I don’t like this particular guy. His voice grates on my nerves and the things he talks about are annoying. I have called him “fake” and “plastic” to people who know me well enough to not take everything I say too seriously. This guy rarely listens to anything I say, and he perpetually lets me know all his life accomplishments. He pretends to always be successful, even when other people know it’s not true.
In recent months, he has said some nasty things about me to other people. These people are friends of mine and told him he was wrong to his face. Because they are my friends, they haven’t told me what he said, only that he’s been saying things to them and other people.
I wish he would go away. Why do I have to have him in my life?
Last night, I was thinking about a gathering I was invited to, a party I know he has also been invited to. I don’t doubt he will be there, which is why I was considering not going. I am still considering that. But last night, I read something which has made it harder to keep feeling the same way about this guy.
I was reading some quotes from The Lord of the Rings and one of them slew me with its truth and intensity. (Note: If you don’t know the story, let’s just say it’s an epic book about people on a journey to get rid of the cause of so much grief). In a scene in the underground mines of Moria, the wizard Gandalf is speaking to one of the young hobbits. This young man is complaining about the wispy phantom who is dogging their steps through the mine: Gollum. To everyone’s minds, Gollum is the epitome of all things rotten in the world. Yet he will not leave them alone. Pippin complains to Gandalf that Bilbo should have killed Gollum when he had the chance. Gandalf’s answer is remarkable:
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.”
Gandalf knows one thing about all men, even Gollum: He has some part to play in the events of the future. Even though some of those events may be evil, his part is important. If you know the end of the story, if it were not for Gollum, Frodo could never have cast the ring into the fire. His heart could no longer bear to part with his “treasure” and he pulled it back to himself with fierceness and stubborn will. As Gollum bit off his finger and ultimately fell into the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo and the rest of the world was released from the ring’s wretched power.
Without Gollum, Frodo’s life would have been easier; and he would have become a slave to that ease. The ring would have become his jailer and his death.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says “Therefore, I was given a thorn in the Flesh, a messenger of Satan…three times I plead with the Lord to take him away. Then the Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you.” Many people believe that Paul is referring to a physical ailment. But the word “messenger” – the same word used for Angel in the Bible – always refers to a personal being, not an illness or injury. Paul is asking God to take away a person who is causing great pain in his life. But God has no intention of doing that. We know now that Paul had several people who followed him around talking him down and stirring up trouble for him. Maybe this is who he asked God about.
But God said “No way, Paul. This guy is yours to deal with, and I will allow it.”
Why? Often in life, we cannot become the person we were always meant to be unless there is a foil, a person we consider a villain and a rotten person. I am not saying we should welcome every horrible person into our lives, or live without boundaries. But, perhaps it is best to see that some of these people we can’t stand are actually there for a reason. And maybe we won’t find the “best” that God has for us unless we accept these people have to be there.
After hearing Gandalf and the deep truth of Paul, I thought about this guy I am having trouble accepting. My meditation did not instantly make him more palatable to my taste. I still don’t like him. But I can now embrace his place in my life. He may turn out to be one of those people who shape me in ways my friends cannot.
Therefore, I will stop asking for God to take him away. I am still wary of him and I don’t have to like him. Now I am asking God to use him in my life.
Let’s see what happens.