How would you finish this statement: “I hate . . . “?
If your mother was like mine, you learned at a very early age to be careful how you used that word hate. Never, for example, would I entertain the thought of inserting a person’s name in the blank after hate. You don’t hate people. People are created in God’s image, and to hate someone would be a grievous sin. So I learned not to put people’s names in the blank after “I hate . . . “ (even though I did have an intense dislike for Butchy Sandstrom in second grade but I didn’t mention it to my mother).
Most of the time, it wasn’t even permissible for me to hate a particularly distasteful vegetable. I learned as I sat at the table in my growing-up years that food was provided by God, and cooked by my mother, and to intimate that you hated what either of those two sovereigns had set before you was positively unthinkable, to say nothing of unhealthy. I wasn’t forced to eat what I didn’t like, mind you, but critical commentary on dinner was totally unappreciated at our house and brought with it a certain and immediate invitation to leave the table without finishing, the comment or the meal.
No, you didn’t hate people, and at least while you were sitting at the dinner table you didn’t hate vegetables, not out loud, anyway.
It did seem to be permissible to hate other annoyances, however. For example, mosquito bites were okay to hate, just not the mosquitoes themselves. When I was young, mosquitoes used to eat me up. When I scratched a mosquito bite and it became red and sore, I could express my hate, while my mother put ointment on the bite. But, I remember my mother’s corrective rejoinder if I said, “I hate mosquitoes.” She had what seemed to me a particular theology about mosquitoes, a sort of circuitous logic that seemed to envelop everything from the tiniest insect to the largest of animals. “Do you know why God made mosquitoes?” she would ask.
I hated it when she asked me questions I didn’t have a good answer for.
“Well,” she would say,” God made mosquitoes so the frogs would have something to eat. If there were no mosquitoes, the poor little frogs would have nothing to eat.”
While I knew better than to argue with my mother, deep inside where she couldn’t look, I also knew that her logic must be flawed. If God created one thing so another thing would have something to eat—if God created mosquitoes so frogs would have something to eat—then it seemed to me that the next logical step in that proposed food chain was that I was created so that the mosquitoes would have something to eat, and that just didn’t seem to be right. Intuitively, I knew I had a deeper reason for being that providing nourishment for mosquitoes. I didn’t argue, though. I just let it go at hating mosquito bites.
Since I’ve grown up, I’ve come to appreciate that there are many things I can “legally” hate. I hate cars. I know very little about how they operate; I know where to put in the gas and the key. About once every other year, I also put in oil. But I hate cars … and they hate me.
I hate plumbing, too. It leaks, but I can rarely figure out why, or even where. I’ve replaced all of the pipes and fittings under our kitchen sink twice and the plumbing still drips. (Have I mentioned that I hate drips?)
There are all sorts of things I hate: ball-point pens that skip, flashlights whose supposed ever-ready batteries never are, anything, anything that is late, standing in any line, the sound of the vacuum cleaner.
I typed an invitation for people in our office to write down the things they hate. I won’t share all of the results, but here’s what some of them said they hated:
Sushi, Live (Ugh!), Anchovies, Raw Onions
Okra (You know, the Vegetable?) Obviously, this person never met my mother
Cleaning house (Note: This particular “hate” received more than one vote, but in almost every case the person who hated cleaning house loved a clean house. You figure out the significance of that bit of detail)
Shoes that hurt my feet
Cold coffee (3 votes)
Bugs (dead) on my windshield
People who are perky and bright first thing in the morning (It’s not normal)
And finally, one of my personal favorites—
Memos I receive reminding me about a meeting … that happened yesterday
Several of my friends mentioned that they felt better after having written down what they really hated. I guess I felt better, too. Cathartic best describes the effect this little experiment had on me. “Getting life off my chest” you might say.
I don’t know for sure if God watched my recent preoccupation with things I hate, but I suspect He did. He sees and notices everything. When I compare things I hate with things He hates? Well, leaky faucets didn’t make His list. Neither did cars that didn’t run or pens that don’t write. In fact, as I read His list in Proverbs 6, and compared it to my list of silly annoyances, I’m convinced that I have a lot more important things than mosquitoes to worry about that may be eating me up. How about you?
“These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart the devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.”