As I was climbing back into my car after signing my son into dinosaur camp, a woman on foot called through my window, “Can you please let me through?” I wasn’t even sure what she meant at first, whether she wanted me to wait for her to walk in front of my car or whether she wanted me to pull out so she could walk where my car was. “Do you want me to pull out?” I asked, and from her exaggerated nod, I could see that yes, indeed, she did want me to pull out. Yesterday. And that she seemed to feel that I’d parked there just to thwart her.
So I quickly pulled out, my thoughts moving from mild surprise and “How can I help?” to annoyance. I’d been parked at the curb, not in a legal spot, but only because the camp staff was directing us to park there for pickup and dropoff. I wondered if she knew that, and if she had, why she had reacted with such apparent frustration. Did she really think I had deliberately tried to block her path? I thought of all these responses I could have made to explain my side of things, most of which, it must be said, were designed to make her feel bad. Dwelling on all this made me feel bad. And a little resentful.
All the while I was reminding myself, This is no big deal. It is the opposite of a big deal. It is a teeny deal, completely insignificant. So why couldn’t I let it go? I turned on my phone’s playlist to distract myself with a song. A Christian song, even.
Yet still I dwelled.
I really hate this tendency of mine to obsess over even a tiny little slight. I’m a champion grudge-holder, a terrible quality to excel at. Of all the things from my day to choose to remember and hang on to and replay in my mind, why would I choose the negative ones? It reminds me a little of how my dog will obsessively remember the location of a half-eaten donut in the gutter. For three days I remember to keep her away from it, but on the fourth day she grabs it as soon as I forget to pull her away. And remembering that little wrong is probably just as good for me as that rancid donut is for her.
In the car that day, after I thought through different comebacks and found myself not at all distracted by the songs on my playlist, I finally remembered the ONE thing that works to help me let go of these little resentments. In fact, the only thing that has ever worked. Prayer.
So I prayed for that woman and the stressful day she’d probably had that might have frayed her temper a little bit. And all the bad feelings vanished. I had no more desire to argue with her, to make her see my way. I only felt sympathy for her, and even a genuine desire for her well-being.
It’s no wonder Jesus asked us to pray for our enemies. In addition to the good such prayer might bring, it is undoubtedly beneficial for the one praying. Oh, it is hard to pray for a true enemy– so much harder than to pray for someone you feel has slighted or misjudged you in a small way. But perhaps that is why it is even more essential. By following Jesus’s advice, what would happen to our enemies? What would happen to us?
It’s worth thinking about. And certainly worth praying over.