Nemeses. Plural of nemesis. 'Cuz I have more than one. A nemesis can be one that inflicts retribution or vengeance. Can also be a formidable and usually victorious rival. Mine seem to be the latter.
Nemesis 1. Nearly always adopts a pained expression, then looks downward shaking his head when I speak. Sometimes that's too uncomfortable and he simply leaves the room. Really bothers me because I'd like at least to be given the respect of having my errors acknowledged and explained out loud. What have I said that was so offensive, so flat-out wrong? At one time on a retreat I thought we had reached an accomodation. Nemesis 1 even apologized. But then I guess I must have irritated the same sore spots. I once went to visit him at his house to seek further understanding and reconciliation. It didn't work out so well.
His faith journey has been very different from mine. I respect and admire him for the life of ministry he has led and for inspiring other people to do the same. Try as he might (if he actually does), he does seem unwilling or unable to see the world thru my eyes or accept my journey of faith and where God has led me. But I didn't design my life ahead of time or write the script for God. So it's a bit painful to be so judged and so misunderstood.
I have to remember that so that I reprove myself when I do the same. I cannot forget how hurtful this can be--so that I don't hurt someone the same way.
Nemesis 2. Also a formidable and usually victorious rival. That is, when he starts a conversation by asking a question and I reply the dialogue ends. From there it's monologue. His. Can't get a word in edgewise. He wins. I will never stand and fight for my right to speak. Today I was about to though. Then it hit me. Not what he was saying but what he was saying.
In the same conversation he was telling me how much he had sterotyped homeless people and judged them on the basis of one or two people begging on street corners. He didn't see it as stereotyping or judging, of course. But he doesn't know the folks I know.
At the same time he was telling me how lonely he was since his wife had died and how everybody related to him differently now. That was unexpected. So I listened. I let him emerge victorious in setting the agenda of the "conversation". He had a lot of hurt and uncertainty to share.
He called me brother. I'm so glad I didn't turn away and become one more of the folks who have pulled back and now relate to him differently or not at all. I let him win, something he needed.
Another good thing to remember. Nemeses hurt too. Even our nemeses may also see us as sisters and brothers. That's how I've come to see the people on the street and the ones who come to worship at Operation Nightwatch.
Someday life will bring Jean and me to the day when that line "'til death do us part" in our wedding vow is fulfilled. If I am the one left behind I honestly do not know how I will cope with the pain. I will with God's help. I will have to. I won't pretend that I will do a neat job of it. It'll likely be pretty darn messy. Until that day comes I will be unable to grasp the enormity of it. I don't want to until I'm forced to.
And then people will relate to me differently, perhaps pull away also.
If so, I hope someone will still listen and still call me brother. Maybe even somebody who regards me as their nemesis although I have been too blind to see. I could even end up on the street myself. If I do, I hope someone like Operation Nightwatch is there. I know Jesus was, is, and always will be. And if they are still alive, perhaps even Nemesis 1 and 2 will call me brother. That will be sweet.