While at uni, I used to know one very annoying person. Yes, I said it. She was, as plainly as I can put it, ANNOYING! She knew very well how to get under my skin, and I hated that very much, so every once in a while, I would do all I could to avoid her. Well, it didn’t quite help that we both resided in the same hostel, and attended the same fellowship, and had the same circle of friends. Oh shucks!
You wanna know why?
Yes, I see your eyes questioning me.
Sure, I’ll spill it. You see, she was one of those people who had life all figured out. She knew that the course she was studying was the key to her future and she had all the other keys in her pocket. She probably always prayed at the crack of dawn and knew the bible from cover to cover. Okay, I’m exaggerating here but that was how I felt at the time. Our encounters always left me feeling like I had no plans for my life because of the kind of questions she would ask and I would have no valid answers for . . . and the statements she would make that would strip me of all my dignity. Sigh! Unfortunately, because of the way I felt about her, she was the only one I would notice when she and a million people walked into a room together. Yeah, awkward. To think I was trying to avoid her. My eyes certainly didn’t get that memo.
But one day, I got quite tired of the way I was feeling and decided to do something about it. Of course, I couldn’t confront her, I’m all sorts of chicken even though I wish I wasn’t. So I confronted the only person I was bold enough to, and who I knew could help me fix it. I addressed it on my knees. I prayed about it. At first, I didn’t know what exactly to pray about because I couldn’t quite put my grievances to words. No matter how I tried to construct my introductory statement, it just didn’t sound right. Father, she has her life all figured out and maybe I don’t, so I’m hurt that she does . . . all levels of wrong. So I just admitted that I was hurting and went ahead and prayed that everything worked out for her the way she hoped. I prayed that her plans would succeed and that she would be the best that she could be. I continued to pray for her every time I remembered and it wasn’t long before I didn’t mind being around her. Suddenly she became like every other person around me. My eyes took less notice of her and her words didn’t hurt anymore.
I wonder what changed . . .
There was a time when Boo of life could do no right. Everything he did was wrong in my eyes and I wore those critical glasses well, perfect colour, perfect fit. The truth is that I only noticed the wrong he was doing, not that he wasn’t doing anything right. But who was checking? So it wasn’t long before my critical habit began affecting the way I saw myself in his eyes. To do all that wrong, he must not love me enough. I must be the last thought on his mind. In fact, I probably didn’t exist to him anymore. I pondered about how he probably loved his job more than he loved me because he is so good at it and is the opposite with me. Not just that. It affected the way I saw myself in my own eyes. For him not to love me anymore, I must not be good enough for him, and since he wrongs me that much, he surely isn’t good enough for me.
It was so easy to see wrong in everything because, at that point, nothing seemed right.
One night, as I brooded upon the latest wrong he had done and how hurt I felt that he didn’t care to fix it, I heard a question in my heart:
“When last did you really pray for him?”
I fell and left a splatter of guilt all over the floor. Clean up on aisle 5.
But I picked myself up and listened to the voice of truth. On the very first day that I took the time to pray, I knew I had to first be thankful. And since I couldn’t thank God for the things I knew he did wrong; thank you Father that he walked by that cushion on the floor and decided not to pick it up, I’m so grateful . . . oh well, I began mentally tasking myself to think of those things he did do right so I could be thankful for them instead. The list began, one good after the other, and as the list started to grow, something else grew inside of me. It was familiar, something I had felt one time before . . . could it be? Love? Mercy? Forgiveness? Grace?
Oh, I lifted my voice and prayed even louder. I was thankful for many more things, that the issues that brought me before my Father in the first place began to pale in comparison to the ones I was now grateful for.
I wonder what changed . . .
There is a popular saying: Prayer changes things. But as I look back at my experiences and what prayer has actually done, my heart can only draw one conclusion:
Prayer Changes Me.
“Prayer is not a question of altering things externally, but of working wonders in a man’s disposition” – Oswald Chambers
In all the moments I have struggled hard in my relationship with people, there was really only one factor that I could change: ME.
When I struggled in my personal encounters with my university friend, the problem wasn’t that she had her life all figured out, the problem was that I hadn’t quite figured out most of mine and my insecurities could only shine so bright around her. Of course, there are times when we don’t have all our ducks in a row, and that’s fine, especially when we’re still on the journey there. It only becomes a problem when we decide to compare ourselves with others. Comparison wounds. No lie. We appreciate less what others have achieved, see them as a threat, envy their position and belittle ourselves in the process. But in prayer, my heart experienced a paradigm shift as I began to appreciate my friend as someone who walked in purpose. And as I desired for her to get better at it, she became less of an antagonist as I cheered her on in my closet. Eventually, my encounters with her became moments to challenge myself in the light of the knowledge she possessed. So what changed?
It’s supposed to be the norm for every good wife to pray for her husband. Of course. But as I focused more on myself, there was not much good left to be or see. In fact, the bad that continued to present itself before me was the one tattooed in my eyes. True, Boo of life played his part, but why I never noticed the good with the bad was because my perception was already skewed. But in prayer, my focus changed. Just a few moments of recalling the good in the place of prayer where nothing is hidden and all is revealed was able to pale the bad in comparison. What changed?
“I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG)
Find your prayerful perspective.