Loving “Prickly” People

Cactusville_USA                           ” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. ”  Matthew 5:44

I have many fond memories from my childhood as an MK (a missionary’s kid).

One memory that sticks out in my mind is the many trips we would take to Arizona from our home in New Mexico. A few times a year my parents would have to travel there for a series of meetings. Most of my trip was spent listening to my Walkman, ( do kids even know what those are anymore?). I would also color or draw, anything to pass the time. My favorite part of the trip, however, was when we would cross over into Arizona. As a child I can remember watching intently for one specific indication that we were almost to our destination: cacti.

As we would travel I could see the landscape change and I would impatiently wait until I could see the cacti begin to appear. One here, another a few miles down the road, then suddenly they seemed to be everywhere. With my childlike imagination I pictured them as men, soldiers, standing at attention, waiting for marching orders. Sometimes they would even come alive, as their “arms” stretched up to the sky. I would imagine them as dear friends just waiting for my embrace.

It is funny to me the things that kids think and remember. Now, even as I write about these memories, I shake my head at my innocence. Cacti as men? Can you really imagine HUGGING a cactus?

As I pondered this memory in my mind, I thought to myself, “We encounter prickly people daily.” Think about that for a moment.

I am sure that as you take time for this thought to sink in, someone, maybe even more than one person, comes to your mind. Sadly, we all know prickly people. These people are the ones who bite at us with their words or actions. These are the people who no matter how hard we try to love them, it never seems quite enough to shield against the barbs that prick our hearts. No matter the reason behind the prickly cover ( and I assure you, there is always a reason) it is still very painful to love people with this kind of personality. The barbs that we encounter from these people often come from insecurity, pain, or abuse. Nonetheless, they are quite painful if we are not equipped to handle them.

You may be asking the question, “What then do we do?”

You have to make a choice. Do you walk away saying, “You are too difficult to love,” or do you love them in spite of the barbs.

I will offer you this piece of advice: It takes a true “God love” to love prickly people.

It is not a love that you possess in yourself. The only hope you have of loving a prickly person is to let God fill you with His love. When you do this, you will find that God shields your heart from the painful barbs. You may even find  in loving prickly people that God uses you to minister to them. You can show them what God’s love can do in even the prickliest heart.

The next thing you can do is to pray for them. God is the only hope for prickly people. He alone can heal the hurt that such people have experienced. They, however, have to want it and ask for that healing. Pray that God will show them the error of their ways and begin to sooth the hurts they feel.

If you are dealing with a prickly person let me encourage you today. Do not give up on them. Do not walk away. Pray for them daily and allow God, through you, to give them the love they need. God may have brought you into their lives to minister to them. You may even learn something new about yourself in the process. Pray and ask God to show you what you can learn from this situation. Sometimes God uses difficult situations to grow us.

Are you a prickly person? Do you ever find yourself meeting people with painful barbs rather than kindness? Do your words sometimes bite or tear?  I want to encourage you to search your heart and find out why. You do not have to stay this way; there is hope. His name is Jesus Christ and He can heal even the deepest hurt. You see, when we have been hurt, abused, or made to feel insecure, we learn to protect ourselves. Unfortunately we often do this by becoming hard, and prickly. God wants to heal that hurt and to make you the person He wants you to be.

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