No taller than a 10-year old, with a sly and suspicious gleam to her eye, she played the part of the proverbial evil landlady with me. But was as sweet as honey around my husband. The other residents, also hostile, seemed sweet by comparison. And the dark, dank apartment revealed a miserly streak as well.
It rained half the year in that picturesque region of Italy. Which produced luxuriant landscape, as well as flourishing mildew. Between wiping walls with bleach, and tossing ruined shoes, I shed many a tear of frustration.
But the real trial commenced when all that could go wrong did!
And it was always my fault!
The sewage system clogged first.
My fault, for surely I had flushed a towel down the toilet! And in keeping with their cheap ways, the landlords attempted the repair job. Meaning Mario ended up fishing accumulated rocks and filth out of the external sewage pipes.
Nary a word of thanks, or apology for ruined clothing, but at least we could use the water again!
Then the incoming water dwindled to a trickle.
Soon drying up totally. Not a single a drop of water entered the house! “Now what you have done?” she shouted at me. And because I had “done something” (though she knew not what) again refused to call a plumber. My patience, never great, was wearing ever thinner. Sandwiches and pizza were getting old!
Then at last, we found a new place! And none too soon. I’d had about all I could take!
But it was then that the lightning hit.
“This is impossible!” I thought, “like a scene from a bad movie! Or a nightmare! What else could go wrong? No water, no lights, all we need now is for the roof to cave in!” So I wearily added a lantern, candles, and kerosene to my shopping list, already aware they would never call an electrician.
I dreaded telling the hated landlady. For yes, I was beginning to despise that woman.
“What have you done this time?” she screeched at me.
And I, through clenched teeth, spit out, “Signora, I didn’t do anything! I told you it was lightning.” Then added, since she obviously thought me capable of the impossible, “And I can’t make lightning. Only God can!”
To which, fortunately, she had no reply. For I fear I would have voiced my thoughts: “And if I could, I’d have hit your house, not mine!”
Knowing hate is wrong, I asked myself “What kind of Christian are you anyway?”
But I was too weary to struggle with it. No lights, no water, drippy walls, hateful landlords. With great enthusiasm I packed our few belongings, ready and waiting to get out of there the minute my husband returned with the keys! Six months in that place had been far too long!
But he returned, crestfallen and key-less. That owner, like our current landlords, greedily wanted rent money. But no renters. He only wanted us to use the apartment on the week ends. Full-time caused too much wear and tear! Obviously we didn’t take it.
Even then, I realized the Lord was sparing us another bad situation, and should have been grateful. But all I could do was sob, and wonder what lesson the Lord was trying to get through my thick skull!
And meanwhile, I needed to get my heart right. Yes, the landlady was hateful. She was vicious and mean, and I’m sure she hated me. But that didn’t make my hate right. Too often have I given tit for tat, claiming “You make me so mad!” Thinking I could blame others for my wrong actions and attitudes.
But we alone are responsible for how we act and think. No one can make us mad unless we let them!
So, even though my heart wasn’t in it, I started serving tea with cake or cookies. And sending some home with her. No, my heart wasn’t in it, but I wanted to do right. And I knew the Lord wants us to do right, whether we feel like it or not. So I prayed, “Lord, I’ll do my part, but you’ll have to show your love through me. I can’t find any on my own right now.”
When we treat our enemies with love, we find that we soon start really loving them.
I learned that by doing right, the Lord can change our heart. And even teach us to love one so unlovable!
“I’ll really miss you,” she cried when we finally moved. “You always treated me like a queen! And I’ve always felt so loved here.”
Amazed, I asked the Lord, “How can it be?” But I just sensed him smilingly say, “Isn’t that what you asked me for?” I learned a lot from that experience. I learned that both love and hate need nourishment. If we feed them, they grow. It’s simply deciding which crop we want to grow!
Which are you growing: love and forgiveness or hate?