I HATE YOU.”
The words hit me like a slap in the face. It was only ink, words written on a bathroom wall, written by a stranger to no one in particular. But the emotion was strong.
I wondered why this person had written these words. Were they thinking of someone in particular? Were they just angry at the world? Were they trying to shock or hurt? Or were they writing a message to themselves?
I wished I had my purse so I could take a pen and scratch the message out. I was surprised at how the words hurt.
The next day I made a mental note to count how many times my daughter said that she “hated” something. Sometimes it was about a thing, a taste, a sound, a smell, the actions of someone else, school, and so forth. She said it often. Even worse, I realized that I said or thought those words often myself. Not about a person, but about frustrations or dislikes in my life. Did I really hate the rain when I wanted a pretty day? Did I hate the dog that woke me up barking the night before? Did I hate the dishwasher for breaking down and spewing water all over my kitchen floor?
“Hate.” A strong word for simple irritations. The Bible tells us not to hate; rather, to love. Our parents. Our spouses. Our children. Our neighbors. The poor. Strangers. Our enemies.
I thought about how I would’ve reacted to seeing “I love you” written on that wall instead. It made me smile to even think about it. I still wouldn’t have known the one who wrote it. It still would have been unclear for whom it was meant. But the idea that the author loves and wants to proclaim it is a joyous thought.
My husband, Richard, used to play a game with our daughter when she was very young. He would begin by telling her there was someone he loved whose favorite color was green. Michelle would exclaim that her favorite color was green.
“Really? I love someone who has blond hair and blue eyes,” he’d continue. Michelle would point to her hair and eyes, a grin on her face.
“And the person I love can stand on her head, sing the alphabet, and loves to swim.”
By then, Michelle would be jumping up and down. “It’s me, it’s me! I’m the person you love!”
It’s amazing what a proclamation of love can do.
John 3:16 reads: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
There are many times when I feel unloved: when I’ve had an argument with my husband, my daughter, or a friend; or, as a writer, when I’ve received a rejection on a piece of writing I’ve worked hard on.
But above all, I know that I am never unloved. There is always Someone who loves me unconditionally, who loves me in spite of my flaws, who wants me to love others as best that I am able. And He is the God of the universe!
I thought about the woman or teen who had written the words “I hate you” on the bathroom wall. Did her father play silly “who do I love?” games with her? Does her husband—if she is married—remind her of his love? Most important, does she know that the God of all creation loves her more than she can begin to imagine?
I pray that sometime she will find “I love you” written for her to see. It’s written clearly in every Bible. It’s not only meant for any stranger to see, but for every person to see and read and believe.
I’m glad my heart knew this before I saw those scribbled words.
Kathryn Lay, a full-time writer, lives in Texas with her family. This article was published October 28, 2010.