“Brian Niles, you have a call holding on line one, Brian Niles, call holding on line one!” The intercom blared as potential buyers strolled around the crowded lot. The showroom gleamed with the latest models. This one has a sunroof, that one has tinted windows. Giant stickers boasted of the fabulous deals one would receive for their patronage. Outside, money hungry vultures waited for the perfect victim to approach. An elderly man carrying a cane strolled by, careful not to look in the direction of the merchandize. He knew, as they did that all it took was one look. After that, it was hunt or be hunted.
I worked in the service department. It was my job to collect payment for vehicles with completed repairs. I balanced my cash drawer efficiently and filed paperwork as needed. I enjoyed the atmosphere, despite the slimy salesmen. The fast-paced schedule made the day go by very quickly and quite often, it was time to go home before I knew it.
There came a day when my supervisor hired a vulture of a different kind altogether. This one was long and pear shaped, with a head of dark brown tresses that barely grazed her neck. Her face was round and wrinkly, not unlike a ripening prune. Her voice was as pleasant as fingernails on a chalkboard. When she spoke, the grating sounds came out as whines about how wronged she had been in life. Her husband left her for another woman…screetch… her sons don’t care about her enough to call…scratch…she lives alone with her cats…screetch.
For the first two weeks I tried my hardest to get along with her. I could see that she was a very lonely person and I was proud of myself for having the patience to withstand that hideous bad mood that followed her around like a black cloud. Soon enough, however I couldn’t hide it anymore. That woman got under my skin like poison ivy. Suddenly I didn’t care about my Christian walk. I wanted that woman fired.
“How do make this thing work? Is it like this?” She fiddled with some piece of office equipment.
“How would I know? That’s not my job.” Cold indifference stared her down. She turned back to her contraption in a huff.
That’s not my job. The phrase rattled around in my brain for the rest of the day. I started paying attention to how I spoke to her, the way I looked at her, even my body language. As I drove home, my face burned with shame. I might be the only example of Christian love this woman has and I can’t find a single nice thing to say to her. I knew I was in a predicament but had no idea how to get out of it. I went home and scoured my Bible for clues about how to deal with this impossible creature. Didn’t Jesus ever have whiney, annoying, miserable people that followed him around everywhere? How did He handle them? My eyes rested on this passage:
“You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
It hit me like a heart attack. Of course! I was supposed to pray for her. God loved her too and obviously he didn’t much care that I had a problem getting along with her at work. I couldn’t imagine praying for nice things to happen to this woman, so I started very slow.
“Lord, please make me willing to be willing to pray for this person.”
As I prayed this simple prayer, my heart did start to change. Suddenly I was willing. I prayed blessings upon blessings over her. God began to reveal things that made it easier. I started really listening to her words and the meaning behind them. When she complained about her sons never calling, what she meant was that she missed them and hated being alone. When she talked about the younger, prettier girls that she worked with and how she’d never be accepted, what she meant was that she wished someone found her beautiful and worth their time.
I quit my job before I had a chance to apologize for being the ugly monster that I had been to her. But it was a powerful lesson to me. Some people hide their pain behind a mask of anger or abrasiveness. If nobody likes them, they can’t get hurt. As a Christian, it’s my responsibility to show them what love looks like. A simple kind word or friendly smile can melt away some of the ice. I might not get the reaction that I want, but at least I’m making the effort. Before long, I’m the one seeking forgiveness for being angry and abrasive. I’m the one that needs to be reminded of what love looks like. In the end, my heart is the one that’s changed beyond what I could hope for.