My grandmother didn't exactly hate me. Mostly, she just hated life, and I seemed to get in the way sometimes. Not that as a child I understood the difference.
She came across as mean- spirited, especially when she'd call us kids a bunch of liars and cheats as we sat huddled over a Monopoly game laughing at some daring move. Her disdain always cut to the core and spoiled whatever fun we were having. So it should come as no surprise that I'd try to have plans off-site on those infrequent occasions when she'd visit.
Later when I was in my 20s, my mother passed on. My father went into the hospital for an extended period, and my grandmother decided to stay with me for a month to be able to see her son. I could neither refuse to have her, nor could I make a grand escape. In fact, she didn't drive, so I'd have to transport her an hour each way every day to see him. I was less than thrilled.
As the day approached when I had to pick her up, I panicked at spending an unbuffered month with her. So I turned to what had always made a difference in my life – prayer. I'd grown to understand that my thinking determines my experience, and that if I didn't like a particular circumstance, changing my thinking through prayer had a great impact.
That's because prayer causes us to align thought with God in a way that allows us to see circumstances and others as He does – as wholly good and wholly perfect, rather than through the limitations we might be inclined to impose.
One morning while I was making my bed, I was struck by the fact that I could have control over the sheet just by grasping one corner. As silly as it might sound, this gave me a window into what I needed to do regarding my grandmother. I needed to grasp and hold onto one corner of the situation, in order to gain my dominion over it.
I decided to find one thing I could love about my grandmother that I would hold onto, no matter how she behaved. This made perfect sense, because I hungered to know God better and believed what the Bible tells us: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (I John 4:7, 8).
How could I know God if I wasn't willing to love my grandmother?
I basically knew that every one of God's children had to be loved, lovable, and loving, even if I couldn't see it right then.
With that, I set out to find something to love about her that I could hold onto – my version of the corner of the sheet.
It wasn't easy, but I finally realized that she loved her children, and I appreciated that. She'd sacrificed much for them, since her husband passed on just before she gave birth to their fourth child – at only 22.
When I picked her up, she was what I'd accepted as her "usual self" – vindictive and complaining. I held to my corner of truth – that she loved her children.
Between school and work, I'd take her to see my dad, and she'd tell me that I'd never amount to anything. I'd reaffirm and appreciate that she loved her children.
One day, I came home from work, and she had prepared a special dinner she thought I'd like. It was the first time I could remember my grandmother expressing any grace toward me. Before long, her humor began to emerge. Later, she had to admit that I might not be as domestic as she thought I should be, but maybe I'd contribute in other areas.
My grandmother and I never became the best of friends, but we did gain a heartfelt appreciation for each other. One year, I fixed Thanksgiving dinner, showing her that even a woman with a career could pull off a respectable feast.
Choosing to love isn't always easy. But it is possible if we'll find a way to gain a corner and hang onto it until we gain the victory. As Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "Love must triumph over hate" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 43).