To My Polar Opposite,
It was years ago when we first sat across from one another on those old couches in the church basement. We had been assigned to the same Bible study small group, some would say by chance. I don’t remember what study we were doing that session, possibly a Beth Moore one with lots of homework and plenty of things to discuss. I don’t remember what question prompted your comment. It was election season, a Presidential election at that, and you said that if one candidate lost you didn’t know what you would do, as if all hope would be lost. My mind jumped at those words, and I was quick to respond that I wouldn’t know what to do if your candidate won. I was always quick to respond in those days, young and brash and knowing more than I do now.
That was not the last time we disagreed I am sure. We were polar opposites in many ways. You were much older, me much younger. You were conservative, I leaned liberal. You saw things one way, I another.
But you listened to me. And you kept listening, even when I contradicted much of what you believed. You did not insist on being right and so neither did I. I started listening to the person behind the words, to the heart behind the beliefs. I started asking more questions, trying to learn more of your story.
I knew you only as the person before me in that moment, but people are not just the here and now. They are the make up of their history. Childhood traumas and young adult regrets, things unseen and stories no longer told.
By listening, I learned that your husband was your second, a divorce decades earlier in a time when I imagine divorce still carried a heavy weight of shame. I heard the trials of trying to find your place in a merged family when you mentioned your shared children. I saw a daughter who deeply loved her father as she worked to care for him in his final painful years. Watching you, I saw a steadfastness that this wandering soul needed to know.
The next fall when groups were mixed, we were once again put together, and I was so thankful. And when I had another baby, you were there with a meal. When I was asked to lead, you stood in my corner. I knew you were on my team. And when I moved away, your hug, your words, brought tears to my eyes.
I think we are living proof that it is Jesus that binds our ties. That when we are willing to let stop being right and start seeing the child of God in front of us, we experience the love that God commands. We chose to stop being about the day to day and to sit and read and study the Bible together. We shared prayer requests in our groups and checked back in a few weeks later. When the groups were again mixed up and we were no longer together, I missed sitting across the circle from you. But you were still there, with a smile across the sanctuary or an encouraging comment after I taught one Wednesday morning.
I am sure we still cancel out each others votes on election day, not that it matters. We chose the better together.
Thank you for giving me grace,