Friends Close, Enemies Closer

Maybe it’s because I grew up with mostly boys. A tomboy. A daddy’s girl. Maybe due to a build-up of the scum of my own insecurities over the years – somewhere along my timeline I developed a hatred of women.

It didn’t entirely start out as hate. It started small, I think, with a label or identity I assigned myself. I wanted to be the one girl in my circle of guy-friends – the girl who was one of the guys. That circle was once my cousins, Andy and John and their gang of unruly teenage boys. As I grew older, I was one girl in many different rings of friend-zoned guys.

This woman-hate excluded my mother, most of my family and a few select women who were “different”. From a young age, I would roll my eyes at valley girl personalities and unnecessarily swore (when no one asked) that I would never be in a sorority.  I was tough or at least I wanted to be. I worked hard to be different from other girls. Maybe that’s how it all started.

As I survived college and multiple nauseating relationships, jealousy and mistrust were added to the concoction of negative thinking and eventually blossomed into a black thorny rose bush of hatred in my heart. I appreciated some girls from afar, some I even trusted a little, but I struggled to maintain even one close friendship with a girl my own age outside of family. I also blamed most of the bad things in this world on women and their volatile emotions. I was basically the epitome of a mediocre-looking girl neckbeard. Looking back, I’m disgusted at that version of me that managed to live for so long.

Jealousy – jeeeeeze, it’s a freaking slippery slope.

After I started dating Jesse, my hatred for women spun out of control. I didn’t want anyone that didn’t have a penis to get near him. I knew that I was actually in love this time and my not being happy with myself fed my insecurities. How could he be happy with me? If other women come around, he’ll find one he was happy with, obviously. So, I did my best to ward off women like they were exotic diseases.

Jesse didn’t start this. I never even gave him the chance to hurt me. He was wounded too, when we met, which gave us a sort of sticky glue relationship. We’ve both found ways to mature together over the years – and it’s a glorious relationship that brightens my life – but I started this relationship off with a wall as strong and thick as the one in China and thankfully, through it all, he didn’t give up on me. But my insecurities caused problems for him and myself. Mainly myself.

One night, talking with his sister (one of the “different” women I mentioned above) I heard my own words echo inside my head as they left my lips. I was hardcore bashing women as a collective – as in all the women on the face of the planet. This wasn’t a new habit of mine by any means but I saw a hurt in her face I had never seen before. It dawned on me that I was tearing women down while speaking to a woman I admired and loved. A few hours later, Jess and I left to get some dinner and I couldn’t finish my pasta. I ALWAYS finish my pasta so something was blatantly wrong. Throughout the meal, Jesse went on about his day at work between the “Are you sure you’re okay?” and “Want me to ask for a to-go box?” and I can’t remember a single thing he talked about. Inside my mind, I was sitting crosslegged in Chelsea’s floor, evil black muck seeping out of my mouth and into her room. The muck was making her choke. I tried covering my mouth and it seeped through my fingers. I had given life to stinky evil and it had to stop. I had to stop spreading hate.

That night, kneeling before my bed, I couldn’t meditate or pray. I was in my normal position for both of those things but my head ached and I felt exhausted. I had done nothing physical that day to exhaust me. Maybe it was the pasta? Oh yeah, I didn’t eat it.  I climbed into my bed and closed my eyes. In the next few silent moments, God would challenge me with one of the hardest things I’ve ever been faced with.

In the darkness of my empty room, I heard:

Pray that I bless the woman you hate the most.

Such a small phrase. 10 solid words in the loudest, calmest whisper my heart has ever heard.

I tried to ignore it and got zero hours of sleep that night. I’m in average shape by America’s standards and I love caffeine, so I made it through the next day fine. But when I got home the next night, I hopped right over my kneeling space and into my bed, forced my eyes closed and slept like a baby. LOL NOPE. I couldn’t sleep at all. Again.

Pray that I bless the woman you hate the most.

Oh, okay, God. That one woman who hurt me? The one who fed my insecurities? The one who let me know she was better than me in every way and was capable of taking anyone I loved? The reason I’ve wanted to cut my fat off and couldn’t smile in a mirror for years? That one, who no matter how I change myself, I’ll never look like or be able to do the things that she can do? That one who threatens my happiness with a smile on her face? That one, God?

Uh, no way, Jose.

Have you ever told God “NO” before, out loud? I have. Another night slowly, menacingly crept by with zero hours of sleep.

Needless to say, I might be young and strong, but the next day did not go as smoothly on nothing but stubbornness and coffee. I made it through the whole day without speaking to a single woman other than Jesse’s mother and my little sister. Oddly enough, every man I had business with that day made my life miserable.

Lack of sleep has the same affect on me as too much red wine or the death of a loved one – I break down and cry as though the world is ending. This is usually how God breaks me. I would take advantage of this part of the story to compare myself to a wild mustang being broken by a fierce cowboy but since this is more than a story and more like a portal deep down into my imperfect soul, I’ll admit that by the time I crossed the threshold of my bedroom, I probably resembled a red-faced, swollen-eyed constipated baby.

I sat in dark silence again for a few hours. Then, I walked over to my work desk and  opened my Bible. Honestly, I only opened it because 1) I knew I wasn’t going to sleep anyway and was driving myself mad lying there in my own misery 2) Reading at night always makes me sleepy and 3) I wasn’t going to pick up where I left off in Stephen King’s IT at 11:00 pm in an empty dark house because I’m not nearly as tough as I pretend to be. So, I pouted and pushed open my Bible with one finger.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy’. But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you'” (Matthew 5:44).

Uhhhhhhhh I shut my Bible and not in a respectful manner at all.

I sat there in my uncomfortable desk chair for probably another hour, spinning back and forth. Then I opened it up again somewhere in a different area because I’d much rather read about David and Goliath or Noah or something. Where’s the little kid’s Bible with the colored pictures when you need it?

“If a man say, ‘I love God’ and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20)

I’m intelligent enough to know that though King James’ preferred pronoun was “he”, within this context “brother” means “brother and/or sister”.

God was straight up calling me out for being a hypocrite. How can I say that I love God and say that I hate women – part of His most beautiful creation?

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – that’s what it sounds like when I’m wrong.

So, eventually in the wee hours of the morning, I relented. Dramatically reluctant, flapping my arms around as I crawled over to my kneeling space. Every movement I made took at least 3 minutes to get anywhere. I leaned my hot head against the cool wood of my bed frame.

God, I really don’t think I can do this. I’ve wished death upon this girl before. How can I pray for her to be blessed?

Can I start small? 

I pray — that —

This girl – who I hate with a ‘dying’ passion, just in case You didn’t know already – doesn’t die a harsh and terrible death. 

If you’ve somehow continued to read this far and you’re thinking to yourself that I’m either extremely insecure or this woman must have done something like rip a kitten from my little arms and wring its neck in front of me – you wouldn’t be too far off the mark with either assumption.

I guess God appreciated my highly inappropriate death pun because I was able to get a few rough hours of sleep that night. But the next day was still hard. In times of trial, I need to talk out loud to someone I can clearly hear speak back, so I sought out the person whose face started this storm of conviction within my soul – Chelsea, Jesse’s sister. It was late, but she was awake.

“Hey, I need to apologize about the other day. I was just venting to you and I realized that I was coming down pretty hard on women and I don’t want you to think that I hate you.”

She looked confused at first and then said “I didn’t think you were talking about me and I relate to some of the things you said. Girls can suck. We all can suck. But you know, sometimes, when we’re angry and running from something, we’re usually passionate about that very thing. God might be setting your soul on fire for a reason. Maybe not. You never really know until it’s time.”

I kind of shuddered. I want to be a motorsports journalist. That’s the furthest thing I can think of from what I’m running from. I also have no idea how she got all of that from my apology for bashing women. But it resonated with me.

Annnnnnd back to my kneeling space:

I pray that you deliver unto the woman I hate the most someone she can love… someone that lives far away so she will never have a reason to come back to this town and interfere with my life. 

For some reason, I still couldn’t get much sleep.

I continued with these half-ass prayers for a few days until, finally, I got another soul dm.

What you put into this, I’ll give you back. If you put forth some real effort, I’ll place some genuine, inspiring people in your life and lift this burden of jealousy and hate off of your shoulders. You will feel free. 

What He forgot to mention is that these genuine, inspiring people would be women.

Many sleepy days later I responded.

God, I hear you. I don’t understand but I will try because I need sleep and ultimately, I do know You know what is best for me.

I pray that you bless the woman that I hate the most. Change her heart, speak to her like You speak to me, and bless her life. Give her happiness and health. 

For some reason, I was holding my breath. I opened one eye and looked around the dark room. I assumed that after achieving something that big – you know, simply muttering those words – I would feel instant results. I’m one of those people who completes one set of sit-ups and then stops to feel if I have abs yet. I didn’t feel free from my jealousy and hate. I had another headache and a terrible taste in my mouth like I wanted to throw up. In fact, I wanted to throw that prayer up. But I didn’t. You can’t take back a prayer. All night I had night terrors that this beautiful, ferocious woman came and stole my job, my man, and my family. She was as tall as a skyscraper and everyone worshipped her. I was as small as an ant. It was absurd and a bit unfair if you ask me. Like, God, I did what you asked and You gave me bad dreams.

But the next night, I added more to my prayer. I prayed that she’d get a better job. I’ve been keeping tabs on her for years. I know where she works, who she’s seeing, and when she poops. I knew she had a crappy job and I prayed that that would change.

As the days went on, I continued these prayers without reward, from what I could see. But, because during the day, I didn’t want to be reminded of my nightly chore of praying for her happiness, I stopped creeping on her social media. In fact, I forgot she had a social presence at all.

Then a whole week went by. The tail end of Saturday, I ran into a guy friend that knew her and after years of not speaking her name, he did. Randomly.

That girl I pray for. 

Don’t ask me how God works. I don’t know. I know Him but I understand very little about Him and His therapy methods and protocols. But when this person spoke this woman’s name – that was the first time that I felt the chains of hate and jealousy and hurt slightly loosen from my wrists and ankles. Then I understood a little bit of what God was doing to me. I felt him moulding me, mashing in the bits of clay that were lumpy and ugly. I felt him shaving off bits of my attitude that I didn’t like seeing behind my eyes in the mirror.

Guess what. I prayed a lot that night. I prayed for more than just the one woman that had so much power over me before. I prayed for so many women. That God would bless them and that He would help me unwrap the barbwire I had managed to encase my own heart in because of jealousy, insecurities, fear, pain from the past, and intimidation. I prayed He would help me demolish the wall that I had put up in my relationship.

Then God delivered above and beyond what He had promised me. In a few months, He began to lead women into my life that were the image of what I aspired to be – most of them older than me – but not all. Some of them I already knew but never had a friendship with before. Some of them were brand new to me. These women, out of nowhere, lifted me up. They encouraged me. One told me that my smile lit up a room and she meant it. One told me that I had a passion that inspired her to work harder. One encouraged me to take time out of my busy life to take care of my dreams and feed my own inspirations. One kindly reminded me to spend more time with my mom. The cracked lens I once judged women through was replaced with a new, clear lens that revealed them as babes, potential lambs of God and beautiful lionesses.

Some of those women that I used to appreciate from afar reached out to me. After years of not being friends in college, they reached out to me to see how I was and what I was doing after graduation. Some of my okay friendships deepened tremendously.

Let me be clear. Right now, I still struggle sometimes. I don’t know why this is my struggle. I fight negative thoughts and I still don’t want to run into “the girl I pray for.”  I’m not there yet and maybe never will be. But I know that we, humans, pack our own burdens. We make our own enemies. Praying for the person that despitefully used and persecuted me freed me from hate. She has no power over me because I don’t let her have power over me anymore. I don’t fear her and I don’t hate her.

That’s what hate is. That’s what fear is. That’s what jealousy is. All of those things are power that you are giving to someone to have over you, handing them the ropes to bind you.

You can not hate someone and whole-heartedly pray for God to bless them – or at least, not for long.

Don’t believe me?

Try.

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