My Co-worker

240_F_315223844_rTixrQhq8e1FLa75lAzGRZUpl1KaiBIPThis week is the first week I’m working from home because of COVID-19.  It’s been challenging because I liked going into the office and interacting with my co-workers.  I miss the face to face contact, going for walks, lunch and coffee breaks.  I miss goign for my morning jog or to the gym but I have to do whatever it takes to protect my family and me.

Nick and I have been spending more time together since he’s working from home as well.  And I have been reading and studying my Bible more.  Just recently, I read about doing good to those who hate you.  I have a huge problem with that.  I can’t imagine this happening with Traci, a co-worker, who has taken a disliking to me.  I have no idea why she doesn’t like me.  She’s always making snide remarks about my looks and the way I dress.  I’m not slim like her.  I’m what you call curvy and my hair is short and natural, not long and relaxed like hers.  Granted, she’s stunning and most of the men in the department want to have more than a work relationship with her but, most of the women, me included, don’t like or get along with her.

Last year at the Christmas party, she met Nick and tried to flirt with him but he put her in her place.  In the New year when we returned to work, she asked me, “How on earth did you manage to snag such a gorgeous man?  And why did he marry you when there are so many available women out there, like me?”

I tried to ignore her at first but day after day, she kept getting into my face about Nick and wondering what he could possibly see in me.  Taking a deep breath, I turned to her and said, “There’s more to a woman than just her looks.”

She looked me up and down in scorn.  “Well, it’s obvious that Nick didn’t marry you for your looks.”

“He married me because he loves me.”

“Are you sure he didn’t marry you because you got pregnant?”

It was as if she had plunged a knife into my heart.  It was true that I was pregnant before Nick and I got married but we would have gotten married anyway.  We just moved the wedding up because we didn’t want the child to be born out of wedlock.  Unfortunately, the child was stillborn.  This happened five years ago and we have had two children since then but it still hurts to talk about the one we lost.  At that point, I had two choices.  I could let her have it or walk away.  I chose to walk away.  And I have been walking away every time.

My sister, Janis and other co-workers have been urging me to stand up to Traci and give her a piece of my mind but I don’t want to do that.  Instead, I pray about it daily.  Nick told me that it was up to me how I wanted to handle the situation.  And whatever I decided, I had his full support.

Sometimes, I think that Traci is jealous.  She may have the looks but she doesn’t have an incredible man like Nick.  He’s a wonderful husband and great Dad.  I thank God everyday for blessing me with him.  When I was reading Genesis 2 where God created Eve for Adam, it dawned on me that God not only provides our basic and spiritual needs but He provides us with the person we are meant to be with.

When I met Nick he was in a relationship so it never occurred to me that we would end up together.  However, after our first meeting, he showed up at my apartment to tell me that he was a free man and available if I was interested.  We went out on our first date and the rest, as they say, is history.  We dated for a year and then got married.

We are both very active in our church.  I’m the Women’s Ministry leader and he, the Men’s.  We love our daily family worship with the kids and we enjoy doing community service when time permits.  I have even started a prayer group at the office.  We find a quiet spot on the grounds where we pray, share and study.  I’m going to miss those meetings now that we are forced to work from home.  I exchange emails with the group and we decided that once a week, we would continue our meetings through Skype.

Before things got bad between us, I had invited Traci to join us but she flatly refused.  “I have more important things to do than to hang out with a bunch of religious fanatics,” she told me.  I never asked her to join us again.  I have tried everything with this woman.  I have tried to nice, kind, patient, helpful and even understanding but it’s pointless.  All I get in return are insults, belittling remarks and at times, the cold shoulder.  She doesn’t like me and I have to accept that.  I realize that you don’t have to do someone anything for them not to like you.  I try not to let it bother me.

Still, when I read about loving your enemies and doing good to them, I thought of her.  I sensed that God wanted me to reach out to her again but I argued with Him, saying, “She’s a mean, disrespectful and unkind person.  How could I show love to somebody like that?”

God’s response was, “I showed love to you which is why you are here, understanding My Word and literally seeing My beauty in your life.  I want this person to experience the same thing.” 

I was reminded of Ananias who had a problem when Jesus told him to lay his hands on Saul so that he would receive his sight again.  Ananias reminded Jesus of all the terrible things Saul had done to Christians but Jesus told him to do as He instructed because He had chosen Saul for ministry.  Without any further objections, Ananias did as he was told.  I sat there, wondering if perhaps, God had a plan for the co-worker’s life just as He had a plan for mine.  And like Ananias, I should just do what He tells me.

I closed the Bible and got down on my knees and prayed earnestly.  I asked God to forgive me for my attitude and to help me to reach out to Traci.  As soon as I finished praying, I felt a great sense of peace.  I rose to my feet.  Just then, Nick walked into the bedroom and I told him everything.


Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash

“That’s the God we serve,” he remarked.  “His love, grace and salvation are for everyone, even for the people we don’t get along with.”

“I’m going to call her later.  Please pray that it goes well.”

He smiled and put his arms around me, hugging me tightly and reassuringly.  “I will,” he promised.  “Don’t worry about what to say.  The Holy Spirit will take care of that.”

That night, after taking deep breaths, I called Traci.  She answered and didn’t hang up when she knew that it was me.  There were no snide remarks or insults or anything like that which really surprised me.  As Nick said, the Holy Spirit told me what to say and the next thing I knew the co-worker was in tears telling me how I reminded her of her older sister who moved out when she got a job in New York.

Traci was left alone in the small apartment with her mother and step-father who began to sexually abuse her.  He never did that to her sister because she didn’t have “your looks and body”.  She was 13 at the time and she grew to hate her sister as much as her step-father because she had begged her to take her with her but she had refused, telling her that she had to stay and finish school.  When she was 16, she left home and went to live with her father and his family.

That didn’t last for very long because his wife didn’t like her.  They were always fighting.  Life in that house became intolerable so as soon as she graduated from high-school, she moved out and in with an older man whom she met at a friend’s house.  He was loaded and gave her a huge weekly allowance.  Their relationship lasted while she was attending university but ended when she left Seattle and moved to Boston where she ended up getting a job in my department.

She never kept in touch with her mother or sister.  She blamed them both for the abuse she suffered at the hands of her step-father.  She turned her back on religion because she was angry with God for allowing the abuse.  She spoke about how she has a love-hate relationship with men because of what her step-father had done to her.  She was even angry with her father for leaving her and remarrying her.  If he hadn’t left, her mother wouldn’t have remarried and she wouldn’t have been sexually abused.  She even blamed herself for what happened.  If she didn’t have the looks or body, her step-father wouldn’t have noticed her.

She sounded like an angry, hurt and bitter woman.  I could feel the pain she was going through.  It was there in her voice too.  As I listened, I felt ashamed of myself.  I had been ready to give up on this woman because she had rejected my offer to befriend her but God hadn’t given up on her even though she wanted nothing to do with Him.  God wanted me to understand why it was so important that I reached out to her again.

When she was done, I told her that I too had been sexually molested as a teenager by a family friend–a man I had trusted.  However, the abuse didn’t make me angry with God.  It made me cling more to Him as I prayed to Him, trusting that He would deliver me and He did.  The man was arrested after I had the courage to tell my parents who pressed charges against him.  I went for counseling and my faith and family and friends helped me to heal.  And then, I met Nick.  I told my co-worker that if she needed counseling I could refer her to the woman who helped me.  And I offered to be there any time she needed to talk about anything.

I offered to pray for her and when she didn’t object, I did.  When I was finished, she tearfully apologized for the way she treated me and asked me to forgive her.  I too was in tears and I forgave her.  Then, I too asked her to forgive me.  If it hadn’t been for God, I would have continued to think the worst of her and be unforgiving and never know what she had been through.

When the call ended two hours later, I knew that God wanted me to be a friend to Traci and to show her that He is the One who is reaching out to her through me.  I never knew why I had to go through what I did but now I can see how it enables me to reach out and be there for someone else who has.  I’m thankful that God is using me and my experience to bring healing to Traci.

We have to remember that God sees more than we do.  On the surface, we see a miserable, mean, unpleasant person but underneath, God sees a person who has been hurt, abused, mistreated or rejected and who needs our love, forgiveness and His healing.

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