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I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
Philippians 1:9

By the end of the conversation, I was exhausted.

I made my way back to my seat, smiling and waving at fellow soccer parents. I had just stopped to talk to a parent who had many things to say, most of them critical and unpleasant. I kept trying to break into the conversation with something upbeat, but my efforts fell flat.

This is exactly the kind of person we are tempted to avoid.

We see them coming our way, and suddenly there is an urgent call coming in, or we try to pretend we didn’t make eye contact.

Yet, this verse about overflowing love stops me or, at the very least, makes me pause.

For better or for worse, there are people in our sphere of influence who God loves, even though we may not even like them. There, I said it.

I’m tempted to ask God, “How am I supposed to love her toward You when all she can do is criticize other people?”

I asked for advice from Jan Mathers, Relational Evangelism Coach, and current Stonecroft Board Chair, about my soccer-mom exchange. Her response was exactly what I needed.

“I have a friend who wears a coat of nettles,” Jan told me. “She stings when she comes close, so people keep their distance. I want to do the same.”

It’s pointless not to recognize we all have people like this in our lives.

Jan admits it’s not easy to be with her, but she also knows how to shift her mindset. “I squirm when we have coffee, dodging her pricks. I remind myself it is no accident; she is in my life. I remind myself the most important part of any day she stops by is the time I spend trying to love that coat off of her by listening, really listening for the opportunity to connect her story to God’s story.”

No accident…connect her story to God’s story.

Jan’s intentional love for her friend is producing fruit. “Recently, she showed up with a giant, gooey caramel brownie for us to share over coffee. Progress! Then and now, as I brew her coffee, I think about being God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus, so I can do the good things he planned for me long ago. (Eph 2:10) Loving even a prickly friend is one of those good things.”

I want to see that turning point in people, too.

Just that slight shift out from under whatever protective layer they are wearing is a sign that they are becoming more and more open to the love of Jesus. Things take time. People take time. I can keep showing up for the tiring conversations, and hopefully, the caramel brownies will follow.

Download this printable to keep in your Bible as your pray for the ones who are hard to pray for.