When I saw them speak to the class for the first time, my heart softened, and I heard God tell me to get closer, and to show them the type of love I would to a close friend.
It would be easy enough, I thought. They seemed sociable, gentle. We had some things in common, and were assigned to work on many projects together.
I reached out, and showed a personal interest in how they were doing. They seemed to take it the wrong way though, and I was met with some very blatant back turning.
We did see each other a lot, by chance alone. But once, when they watched me break into panicked tears from a distance, they never said a word about it, and didn’t seem to care.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
Even on social media, their dismissal of my worth was quite apparent, when they lied about not following me back on multiple platforms. They saw me as another follower, a fan, but not an equal.
Yet, because God commanded me to love selflessly, I used this as an opportunity for practice.
“Be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
I still wanted to give this person a chance. And I didn’t rush it.
As we worked on presentations, writings, and other assignments together, I remained as curious and open minded as I could.
They quickly revealed their interests to me, but in a way that demanded me to cherish them.
I could see beyond that self centered bias; they had a heart that was very tender, and eyes that contemplated the world creatively. But their eyes were never on me.
Everything they said to me in passing seemed like an afterthought. They would often wait until I was almost out of hearing distance before asking me a direct question, so that I couldn’t just walk away, but so that I had to awkwardly turn around and backtrack several paces to face them head-on. “Can you repeat that?” It was inconvenient at best, and disrespectful at its worst.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
They wanted me when they had needs. Our non-academic conversations were nearly always about their problems and questions, and they asked about me only when my answers would benefit or amuse them. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t pursue it much further. It all made me feel rather used.
Their loyalty was deceptive: sometimes, they would privately express their disappointment and confusion to me, yet they didn’t acknowledge me in public.
I welcomed them into my home, gave them hot tea to drink, showed them my cat. They even read my NEDA story. But I didn’t experience the reciprocity that could have minimally been expected, from the amount I invested in them.
At night, I would wonder why God was making me love this person.
Were they feigning affection? Did they even see me as a friend?
But the love I had for them was real. Although their behavior and attitude towards me was disappointing, even angering at times, I still valued them very much for who they were.
Of course, the perfect friend doesn’t really exist. We will all fail each other at one time or another. This kind of disappointment isn’t unique to myself.
I’ve had other friendships too, where I have shown a vulnerable side, only to be met with disinterest. Casting my pearls away — it happens.
And this particular relationship seems like a rather menial, petty subject to take up my mental space, directly after I’ve built up my expectations of where God is leading me.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
1 Corinthians 13:7–8
But I think He’s teaching me the ways of His heart.
When Jesus saw us for the first time, He knew He didn’t want heaven without us. While we were still His enemies, Jesus ran the risk of betrayal and abandonment, for the slightest chance that we would love Him and follow His ways in return.
That’s how much we were desired and loved. Jesus gave away all of His love, and poured it out generously, for us to accept or refuse at our will.
We were still nothing, when He decided we were worth it all.
What could we possibly offer in response for such a gift? (Nothing but our broken, shattered hearts. Everything else is covered by grace.)
Through this experience, I am drawing nearer to God’s own heart for us.
Heavenly Father, how is it possible for such a patient, kind, selfless, and unfailing love to exist? I felt a fraction of Your painful sacrifice for one person alone, as I tried to love them unconditionally. Your perfect love pursues us, no matter how many times we deny You. And as we walk away Lord, Your heart aches for us to look you in the face and choose You. Remind me that this is the truth of Your heart for every person, not just for humanity as an aggregate. You have loved us one by one, and so deeply it’s beyond my comprehension. When nobody knew my name, and before my body was formed, You already regarded me as a friend and daughter. Thank you. Amen.