We all have them. Sandpaper people, those annoying people in our lives who just make living our daily lives, at times, unbearable. They rub us the wrong way. They get under our skin. They always say something that makes our blood boil. … they make comments or jokes that make us feel horrible about ourselves … those daily jabs or needlings… little things that after a while build up until we just want to scream. Yeah. Those people.
My friend calls them sandpaper people… because they are there to make us better Christians. Polish us until we shine … erm… hm. Yeah…. Don’t know about that… ugh.
That’s that whole Franciscan ‘Perfect Joy’ thing… being joyful even in the worst situation. Loving the unlovable… hugging that leper as St Francis did. It all sounds good when we talk about it… but DOING it… LIVING the gospel out in that annoying world is another thing. Again I feel like a complete failure. I was not the good Christian I was supposed to be. I did not handle my sandpaper person well.
Hey I tried. All year long. TRIED! I started off okay. I played the good Christian. I was nice. I let the daily rude, cutting jabs go. ugh… let it go… Don’t….Don’t sing it…
I even confronted the situation in a kind polite way. Nope… didn’t help. So, of course, I prayed, oh yes I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed… I prayed for peace for us and everyone around us. I prayed for the situation. I prayed for the person. I prayed that the person would change. I prayed. For months. And nothing changed. So I grew impatient and discouraged. I felt I had had enough. I had had it up to here. It was too much. It was like I was drowning in negativity. I knew I was going to snap at any moment. Praying, kindness, discussion…. nothing worked and I felt trapped. And the whole situation made me angry and hateful and ugly… and it caused me to swear and rant about it… yes… of course I went to confession! I went to reconciliation a lot.
I felt I had lost my Catholic self… I was worn down by this person and it did not polish me… it made me tired, beaten …. I was in despair. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Yesterday, at a Franciscan fraternity retreat our priest brought up this very topic (I laughed out loud!) …. Francis hugging the leper. Our Franciscan life is a life of daily conversion. Of doing penance. Don’t run from circumstances… offer our sufferings up… unify our sufferings with the suffering of Christ. Change SELF… change on the inside.
I believe I had started off doing this, being the Franciscan I was meant to be back when it all started… but when it got too much, when I prayed continuously and nothing happened… I lost faith. I suppose I wanted to SEE the change immediately.
A couple days ago that still small voice inside said to my heart, “Maybe you just needed to pray for that person. That’s all. Maybe you are the only person praying for that person. Maybe they really need your prayers. You are there to pray for them.” That stopped me dead. Oh.
So, though I do not want to be in the way of that person’s wrath anymore… I will continue on until it is over. I will pray. I will be kind and merciful. I will offer it up. I will try to change on the inside. I will realize that God is working… and I may never see the change that is happening or will happen …. But I will endure. I will find peace. I will ask the Holy Spirit: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” I will no longer be led by my anger. I will let the sandpaper person polish me.
I will hug the leper.