The day promised sunshine. Robert and Barbara left the house early to allow for stops along the way and enjoy the views. Red Bald mountain delighted travelers with exhaling panoramas. This day promised bright autumn colors and brisk mountain air. Barbara packed a sumptuous picnic with favorite bites for each of them.

The couple needed a break. Each had suffered from accusations from two individuals attempting to manipulate them through innuendo and rumor. Each told lies with a ring of truth because the best manipulators always stir in something false with enough true to sway the group. Robert had suffered his attack at work from an ambitious upstart looking to climb the ladder. Barbara’s came from a new woman in the neighborhood wedging her way between friends. First, she obligated through gracious gifts of thoughtfulness, then, she isolated Barbara through timely, sharp and snide remarks intended to position herself as the “go-to” confidant. Barbara suffered the brunt of those remarks.

The two situations triggered within Robert and Barbara a fight or flight response. Today, flight became dominant. The two simply needed a day away. Each thought a drive up the mountain and a hike in nature would provide perspective.

As they drove, the two discussed their situations. Talking relieved some stress. The higher up the mountain they drove, the weight eased. Each began to breathe again and enjoy the day and God’s creation surrounding them. Their discussions moved to children and grandchildren, the blessings of life. Then, it turned back to their dilemma and what to do.

All along, Barbara had been contemplating last week’s sermon. She asked Robert, “What did you think of the sermon last week on love thy enemy?” He responded, “Well, I have heard those words for years but I find it hard to love this young upstart at work. He thinks he knows everything and has caused me real problems. Staff who at one time listened to me think his solutions are good, but they lack wisdom. I don’t know how to assert my experience because he won’t listen. Part of me wishes he would leave. I’m tempted to fire him. I know he wants me out of his way and I wouldn’t mind if something bad happened to him. The sermon’s affirmation has not left me—God loves the man who does not love me. But I don’t love him. Shouldn’t God want to punish him?”

Barbara responded, “I know how you feel. I have had all the same thoughts about our new neighbor. She has been so disruptive among our friends. The sermon’s affirmation is not a lens through which I have viewed my enemy, this woman who takes issue with me, this woman who triggered within me a desire for her suffering, my desire for the situation to disappear. I always thought my enemy was far away, unknown and clear, not my neighbor. How can sin be subtle sometimes and feel right? If love is the better response, shouldn’t we try it?”

“Is love the third response?”

“Maybe it’s the first.”

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.

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