house. As we set the dessert out, another–and slightly odd–idea came to us, we decided to take our frustrations out on the cake. And not by eating it, but by smashing it! I know, I know, you may be thinking, ‘Oh, but it would have tasted so good!’ Yes, but, I tell you, yelling at that cake and smashing it between my fingers in the cool of that evening among friends was a far better type of satisfaction than a few bites on my tongue. And, I must add, very quickly our moods elevated. Almost instantly, we went from anger to uncontrollable laughter at the silliness of the moment we were experiencing together!
Thinking back, this frivolous memory always makes smile, but you might be wondering, ‘Why take your frustrations out on said poor innocent (and probably delicious) cake?’ Well, I guess you could say it was the same reasons I take my frustrations out on people without taking the time to see behind the situation; I am searching for a physical representation to punish for my current discomfort.
Ouch, that was a quick turn into the deep. Yes, but it’s important because, how often do we really find ourselves attacking the wrong thing?
Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
There is so much freedom AND charge in this verse. It gives us a pass from hatred and irritation towards a physical person by the knowledge that there is something going on behind-the-scenes that we may not yet know about, yet it also challenges us to rise up to fight the good fight against these powers that lead people astray, and yes, that means even when these people that led astray are hurting you in the process. Gosh, that is tough. Ridiculously tough.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies.
Matthew 5:43-44: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Romans 12:20-21: On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Sometimes your enemy may be a person.
Sometimes your enemy may be a momentary thing.
Sometimes your enemy is a long-term struggle.
I've had a great share of momentary enemies. My most recent ‘enemy’ was a particular American Airlines kiosk attendant who made me unpack 3 lbs. of my overpacked luggage in front of the long line of people behind us. And as I tried to balance my whining toddler and my frazzled shame-triggered emotions with the underwear I did NOT want falling out of my bag, I shot a darted comment at that man. Sure, he wasn't the friendliest man on the planet, but he was doing his job and I can't fault him for that. If I were his boss, I would want him to do his job. But instead of seeing behind the glossed wall of the sheer irritation I felt at him in that moment, I chose to attack him–the AA attendant in the flesh. My reaction was not kind. It was cutting and I shiver thinking about how my daughter was watching, taking notes on what it looks like to be an adult in this world. Yikes, thank goodness for grace!
Sometimes our enemies look a lot less momentary and a lot more gut-wrenching from years and years of painful experience after painful experience. This verse is much more likely to be harder to digest for those of you who resonate with this and I truly am sorry for those years of pain inflicted on you.
Again I’ll say, thank goodness for grace–His grace is renewed everyday. And even if all we can do today is acknowledge the truth that our fight is not with flesh and bone and simmer in that for a while, then we are exactly where we need to be. Grace for today.
Culturally, we are at a place where I need to constantly be reminded of this verse. My fight is not with people who think different from me, look different than me, lead differently than I would, resist ideas differently than me, or live differently than me–my fight is against the powers of the darkness that creep in behind-the-scenes and cause division and tell me, There is no hope, so give in and just hate your ‘enemies.’
There is a melody that I remember so strongly from my teen years that sings, Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do. Would you ever believe a farm girl from Amish country would have grown up listening to and loving R&B artist Lauryn Hill? Well, that was me. I still to this day absolutely love her music because it's so raw and real. I realize this cry is also found in Luke 23:34 when Jesus cried out to His Father as the people under Pontius Pilate pinned Him to the cross.
If Jesus can see beyond one of the harshest acts of man and still love the people killing him–and ALSO beg for mercy on their behalf–surely I can find it in my heart to see beyond the guy flipping me off and screaming horrid things at my car after I nearly missed him in my blind spot. Who knows what his day had been like thus far? Maybe because of the way he was raised he didn't even realize that was a rude thing to do? Or maybe he was simply responding without thinking, the same thing I did when I got a little uncomfortable with the rules of the airline kiosk worker.
We've got to lay down the entitlement and double-standards and pick up the heart of Christ–love–even if it means doing so daily, hourly, or even by the minute.
It's time to get dirty, not with people, but rather get down on our knees in partnership with Christ in prayer against our real enemy. It's challenging, heck yeah, but also sooo liberating and well worth it.
P.S. I really am all about finding alternative methods of releasing frustration. Should you ever find yourself in the bakery section of the grocery store with some pent-up anger, I'd totally hand you that cake off the rack (likely the day-old rack, cause who can pass up a good deal AND a good idea) and tell you, "Get it Girl!”
Mary Kate is farm girl from Pennsylvania who found herself living in Australia and Colorado before settling down in Nashville with her husband, Dustin. In addition to parenting a spirited toddler, they run Plaid Owl Creative. mK is a family girl at heart - she loves to adventure with her family and invest in the lives of families of Creatives. When she's not traveling or hosting, you can find mK curled up in front of a movie with chocolate & popcorn!