It’s so easy to hate the people who hate you.
Our Aceh centre shares a wall with a junior high school that is chock full of teenage boys who are a nuisance on the street, shouting and barking at A and I anytime we happen to walk by. But not only are they a nuisance on the street, they are also a nuisance in our back yard. It’s a daily activity of theirs to stand on something on their side of the wall and pop their heads up to shout and laugh at us. They shout in Indonesian so I don’t know what they’re saying but they pop right back down below the wall if we turn in their direction so I know they’re not saying anything good.
Then they escalated.
It was mid-morning on the Wednesday before Holy Thursday and I was sitting out in the side classroom working, as usual. A was on the road dealing with issues related to our immigration situation so I was on my own, a usual occurrence for that week. I had just finished tidying up the other classroom and had settled down to try to figure out some activities for the SD2 and SD3 (second and third grade) children who were coming for classes that day. On top of that, I had a tonne of online work to do and some writing that I wanted to get through that night. I had a long day ahead of me and I was totally focussed because I knew exactly what I needed to accomplish.
As usual, the boys from next door started shouting, but like the calls to worship that no longer disturb my sleep, their voices were background noise to me and I barely registered them. In fact, I was so absorbed in what I was doing and so used to ignoring them that I didn’t even really register the first few stones that came over the wall. The first stones they threw after I started to take notice hit the trees and the lawn so I figured I would continue to ignore them. Then their aim got better and the stones started hitting the roof over my head and it became obvious that they were not just being unruly boys who were tossing around a few stones; they were deliberately aiming at me.
When the next rock hit the roof, I shouted at the 2 whose heads were above the wall to come over here and try that (they barely speak English so they likely didn’t understand me). They popped back below the wall, laughing, waited a couple of minutes and popped back up again to throw another rock. I felt a rage boiling up in me unlike any I have felt in a long time and when a rock finally landed near my foot I immediately jumped up and headed for the wall. I honestly have no idea what I was going to do but I had no intention of sitting there and letting them think I was just going to let them throw stones at me unchallenged.
Like the cowards they are, they popped down below the wall when they saw me coming. I stood right up near that wall and stared at the top of it with my camera at the ready, waiting for them to find the courage to pop back up and look me in my face up close and personal while they threw another rock. I spent that time praying for my rage to subside and asking God what my next step should be. After a long 5 minutes when they didn’t reappear and during which I could hear them snickering on the other side of the wall, I decided to stop wasting my time. I could easily have sat right back down where I had been when they had decided to start harassing me but I knew the situation would only get worse. So I gathered my things and headed inside. In effect, I removed their target even though it galled me to do so because it felt like I was backing down from them.
I was angry for the rest of the day. I know that I am the only one who I should allow to control my emotions and I’m usually very good at ignoring hateful people or people I don’t like. But the hate that came over the wall that morning threw me completely off my game. It felt so personal. What else but hate or just plain meanness could motivate human beings to stone another human being?
I tried to talk myself out of my bad mood. I told myself that I had just that morning been listening to Joyce Meyer talk about love. I reminded myself that Jesus said it’s easy to love the lovable and it’s the hateful we really need to love. I told myself that letting them affect the rest of my day was letting them win. My rage subsided somewhat but I truthfully felt like I would have slapped one of those boys into next year if they had been standing in front of me. I’m not kidding. I honestly cannot recall the last time I wanted to physically hurt someone like that.
I got back to work, inside this time, and prepared some activities for that afternoon’s classes. But I only did it because I knew it was the right thing to do. I forced myself to work on behalf of the children of Aceh, reminding myself that they had nothing to do with those hateful boys. And I seriously pondered the difficulty of loving the unlovable.
It’s not often in our lives that we are faced with situations where we should love those who hate us. In our normal, everyday lives, we deal mostly with those who love or like us and we easily dismiss those who dislike or hate us. But I have no way of shunning these boys. They’re right there every single day. And shunning them would be wrong.
That night, I decided to drown myself in work, otherwise I would have stewed on it all night. Although I told her about it by Whatsapp messages, I didn’t call my anam cara to talk about it because I just didn’t want to talk about it; I didn’t want to talk to anyone because I would have talked about this incident and doing that would only have kept my feelings stirred up.
So that’s what I did – I worked most of the night, playing my part to keep this organisation running for the children of Aceh. And just before I went to bed, I prayed for those boys because I had to do it to save myself. I prayed for God to handle the situation; I prayed that He would replace their hate with love and use me to help do it if He wanted to (that was really hard to pray!); and I prayed for Him to give me the grace to deal with these boys in the right way, because no matter how angry I am, hate only breeds hate.
The next morning, Holy Thursday, my devotional reading happened to cover the hours leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, when people were mocking and being cruel to Him, and He asked God to forgive them because their actions were born of ignorance. That scripture struck me harder than normal that morning, and I thought of all that Jesus bore and the example He set and I resolved and prayed not to return to the rage of the day before.
As A and I got ready to start work in the side classroom that morning, the boys were ready to begin again. We caught sight of 1 of them when he popped his head above the wall to shout at us and realised that he is 1 of the students who comes to the centre; the disappointment I felt in that moment was huge because I thought he was one of the good boys who liked us but his actions told the real story. We heard them gathering stones behind the wall and decided to go over to the school and speak with the principal before the boys could get properly started again, which we did. We’ll see if that reaps any results.
Meanwhile, I commit those boys into God’s hands and I pray that they will never experience what they put me through that Wednesday. God knows that’s not what I really want to pray for them but I know it’s what I need to pray for them so that I don’t let hate take root in me.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.