Praying With My Enemies

Praying With My Enemies April 3, 2018


On Good Friday I went to Stations of the Cross at my parish. It is the yearly Holy Week thing that I make it to. This year I wanted to make sure and sit at the Fourth Station, which is the station where Jesus meets His mother Mary. I got flustered as I walked into the Church with my granddaughter who wanted to sit with her Godmother so I couldn’t find the Fourth Station, so I just picked a seat in a back corner of the church and decided it would have to do. My only goal was to sit in the corner alone and pray. I wasn’t looking to grow in any way, I just wanted some silence and alone time with God. He, as usual, had other plans.

As I sat and waited for the prayers to begin I noticed that two people who I have stopped speaking to were sitting in front of me. The one directly in front of me is angry at me for something I said regarding someone who was rude to me and the one further up is someone who, in my mind, contributed to hurting me. I tried hard to not think about either of them or think any kind of thoughts about them that I should not be thinking at all, much less at Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. That didn’t work. The more I tried to ignore it, the more the feelings of anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness at both these people and the people surrounding the entire situation(s) kept coming up in my mind.

I was so deep in my thoughts and feelings that I didn’t even notice when the entire church turned towards me. When I did realize it and looked up I found that I was standing right next to the Fourth Station and that is where we were in the prayers. I put down all my animosity towards my enemies and listened to the prayers. The enormity of my grief over losing my son almost overwhelmed me. I felt the tears begin to well up in my eyes and the tightness of my chest. In my mind, I was screaming to get out of there because this was too difficult to face. But I stayed put. On the outside, I looked like any other woman calmly praying the Stations of the Cross but inside I was a mother who was remembering all that happened the day my son died.

Not only have I been pushing down all of my anger over these situations that I was reminded of when I saw these people praying in front of me, but I was also reminded of everything I was trying to block out about the death of my son. I have been ignoring the fact that I am depressed. I do not know if it is ignoring it so much as thinking “of course I am depressed, my kid is dead.” But either way, I am not paying attention to the fact that life feels like I am in quicksand. I have no motivation, no focus, I can’t remember things and I am so deep in sin that I am going blind. All of this came to me and all I was trying to do was sit by the Fourth Station of the Cross and pray.

There was no shoving any of this down. I considered my options: go back to the idea of being an atheist, just leave and crawl into bed and take a nap, lose my mind and punch one of these people in the face or keep trying to shove it all down.

Then an idea popped into my head. I was at the foot of the Cross in more ways than one, so why didn’t I just give it all to Jesus? I once went to confession where the priest suggested that I leave a person I couldn’t stand to be around at the foot of the Cross and hand her to Jesus. Then I could walk away and not let my dislike (I’m being nice, I actually was close to hating this person) of her rule my life. So I figured I could do the same with my sadness, grief, denial of my mental state, laziness, the reel of self-loathing sentences I say to myself and my anger at the people who have done and said really shitty things to me in the aftermath of my son’s death with no remorse at all. Not to mention my anger that they would even dare to come into a church after being horrible people like I was the bouncer of who can and can’t come into the church to see God. All of it. I was just going to leave at the foot of the Cross with Jesus and walk away from it. No more pretending it isn’t there and no more feeling ashamed about it and hiding it from God. It is there and it is rotting out my own soul. Only He can take it away from me because I sure as hell can’t stop feeling justified in my anger and denial.

I wish I could tie this all up in a pretty bow and say that I felt everything lifted off me when I left the church that day, but I didn’t. I did feel like I could focus on the blessings in my life. My friends at my parish who outnumber the people who have been horrible to me and my family by a lot, my granddaughter who I got to tell about the Resurrection and who is adorable and the fact that Ariana did come into the Church at Easter Vigil. Those things are the good things that I am thankful for. They are gifts from God.

I have also learned to lean into my sins rather than shove them down to hide them from God because I am so ashamed of how I react to things or people. I felt so much envy for someone yesterday and I just did the same thing that I did on Good Friday and I handed it to God just as it was. I didn’t try to rationalize it, make an excuse for it or hide it. I just said “this is how I feel. I think it is unfair that she gets _______ and I am still struggling and that is envy and it’s a sin. Please take it from me, I do not want to feel this way. Keep blessing her and teach me to be happy for her.” Again, I can’t report that the sun broke through and the birds began singing, but I do know that God is faithful and He will answer my prayers.

Even praying with my enemies is a gift from God. One that will hopefully bear fruit.

If you have a sin or sins that you instinctively hide from God, I suggest that you stop for a moment when you know they are present and just hand them over to Him just as they are. He already knows what they are and He already knows your heart so what is the worst that could happen?

And pray for me to be rescued from the quicksand as soon as God will’s it.

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