A Difficult Opportunity

By: Heather Wolper

My doorbell rang on Friday. I had sick kids at home and I was still wearing the nightgown I had slept in, which was in no way appropriate for answering the door. I told my son to politely send whoever it was on their way and then I heard my him say, “Mom, it’s the police.”

My heart sank. My husband was 45 minutes late coming home and hadn’t been responding to my texts or calls. I hurried to the door and the police officer asked me nervously if I could step outside to talk away from the children.

I stepped outside on the porch shaking in my nightgown in full view of the neighborhood and asked if something had happened to my husband.

She replied, “Oh, no, m’am! That’s not why I’m here. Do you have a cat?”

Confused, I asked if something had happened to our cat.

And then she told me that one of my neighbors had called to lodge a complaint that our cat had been sleeping on their porch.  I was told to contain my cat or if I chose to “take him outside” to put him on a leash.

I did not tell her that I have 5 children who shut the door behind them approximately 10% of the time or that our cat loves nothing more than to hide until the first sign of the door swinging open only to bolt out from his hiding place and out the door. I did not tell her that we do not purposely let our cat “roam the neighborhood wild” as our neighbor had complained.

In a matter of minutes I went from terrified that something awful had happened to steaming mad.

Some nameless neighbor had sent the police to my house and scared me half to death because my cat decided to nap on her porch.

So I narrowed down the list of possible disgruntled neighbors and devised a plan to go on a “I’m so sorry my cat napped on your porch apology tour”. I spent Sunday afternoon writing each one a nice note and baking them a pie. Then I set out across the street with a notes and a pie for each neighbor along with a squirt bottle for each neighbor to use on my cat should he come calling.

One was gracious, several weren’t home and by the fourth house my nerves had died down, until the door opened. When I explained why we were there, my neighbor just stared at me coldly and then asked, “How did you know Levi was bothering me?” I told her we’d had a visit from the police.

By the time I left her porch, she had refused to take the pie or the squirt bottle and I had to sweet talk her into taking my note.

I marched home in a mixture of shock, embarrassment, hurt and anger. And any inclination to love my neighbor had been replaced by the inclination to have my sick child spit in her pie.

For a few awful minutes that I am not proud of I fantasized about all the hilariously awful ways I could stick it her.

Oh, my human nature.

So often I view interactions with unpleasant people as burdensome and awful instead of viewing them as an opportunity for God to be glorified. I stew and fret and let my hurt feelings and anger distract me from what God wants to accomplish.

But, what if instead of viewing these horrible interactions as a burden, I could view them as an opportunity to love difficult people well?

What if instead of writing people off as people to steer clear of, I could pray for them and ask God to help me treat them with kindness and respect?

What if I could ask God to show me the parts of my own heart that are hard to my neighbors? Because, the good Lord knows my heart and he knows all the awful thoughts I have when I perceive someone has done me wrong.

So what the enemy intended for harm on Friday morning, I’m claiming for good. I’m claiming that God will use this situation to teach me how to love better. I’m trusting him to chip away at that armor of pride I so frequently put on. I’m going to pray that God would help me to pray for and love my neighbor without expectation of anything in return.

Dear friend, if you are struggling with a difficult person in your life today, I’m praying that you’d find opportunity in the midst of the mess.

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