Today I read a quote from CS Lewis that jolted my memory and took me back 30 years. He wrote, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them.”
Her name was Mary but we called her Mean Mary. It was a pretty fair description of her overall attitude and personality. She lived three houses away from us. She was the menace of our neighborhood managing to go nose to nose with most everyone on our block including me. I’ll never forget the day I declared war on Mean Mary.
I was teaching my little girl how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. I held the back of the seat and ran alongside her. She didn’t feel me let go, and off she went without training wheels and without mama. When she realized she was riding solo, my sweet little girl lost her focus and went tumbling off the sidewalk and into the grass. . . . Mean Mary’s grass.
Knowing that falling off a bicycle for the first time is part of childhood, I didn’t react quickly but waited to see if my daughter was going to have a meltdown. Within the frame of a few seconds, Mean Mary leaped off her front porch shouting inappropriate language and demanding that my little girl get off her lawn.
The following few minutes is sort of a blur as I came to my daughter’s rescue. Gracious Elena stepped aside as Old Elena gave Mean Mary a piece of her mind and then some! For days after the confrontation, I fumed and vented about the unruliness of this woman. So much so, that I almost missed the small voice calling to my soul to be still and listen.
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” Luke 6:27-28
Love Mean Mary? Do good to her? Bless her? Pray for her? I was miserably failing four out of four. I spent the rest of the week seeking God’s help to obey Luke 6. Feeling fully prayed up, I marched myself over to Mean Mary’s house armed with a plate of freshly baked muffins. Before she could say a word, I apologized for my behavior and asked her forgiveness. My flesh told me to brace myself. I figured she would slam the door in my face. Instead, she invited me in and I spent the next hour getting to know Mean Mary. Not only wasn’t she mean, but she was likable. Over time we became friends, earning me the right to share my testimony and faith with her. Then it happened right before my eyes. Mean Mary was transformed into Miracle Mary the day she prayed and invited the Lord Jesus into her life.
When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them. Proverbs 16:7
Mary made peace with God. God then poured out his grace on both of us and we enjoyed a peaceful friendship. In 1992, we moved to Wisconsin. I said good bye to Mary. Little did I know she would battle cancer in the coming months and lose that battle a year later.
I am so grateful I did not miss the opportunity to become her friend and to lead her to her savior. I had truly experienced the secret that CS Lewis spoke of: “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them.”
Do you have a Mean Mary in your life today? I challenge you to apply the instructions given in Luke 6:27-28 and see what a difference it will make!