Recently, I figured out a way to organize the “categories” section of my blog. As I was happily sorting through the various entries and putting them into subcategories – Raphael goes under Angels – I noticed something that I had never thought about.
There were concepts that belong entirely to God. Creation. Death. Final judgment. And there were concepts that belong entire to man. Sadness. Motherhood. Enemies.
And, then, there they were: concepts that belong to both God and man. Love being the biggest one I noticed.
And so I felt confirmed in my “discovery” that love is not really an emotion: how could it be if there are different applications of it? How could it be if at least one aspect of it is taught to us by God himself?
I settled for admitting that love has emotions as components in it. Sympathy, say. Or tenderness.
But in romantic love, the body can have a mighty say in the whole deal. Can be quite a powerful enhancement to any emotions attached to it.
These days I am dealing with the most enigmatic, most elusive of all the aspects of love: loving my enemy.
One problem that I see with approaching this challenge is that we tend to diminish the true meaning of enemy. We want our enemy to be the lady at work who cleans out the refrigerator too often, and throws out our perfectly good, not-past-the-sell-by-date yogurt. Or, we want our enemy to be our last auto repairman who knowingly installed a faulty part in our car, resulting in a frightening experience of having our car stall on a busy highway.
But an enemy is someone who harms us. Or harms one of our beloveds. Or harms our realm of life in any way.
Takes away life, or the essence of life. Destroys happiness, ripping out its very roots so that it seems as though it will never grow again.
That is the person that God sets across from us and commands us to love.
The spoiler. The hater. The anti-me person of our world.
The second problem that I see with approaching this challenge is that in order for us to even begin to conceive of a means of doing it, we must diminish the concept of love itself. We have to soften the edges of it. Supply ourselves with a reason to love this person.
And, because we are good-hearted enough to even listen to God this far, we impose our good-heartedness on the object of our hater-love.
You hate me. I love you. Why?
Well, because if you hate me then I can only assume that there is something wrong with you.
So I’ll feel sorry for you.
I’ll pity you.
Here, take my compassion. Know that I will pray for whatever is wrong with you to get better. And I’ll submit this to God and get my Pray-For-Your-Enemy certificate of completion.
Except when we do this, the certificate never comes in the mail.
Reducing our enemy into a broken child who deserves our sympathy and good wishes is not love.
It’s just an excuse to get on with our lives.
The third thing that I see with approaching this challenge is that we are most emphatic in not saying you hurt me in this way and then just sitting still with that knowledge.
Without rage. Without blame.
Just sitting with an empty chart in our hands, plotting how the hurt really affected us. How it changed our lives. How it changed the lives of our loved ones.
Like a judge might do, in fact.
When I took up my rosary after church on Sunday, relishing that fact that I had the time to sit before our most beautiful crucifix, and prayed through the rosary, asking on each small bead for God to show me how to love my enemy as he does, all I could do was see my enemy standing there.
Now empty handed. No more weapons.
Just guilty of past harm.
And that was it. For once in my life, as the sun stretched across me like a lap blanket, as the voices rose and dulled, I was given the opportunity to just observe.
To just look.
As though I were walking through a village that had been bombed thirty years ago. And what seemed like a vastness with no life revealed instead that the Earth was doing its best to reassert itself on the devastation.
That is judgment, after all.
For every action, there is a reaction. And everything in life, even reactions to trauma, have both the seen aspect and the unseen aspect.
The death aspect. And the life aspect.
We are usually giddy when we come to admit that something good has come out of a tragedy. Disoriented by the seeming conflict in it all.
I lost the use of my legs, so I decided to go back to school and become a lawyer. And now I try cases against drunk drivers.
But there aren’t always such obvious graces. Sometimes they remain in the dark. They remain in the unseen realm.
And so to love as God loves, we have to begin to see as God sees. To see someone stand before Him in all his nakedness and vulnerability.
But not so we can reduce him, and inwardly smirk at what we see.
But to begin to appreciate the creation that stands before us. God’s creation. As much as we would like to diminish that person and convert him into nothing but rubbish, serving no purpose on Earth, he still just stands there.
Across from us.
I have learned that this is where forgiveness makes its most powerful intervention. If I can’t even begin to forgive him then I can start to try to forgive myself for holding this man in my heart as my enemy.
There is a lesson I call the Lesson of Peerage (or sameness). It is associated with the number 11. It basically says, between two people all things are the same.
And I apply it here. I see this man as hating me. And so I more than enthusiastically return the emotion. You hate me. I hate you.
This is where Love Your Enemy steps in.
Forget about matching thought for thought, emotion for emotion. Put down your hatred. And just observe your enemy across from you.
It is a kind of wonder to redefine love so drastically that the warm fuzzies of the heart don’t apply in this case.
To know that God sees this enemy of mine with clear sight.
With judgment. Of what was bad. And of what was good.
Without the passion of anger. Without the insult of pity.
Just what is.
There before us.
The Love Of My Enemy.
(Note: by the way, the lesson that is associated with the number 12, the Lesson of Difference, goes, between two people all things are distinct. Go figure.)