Allison Mitton received a BA in English language from Brigham Young University and an MA in publishing and writing from Emerson College in Boston. While in Boston, she developed a great love for poetry, printmaking, Salman Rushdie, and all things nautical. Though recently relocated to Seattle, Allison still harbors a not-so-secret desire to move to Rhode Island and set up a printmaking shop in a barn overlooking the sea. If so inclined, you can blog stalk her at amittonmonologue.blogspot.com.
Last Christmas, my mother gave each of her children a copy of Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. She told us it was a book that meant a great deal to her, and that it contains a powerful message of hope and love and forgiveness. It was one of many books I received for Christmas that year, and when I returned home to Boston I added it to my ever-growing collection. Then I promptly forgot about it.
Soon after my return, I began to feel some anger toward one of my good friends. We had been close friends for a while, but a series of very minor events aggravated me. Though he never did anything intentionally hurtful, I felt like he sometimes took advantage of our friendship, and I resented him for it.
Slowly, I allowed myself to become irritated by the slightest annoyances from him, things that months before I would not have considered obnoxious. I dwelt on my indignation long enough that I interpreted every teasing remark or joke as a personal attack. Eventually my anger began to eat at me so much that I couldn’t be in the same room as this friend without it clawing at my gut. For weeks I tried to hide it from him (and our other friends), and I finally attempted to avoid interacting with him so I wouldn’t feel so full of hatred. I disliked the way I was feeling and behaving, it was draining. I knew if I let it continue, my anger could destroy our friendship.
Several weeks into my struggle with this resentment, I was perusing my shelves looking for a book to read on the train to work. Living in Boston, I commuted each day on the train—called the T—and I nearly always spent my commute reading, as it was the only reading time I could manage in my over-booked life. As I looked, I rediscovered The Hiding Place. I began to read it every day—twenty-five minutes in the morning and another twenty-five each evening.
Those fifty minutes were the highlight of my days, and I looked forward to my commute more than I ever had before. The Hiding Place was written by a Dutch Christian woman who survived the Holocaust. She, along with other members of her family, was part of the underground organization that helped the Jews. As I read each day on the T, I found myself most deeply affected not by her eventual experiences in the concentration camps, but by her romance with a man named Karel.
Corrie was introduced to Karel by her brother, and they eventually fell in love. They talked of a life together. However, his family wanted him to marry well, and one day Karel came to Corrie’s home to introduce her to his fiancée, a woman wearing an ermine collar and long white gloves. As Corrie grieved the loss of her future with Karel, she did not react with anger. Instead, she prayed to God that he would transform the love she felt for Karel: “Lord, I give to You the way I feel about Karel, my thoughts about our future—oh, You know! Everything! Give me Your way of seeing Karel instead. Help me to love him that way. That much,” (ten Boom 51).
As I read it, Corrie’s petition struck me with such power that I nearly started crying on the packed T car. The love that we have for each other as human beings isn’t perfect, nor is it ever completely unconditional. We always expect something from our family and friends, the people we love—their time or trust or love in return. When they fail our expectations, as we all will at some point, we are sometimes hurt. Corrie recognized this, but she also knew that God does not love conditionally or with expectations. He loves totally and perfectly; his love is pure.
Though my situation was not the same as the one I read, I knew I could apply Corrie’s prayer to my own life. I began to pray each night that the Lord take my anger away and help me see my friend the way God sees him. I prayed that I could love him in the same manner that God loves him, rather than with the selfish love I previously felt because we were friends. Within three days my anger melted. I began to understand his motivations and actions with greater clarity, and the small annoyances no longer upset me. I was learning to love my dear friend the way God loves him.
Love is complex and comes in many different forms. The love I feel for my family members is not the same as the love I feel for my friends, nor is it the same as the love I hope to eventually have for a husband and children. But God loves each of us equally because we are his children and he understands us perfectly. His love is stronger and richer than any love I might possess on my own. As I continue to petition him to understand and feel his love for the people in my life, I begin to feel my own love grow to become a little more like his.