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, while sweet as honey around Hubby. The other residents, also hostile, seemed amiable 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
frugal cheap ways, the landlords attempted the repair job, discovering that accumulated rocks had created the blockage. But it was Mario who ended up having to fish all the filth out of the external sewage pipes.
Never 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 screeched. 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 (as much as I love it) 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 that 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 anwyway?”
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 move the minute Mario returned with the keys! Six months in that tiny place, (where we shared the bedroom/sitting room with our 14 year old son, and our 16-year old daughter slept on a chair-bed in the kitchen), had been far too long!!
But Hubby returned crestfallen, and key-less. That owner was just like the current landlords, greedily wanting rent money, but preferably without having them live there. We were supposed to use the apartment week ends only. Full-time rent for part-time use??!! Obviously we didn’t rent it, but at least got our deposit back.
Even then, I realized the Lord was sparing us another bad situation. And I 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!
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!
[Read: Breaking Through Anger →]
So though my heart wasn’t in it, I started serving her tea and cookies, even sending some home with her. I knew the Lord wants us to do right, even when we don’t feel like it. “Lord,” I said, “I’ll do my part by DOING right, but you’ll have to show YOUR love through me. I can’t find any on my own right now.”
And I discovered that when we treat our enemies with love, we soon start really loving them. Because by doing right, the Lord can change our heart. And even teach us to love people 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?”
So I learned that both love and hate need nourishment. If we feed them, they grow. It’s simply deciding which we want to harvest!