Peeling potatoes is mostly what I did the summer God’s love became real to me. On the cover it sounded glamorous, “I’ll be spending the summer working in the Black Forest at a German B&B,” I had explained to my folks. In reality the work made my hands rough and made me glad to slide between the covers at night.
The B&B was run by a friendly middle-aged couple, and there were three or four other workers who helped out at various stages of the operation, including Sabrina*, a young woman close in age to me. It should have been perfect.
But it wasn’t. I found I couldn’t stand Sabrina.
Now mind you, I was no stranger to getting along with people. I had had roommates in academy and college both, and had gotten along with them just fine. It’s that Sabrina was so fawning, so cloying. She put me somehow on a pedastal - a place I detested being - and thought everything I did was mah-veh-lous. She had no self-esteem. Worse yet, Sabrina had little in the way of education or experiences that we could talk about together. I was in Germany at the tail end of a year abroad spent learning German.
And I was stuck working long hours a day in the kitchen with her. All summer long.
Working with Sabrina made me long for “Feierabend” - after hours when she went home and I could relax in my first floor room at the inn. I would stick my nose into a German translation of Charles Dickens title and try to decompress.
Mostly I felt guilty. I knew as a Christian I should love Sabrina, or at least tolerate her. My boss had hinted that she had had a hard life thus far. And here I was seeing more of the world than she ever would be able to do on a kitchen maid’s salary. More guilt.
“God,” I cried out one evening in prayer, “I am helpless to love her. But I’m willing to try. Please change me.”
Little by little, God gave me patience to grant Sabrina small gifts of attention, when I would rather have snubbed her fawning ways or withdrawn into my own head. Knowing she was cared about enough for someone to attentively listen to her, somehow eased some of the mannerisms I found so objectionable.
I tried to find ways to communicate gently how uncomfortable she made me feel when she laid on the praise. She stopped...some. I learned a tad more of her family’s story from my boss, and that enabled me be able to cut her some mental slack.
I was surprised one evening a few weeks later when I I looked back at the morning’s working hours I had shared with her as the highlight of my day. We had laughed together at some funny stories my boss’s husband had told, and she had added some of her own. The time peeling potatoes had just flown. How had God managed that?
In humility I realized at that moment that God had answered my prayer. He had changed me. While Sabrina and I never became best of friends, God’s miracle was real. That summer I did more than just tolerate her, I befriended her and she me. It was a good gift. And it deepened my faith.