I’m going to cry.

I need to wait for it to be socially acceptable to leave the room first. Then I’m going to find myself a safe space and cry. Maybe in five minutes.

I feel the cry perched in the roof of my mouth. I can summon it whenever. Just not now. Five minutes.

The room erupts in laughter. My mouth smiles. They think I’m spacing out but I heard everything that was said.

“Reformed theology is upside-down.”

“Reformed Christians don’t believe in the Holy Spirit.”

“Reformed Christians are heretics.”

Heretics. I have been called a slut, a binge-eater, an alcoholic, a piece of work, but never have I been more offended by heretic. At that point, I’m not even a Christian.

I’m being melodramatic. They are entitled to their own opinion. I’ve probably said worse things about the suburban moms I grew up with. I shouldn’t feel this way.

I gracefully exit the situation and—I kid you not—I find myself a closet. As the tears and snot rain down my chin (#uglycrier), I shake my fists at the heavens and ask God: why?

Why was I put in that situation? Why do I now have to live with the embarrassment of having cried over such an insignificant thing?

Being a Reformed Christian is a deeply personal thing for me. (I would go on to explain why but, when I tried that, it made for an excessively long blog post—so please just believe me.)

Another question: Why was I put in the presence of such insensitive people?

This makes me think of a sermon that my mom told me about. The pastor said, “Why does God allow Alzheimer’s or dementia to inflict upon our loved ones?”

He began to speak more broadly: why does God place people in our lives who are difficult to love?

I have been, and still am, closely wrapped up with people who emotionally manipulate, condescend, speak bitterly to, lie and backstab me. By the grace of God, it hasn’t been many. (And, of course, I’m sure I have been that kind of person to someone else.) But it’s been enough to make me want to go into a closet and cry. Most of these people are or were close to my heart.

So I ask God: Why?

For the pastor, his answer was: so we can love them.

The Bible teaches that “love thy neighbor” is the second greatest commandment after loving God (Mark 12:31). Leviticus 19:17-18 says:

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely reason honestly with your neighbor, and not suffer sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

This is such a beautiful commandment when you’re up late talking about life with your friend. When you’re laughing in the backseat with your brother. When your coworker gives you a Starbucks gift card for no apparent reason.

But when someone, however indirectly, calls you a heretic, “love thy neighbor” feels near impossible.

Of course, Jesus didn’t demonstrate a conditional love. I remind myself of this when I feel (however irrationally) offended. “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16), not just people who agreed with Him, who never stepped on His toes or challenged Him.

If I am called to be like Jesus, I can’t hold grudges against people. I can’t choose to not love them. Maybe I’m allowed to have an emotional reaction but, in my heart, I have to choose love.

So I dry my eyes, pray for God to help me through this, and leave the closet.

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