I like easy love. Easy love is loving people who are like you. They think like you and have the same opinions as you. You might share the same passions, have the same political views, laugh over the same jokes. It’s easy to love them because there is common ground, a bond that connects you without friction. Easy love is comforting and comfortable, and we all need people who fall into this category.
Then there’s love that’s prickly. It happens with people you just don’t get along with, when everything they do seems to rub you the wrong way. You don’t like them, but you know you need to love them. It inevitably happens in every relationship—even the ones that may have started off with easy love. Differences and disagreements become unearthed, and some end up with superficial wounds, others with deep cuts. Yet if we can lean in when love is prickly, we may experience a love that is truer and purer.
I never know when I’ll run into a metaphorical cactus these days. The aftermath of the elections has made me wary of everyone. I don’t know who’s safe to share all my thoughts with, who might agree with my opinions, who would be on my side and therefore feel safe and be easy to love. I’ve become extra sensitive to all the prickliness around me and so weary of it all- the divide within the Church, the often unfounded fear we have of one another, the tension of the loud shouting of some and the deafening silence people of others. I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of pointing fingers and choosing sides because labeling people and knowing how to feel about them from afar is simple. It’s black and white. I don’t have to sit in the tension of the gray or even try to when I’ve already made up my mind to see someone a certain way.
But I sat in a Be the Bridge group on Thursday and listened to wise women share their experiences with people who are unaware or insensitive to the issues some of us women of color face. They were strong yet soft, vocal when needed and quiet when the Spirit said so. They engaged if possible but walked away if the cuts were getting too deep. Their stories gave me hope for the days to come, hope to keep showing up even when it seems pointless. They reminded me that unity is possible when we break out of the rigidity of us vs. them and go the third way, the way of Jesus.
He leaned in when love was prickly. He kept near the one who would later betray him. He chose to love those others thought were too bothersome, too dirty, too far gone. He wasn’t afraid to love those who weren’t easy to love.
Prickly love involves sacrifice and perseverance. It requires commitment and grit. It presses in and stays in the tension. It doesn’t gloat rightness but longs for relationship. It’s willing and open, and Jesus embodied prickly love.
If I had my own way, I’d rather not run into any more metaphorical cacti. I’d stay huddled with those who are like me and are easy to love. But the third way is calling to me. It’s beckoning me to go the windy road of the Jesus way. It’s softening my view of the ones who stand opposite of me in my convictions and reminding me that my job isn’t to change their minds. My job is to love them even when it can be prickly.