We had a lesson on “Enmity” this week in Sunday School.
As in: that thing we ought to root out of our lives if we don’t want to be thrust down to hell, or at the very least live a miserable, lonely life.
The teacher pointed out that enmity covers everything from all-out road rage, to the rolling of your eyes when your spouse is speaking. (Not that I would ever do that…) It is anything which puts a distance between you and your brother. Any barrier of any size or composition.
Here’s my question: what if loving your brother as yourself seems about as possible to you as loving… I don’t know, the smell of a dishrag left in the sink one too many days? What if there are things about your brother that actually induce your gag-reflex every time you encounter them? Is that enmity, too?
Or what if, for example, let’s say there is an individual in your life–and let’s go with a brother, because all of mine all live far away and safely fall outside the realm of possible suspects–who not only engages in behavior that makes you squeamish, but just all around drives you up the wall. Let’s say they have a tic–one of those compulsive, relentless bodily tics that they seem to have absolutely no control over: clearing their throat repeatedly, or drumming their feet, or compulsive picking and eating of the contents of their nose. In public. Clear into adulthood.
And what if whenever you spend time with your brother you successfully pretend to ignore his behavior, and you treat him just like everyone else? Maybe even nicer–to make up for the fact that every time he clears his throat your irritation mounts until after about the twentieth clearing in five minutes you fantasize about bashing him in the side of the head? And so you pray for the ability to love this person and you are really, really nice to them.
But inside… you still want to bash them in the head. Or run from the room screaming incoherently until the insidious sound of their tic is wiped from your brain?
That’s totally enmity, right? And if you don’t want to feel guilty and stressed and homicidal for the rest of your life, you should probably find a way to overcome your reaction to this person’s behavior, which is never going to change.
And let me assure you this person is never going to change because for a time, for medical reasons, the not-so hypothetical individual in my own life could no longer engage in his tic–the proverbial clearing of the throat, shall we say–so he replaced it with an even louder, more irritating one until he could go back to clearing his throat. Yeah. I was almost (almost mind you) relieved when the “throat clearing” resumed.
Why can’t I just choose to ignore these things?
Maybe that’s like asking why I can’t just wake up one day and decide I like mosquito bites, I don’t know. But the thing is–I’m pretty good at avoiding mosquitoes. Family, you’re kind of stuck with. Because you love them in spite of their tics–even when every nerve in your body is strained to the breaking point and you’re screaming with your lips closed and your head buried in a sofa cushion trying to drown them out.
Is that enough to keep me out of hell?
To love them enough not to complain about those things I know they can never change? Because that’s who they are? Come to think it, maybe this is who I am… maybe I cannot change my emotional response to repeated auditory aggravation. Or the sight of you eating your snot. But it feels wrong. I don’t want to despise you for your weaknesses. Honest, I don’t. I have enough of my own.
But there you have it. I do. Not you necessarily. I don’t despise you. But the tic? God forgive me: I just took twenty-five long, deep breaths and listed everything I love about you and then I even tried to just recite the pledge of allegiance and all the conjugations of all 14 tenses of Spanish -ar verbs in an attempt to distract myself.
But, yeaaaah… I still pretty much want to throw this laptop at your head.
echo, tu echas, ella echa…