God makes our ways straight when we bless those who curse us.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27-28

Kathleen Petersen, in her typically good natured and down to earth way, filled me in on my devotional writing assignment. Aaron was preaching on blessings and cursings based on Deuteronomy 28-30. God was giving the people of Israel the choice of blessings or cursings.  Blessings depended on obedience, so his requirements were not too hard to achieve. Then, Kathleen threw a curve ball — Jesus flipped the script on blessings and cursings.  He asked his followers to bless those who cursed them.

Cue deep resentment and a heavy sigh 

As a child I had been taught to not fight back when people hurt me — to absorb cruel words and attitudes. I was all for loving my neighbor, but I’d had enough of being a doormat. To twist the knife, I’d been dreading a meeting that very afternoon with someone I’ve  done a lot of volunteering with. On the positive side, she was Intelligent and passionate and had with a high-powered career, plenty of know-how. However a sharp tongue, a critical attitude, and sense of entitlement made me want to avoid working with her. At the moment, healthy boundaries and protecting myself seemed a lot more sane than meeting for coffee and working out what being a blessing to someone who seemed intent on making my life miserable would look like. Fortunately, Kathleen is a good friend and prayed for our meeting without judgment.

After some small talk at a local coffee shop, our conversation took a turn that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit. Rather than asking me to absorb or ignore her unkindness, I felt the Holy Spirit was asking me to lead the conversation toward reciprocity. I had mentally prepared some talking points, but they came out much differently than what I had expected to share. . 

Instead of saying “I’m feeling frustrated that you’ve been expecting me to be available at all times including last week when i was driving on the highway and didn’t have time to respond to your demands” I said “I really appreciate the drive and passion you give to this project. And I also appreciate that you set boundaries around your time.  We’re all volunteers and this project is very stressful.  I’m learning from you that I also need to set  boundaries around my time. It’s great that we can have the reciprocal understanding that we will respect other’s needs for time to ourselves.”

Instead of saying, “We are an all volunteer organization and I’m not your help desk or administrative assistant. We are each the help desk.” I said, “The strength of being in an all volunteer organization is that each has the flexibility to problem solve and learn new skills, which keeps work flowing without having to go through a lot of bureaucratic channels. What we are doing isn’t perfect, but we are all learning a lot and becoming stronger and more resourceful all the time!”

We covered a number of topics in the same way; in what could have been a very uncomfortable conversation turned out to be very positive. Each and every one hinged on the topic of reciprocity and keeping mutual respect at the center of our working relationship.  I hadn’t absorbed the extra work she had been hoping to delegate to me and I hadn’t made her feel entitled or rude either. Somehow the Holy Spirit set healthy boundaries for a fair and neutral playing field that straightened out unhealthy patterns of behavior we kept veering toward.  He allowed our conversation to be focused on the truth that we each needed to be carrying our own load. Grace made the message go down in a palatable way. Thank God for his guidance and help in a situation that I didn’t have the wisdom or patience to take on by myself. 

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