No taller than a 10-year old, with a sly and suspicious gleam to her eye, she played the part of the proverbial evil landlady with me, while sweet as honey around Hubby. The other residents, also hostile, seemed amiable by comparison. And the dark, dank apartment revealed a miserly streak as well.
It rained half the year in the picturesque region. Which produced luxuriant landscape, as well as flourishing mildew. Between wiping walls with bleach, and tossing ruined shoes, I shed many a tear of frustration.
But the real trial commenced when all that could go wrong did!
And it was always my fault!
The sewage system clogged first.
My fault, according to the landlady, for surely I had flushed a towel down the toilet! And in keeping with their
frugal cheap ways, the landlords attempted the repair job, discovering that accumulated rocks had created the blockage. But it was Mario who ended up having to fish all the filth out of the external sewage pipes.
Nary a word of thanks or apology for ruined clothing, but at least we could use the water again!
Then the incoming water dwindled to a trickle.
Soon drying up totally. Not a single a drop of water entered the house! “Now what you have done?” she screeched at me. And because I had “done something” (though she knew not what) again refused to call a plumber. My patience, never great, was wearing ever thinner. Sandwiches and pizza (as much as I love it) were getting old!
Then at last, we found a new place to live! And none too soon. I’d had about all I could take!
But it was then that the lightning hit.
“This is impossible!” I thought, “like a scene from a bad movie! Or a nightmare! What else could go wrong? No water, no lights, all we need now is for the roof to cave in!” So I wearily added a lantern, candles, and kerosene to my shopping list, already aware that they would never call an electrician.
I dreaded telling the hated landlady. For yes, I was beginning to despise that woman.
“What have you done this time?” she shouted.
And I, through clenched teeth, spit out, “Signora, I didn’t do anything! I told you it was lightning.” Then added, since she obviously thought me capable of the impossible, “And I can’t make lightning. Only God can!”
To which, fortunately, she had no reply. For I fear I would have voiced my thoughts: “And if I could, I’d have hit your house, not mine!”
I knew hate was wrong.
So I asked myself, “What kind of Christian are you anyway?”
But I was too weary to struggle with it all. No lights, no water, drippy walls, hateful landlords. With great enthusiasm I packed the few belongings we had accumulated in our six months in Italy. And we were ready and waiting to move the minute Hubby returned with the keys!
Six months in that tiny, awful place had already been far too long! And I do mean tiny. We shared the bedroom/sitting room with our 14 year old son, and our 16-year old daughter slept on a chair-bed in the kitchen.
But Hubby returned crestfallen – and key-less. The landlord of the new place was even worse than our present landlords. Just as greedy for rent money, but he didn’t actually want us to live there! We were supposed to use the apartment week ends only. Full-time rent for part-time use??!! Obviously we didn’t take the place, and were thankful get our deposit back.
Even then, I realized the Lord was sparing us another bad situation, and I should have been grateful. But I couldn’t take anymore, and just collapsed in a sobbing heap!
Meanwhile, I knew I needed to get my heart right. Because hate, anger, and unforgiveness are heavy burdens to bear. And by carrying them around, we allow whoever hurt or angered us continue to do so. The only way to freedom is to forgive and put it all behind us.
Yes, that landlady was hateful. She was vicious and mean, and I’m sure she hated me. But that didn’t make my attitude right. Too often have I given tit for tat, claiming “You make me so mad!” Thinking I could blame others for my wrong actions and attitudes.
But no one can make us mad!
We alone are responsible for how we act and think. No one can make us mad unless we allow them to! [Read: Breaking Through Anger →]
So though my heart wasn’t really in it, I started treating her as I wished to be treated. We served her tea and cookies when she came, even sending some home with her.
Because I knew God wants us to do right, even when we don’t feel like it. And then I said, “Lord,” I’m doing my part by treating her well and trying to love her, but you’ll have to do the rest. Please love her through me.”
Love comes with action
And I made a great discovery! I learned that when we treat our enemies with love, we soon start really loving them. Because changing our attitude realigns our heart. It’s hard to hate or hold grudges while concentrating on love and forgiveness!
And then the impossible happened!
“I’ll really miss you,” she cried when we finally moved. “You always treated me like a queen! And I’ve always felt so loved here.” Amazed, I asked the Lord, “How can it be?” But I just sensed him smilingly say, “Isn’t that what you asked me for?”
I learned that both love and hate need nourishment. If we feed them, they grow. It’s a simple matter of deciding which we want to harvest!
Which are you growing: love and forgiveness or hate?
But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.Luke 6:27-28 WEB