"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." I don't remember when I first heard this verse. I must have been a little girl, curled up in bed, my father reading to me and my sister by my side. I remember thinking, long ago, that I didn't have any enemies. I remember asking, long ago, what "persecute" meant.
These days, I know what persecution is. We recognize each other, persecution and I. Persecution is the acquaintance I run into every so often. I know its face, though I can't always bring its name to mind in time. We are not bedfellows; many people know persecution much better than I do. But I do know persecution.
I know its flavor: raw, bitter, tough, like kale just pulled from the ground. No amount of chewing dissolves it. When swallowed, it sticks in my throat. It fills my mouth with sand.
I know its color: by turns scarlet and green, depending how the light strikes it. At dusk, it looks black. By night, it is as dark as the rest of the world.
I know its sound: my name, screamed in a voice like nails. Rocks grinding together--or it might be teeth grinding--it's hard to say. You see, we don't know each other so very well, persecution and I.
But I know its name: Pain. The different parts of a person pronounce pain differently, but body and heart and mind, they all say the same name. I hurt, and what am I to do?
Love my enemies. Pray for the one who persecutes me.
Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.