The Viet Nam vet hated me to his core. Every morning as I walked through the entry way to man my post at work, he was there. Hot cup of coffee in his hand, leg up on a chair, scowling at anything that dared to move in his presence.
I’ve only been called names that made me blush out of hurt confusion four times in my life. The words this hurting man hurled at me almost every morning made the titles of Monster & Invalid seem petty. He didn’t even know my name. He never studied my nametag.
To him, I didn’t need a name. It was much easier to hate me if my smile didn’t come with a name.
I knew *Dan’s story well enough to know he battled nightmares, night terrors and flashbacks I’d never come close to understanding. I understood he hated my joy because he’d seen things in “‘Nam” that made joy feel like an impossibility. I don’t think he understood that the harder he hated me, the more vigorous I strove to love him.
I didn’t understand war, but I knew what it was like to feel as if I wasn’t worth the air I breathed. In an incomprehensible way, I saw myself in his anger. It still wasn’t easy loving him, though.
I went to church with Dan’s dad. The 92-year-old had Jesus on his mind every single moment of his day. What his son, Dan, lacked in joy, *John doubled 100-fold. One day out of blatant curiosity and youthfulness, I simply asked John what I was supposed to do with Dan. To this day, I have no idea where that boldness came from.
John didn’t think I was being imposing, though. He smiled a smile that lit up the room, chuckled and said, “Sweetheart, thanks for asking. So many people have stopped trying with Dan. If you can’t love him despite his anger, love him because you love me. You bless me every time you touch him, smile or question him. Just love him because you love me, but also because you love Jesus.”
It was that day in which I learned a reality I’ve never forgotten. Often times, people get hard to love because we’ve stopped loving Christ so deeply we simply can’t help but love his broken creation.
When loving people gets hard, love Jesus more.