Her name is Kylee. I met her in June of 2004 when I spent a few days being a family leader and teacher at First Chance Camp. Kylee was in my family group. At first she was very quiet, but by mid-day on the first full day of camp she had attached herself to me.
It was an annoyance that she called me Baldy (I had to shave my head because of a hair cutting accident), constantly stole my Iowa Hawkeye cap, and continually hung on me. You can imagine that I was very annoyed when she grabbed my hand on Tuesday night and pulled me to campfire so I could sit next to her. Kylee wanted to be next to me and I wanted be far away from her.
On the way back to the cabins from campfire God used this nine-year-old girl to teach me a very important lesson. Kylee, while tightly holding on to my hand, told me that in April her dad was killed in an accident. She also added that I was her dad now.
My heart sank. For the last two days I allowed my discomfort distract me from the pain in this little girl’s life. Now I understood why she harassed me (or as she put it, terrorized me). Kylee craved the attention that only a man could give. I wanted a comfortable time at camp, and I saw Kylee as an annoyance. Kylee need attention and love, and she saw me as a father figure.
We all have to deal with difficult people. There are some people who are so needy that they drain the strength out of us. There are other people who get on our nerves for no explainable reason. There are other people who we cannot trust because they continually lie. Everyone has “unloveable” people in their lives, those people we find impossible to love.
Often the reason we find them impossible to love is because we have only seen a little sliver of their lives. This small snapshot does not give us a big enough picture to put their lives into proper context.
The reality is that we can’t know everything that has happened in the lives of the people that we meet. Tragedy, abuse, accidents, and family life all have a huge impact in making on the lives of people, but often remain hidden from view. I bet there is a reason why the annoying people in your life are annoying.
Ministry and evangelism will lead us to deal with people who are difficult to love. These activities will throw us in with people who struggle to fit in and with people who lead messy lives. The reality is that sooner or later, as we follow Jesus, we will run into people who make life uncomfortable for us. These people provide us with the ultimate test of love. It is easy to love the people we enjoy, but it is something totally different to love the people who get on our nerves and inconvenience our lives.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:31-34; NLT)
Jesus inconvenienced. He wanted to spend some time alone, but the people kept coming from all over the region to take from Jesus. These people were sick, lost, and poor. They had nothing to offer. They just wanted Jesus to help them. There were so many people Jesus hadn’t even had time to eat.
The desire of Jesus in that moment was to retreat, and go to a solitary place and rest. These people would not let this happen. The people discovered where Jesus was at and then they crowded around him once again. Jesus offered no rebuke or excuse. Instead He had compassion on them and He took the time to minister to them.
This is our example on how we need to act towards the unlovable people in our lives. Yes, we may be tired, we may be uncomfortable, and we maybe inconvenienced, but we should do our best to help the people come to us. Even when they inconvenience us we need to have compassion on them. This compassion doesn’t flow because they have something to offer to us, but because they are in need of God’s love.
On the last day of camp, Kylee’s mom came to pick her up. She explained to me how Kylee’s father died and apologized if she had been nuisance. I shook my head and told Kylee’s mom, “She was no problem.” Overnight my perspective had changed. I know longer saw Kylee as an annoyance, rather I saw her as a little girl who needed a father.
Heavenly Father, may Kylee experience You has her Heavenly Father, and give me the compassion I need to love the annoying and difficult people in my life.