I’m convinced we all have a person in our life that we wish somehow wasn’t there.   Not that we want them to die—just that we wish they would stop taking up space in the same life we are trying to live.  It’s the person you pray would move away—the person who questions you in front of your friends, or the person who you wish wouldn’t feel so compelled to call you out on your flaws.  Maybe it’s the person who one-ups you or steals tweets for Facebook statuses or looks better in a swimsuit than you do. We all have faced that question in interviews: “What type of person is hardest for you to work with?”  Not that we’re ever honest, but what would we say?  The person who always tries to tell us what to do?  The person who seems to have it more together than we do?

Can you imagine telling the truth in an interview? “I really struggle with people who don’t automatically love me or think I’m really great.”  “I don’t like working with people who challenge me on the way I spend my time or the direction of my life.”

Maybe it’s because we know our interview answer reveals more about us than it reveals about the person who drives us crazy.  Maybe our answer shows how our intolerance is motivated by a rigid desire to self-preserve more than a desire to grow and change.

If we could only rid our lives of all the people who make us want to throw tables or move to Maui, then we’d be happy.  But, there are people in Maui, too, ready to bring up your insecurities or throw your weaknesses and flaws out on the table for everyone to see—all against the background of a tropical sunset.

Somebody better shut those people up.

I don’t want to be questioned.  I don’t want to be challenged.  I don’t want to have to love someone who is on their hands and knees begging me to judge them.  I want to blame them for the anger that comes out of me, the pride, the self-protection, the innate sense of self-righteousness.

We love to act as if the problem is external.  As if we can move away from it or take a vacation from it.  If we were only around more palatable people, our lives would be peaceful and easy.

But when the cup is shaken, what’s in the cup is going to come out.

Annoying or braggy or ridiculously good-looking, put-together people aren’t the problem.  They bring out the problem that’s already in us.  They may be the instrument that shakes us, but the pride, the insecurity, the self-doubt and rage and impatience… that stuff was already in there.

And for holy goodness’ sake, it needs to get out.

These people who grate against our generosity, who don’t let us slide by at face value, the people who grab for too much of our attention and give too little back—all of these different types of people reveal that there is much in us that needs to go.

The very people we want to get rid of are the people bringing our harmful pockets of sin to the surface.  If we cut out every person who rubs us the wrong way or every person who makes us question our own worth, then we never face our junk.  If we avoid the people who are undermining or critical then we forfeit chance after chance to face the deeper questions each encounter can raise.

Why do I feel threatened when she talks?  Why do I have to be heard?  Why can’t I respond patiently?  What in me needs to change?

This isn’t about performing self-surgery.  It’s about seeing what God might be saying to me in difficult encounters.  It’s about a move from accusing the other of being so difficult to asking why I’m so flustered.

Could it be that those who bother me the most are the biggest instruments in my sanctification?  Is it possible that the girl I’m most threatened by is the way I answer a deeper question of identity and what it means to belong to God?

Maybe instead of praying God will transfer difficult people to the furthest part of the country, I should start praying that I’ll look more like Jesus.  The more frustrated I am, the more I’m on my knees asking for grace I obviously need.  I think we’ll be amazed at how many moments of self-doubt and deep frustration turn into opportunities for deep growth and intimacy with God.

These people will continue to exist.  Always.  When one changes jobs, another slides into your pew at church.  Just when you breathe a sigh of relief, another judgmental know-it-all swimsuit model is waiting around the corner.  And maybe he’s just the instrument of change you need.