After reading another story about another woman being sexually assaulted by a man and it not coming to public knowledge for decades and hearing her disparaged and minimized because she “waited too long” or because it was “decades ago”…I just can’t be quiet any longer. (This time, it was Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Tennessee.) It’s late and my heart hurts so be patient with me as I try to make coherent points.
I can not understand how “waiting so long” is supposed to negate the victim’s reliability or the truth. People in power have gotten away with abuse of the ones without that power forever…and unfortunately, it is also true in churches. But unlike outside of the church, we Christians should be held to a different standard…not because we are better than anyone else…not by a long shot. We should be held to a higher standard because we have intimate understanding of Jesus’ example of giving a voice to the voiceless…of bringing justice to the marginalized…and giving dignity to the broken or hurting. This intimate knowledge of our God and his heart means that we can not continue to ignore injustice and abuse of power while representing our Lord accurately because each time we do, we aren’t just lying…we aren’t just hurting the individuals being denied justice…we are also damaging the name of our God.
We damage his name when we continue to turn a blind eye to abuse.
We damage his name when we refuse to see other people…other image-bearers…as valuable.
We damage his name when we give racism or sexism (or any other ism) a pass by remaining quiet when we know we should be speaking up.
We damage his name when we refuse to enter into honest and respectful dialogue about topics that matter. (This contributes to the trend of people seeing the church as obsolete.)
We damage his name when we defend abusers and judge victims based on whether or not we align with them politically, denominationally, etc. (Yes, I just went there.)
We damage his name when we push for male leaders in church to receive funds for their ministry, appropriate pay and title, and continuing education while denying it for their female counter-parts.
We damage his name when we beat people up with our religion instead of listening to them and loving them.
We damage his name when we applaud what is wicked and criticize what is good.
We damage his name when we deny others the freedom that we simultaneously demand for ourselves.
We damage his name when we judge others instead of remembering how we have been forgiven.
We damage his name when we mistreat each other in the name of “witnessing.”
We damage his name when we abandon the needy, weak, marginalized, aged, or hurting.
We damage his name when we refuse to own our sins and, instead, justify our ugly behaviors or minimize them by using more palatable wording so that we can feel better about ourselves.
I could go on and on forever with this. At some point, we must quit tolerating the abuse of power. If we are the ones with power, God’s blessings are not limited…there is no need to try to hoard it. If we are the abusers, yes there is forgiveness…the gospel is not too small for any sin…but that doesn’t mean that accountability is void. If we are the survivors…and hear me on this…please hear me…our pain is not to be wasted! It can become a beautiful place that will allow us to minister to others and understand the hurts of others if we allow it. If we are the ones without power, our God is the God Who Sees us (El Roi) so he clearly sees the power-mongers and they will be held accountable.
How are you doing with this? Did any of these points make you wince a little or bring a specific incident to mind? Is there some way that you can pursue a more truthful and authentic way of living this out? Is there someone that you feel you should apologize to? Is there forgiveness that you can extend to someone regardless of whether or not they have asked for it?
My prayer for us tonight is that we would simply love each other better. I am praying that instead of constantly grappling for power or position or status or whatever, that we would see the truth of what is important and life-giving and pursue it with abandon. I am praying that we would try to squeeze every bit of living out of this life while we have it instead of pursuing the things that lead to our physical, emotional, and spiritual death. I am praying that we would also learn how to receive love when offered by others.
Much love friends,
When I think back over the last 40 years…and think about the times when I hurt others, either intentionally or unintentionally, I can see how my mouth seemed to play the biggest role. Either I said something insensitive and hurt someone with carelessness…or I said something hurtful intentionally to get some emotional space in an argument…or I didn’t say something comforting and loving when I should have…or I felt awkward and did my nervous babbling thing and it prolonged something that I should have let die down. I can remember specific instances of hearing unjust statements made and not speaking against them…or nervously laughing…or…I’m ashamed to admit…contributing.
I can also remember being cut very deeply by words…and being a people-pleaser for most of my life, the person didn’t have to be in my inner circle to hurt me. I can remember spinning on the words afterward for hours or even days or weeks…not being able to let it go…continuing to re-live the conversation and what was said over and over again…going into “analysis paralysis” where I excavated every possible corner of my heart to see if there was truth to what the person had accused me of (even if they didn’t realize that they had.)
Words matter…and we can’t get them back. Written or spoken. Intentional or not. Once they are sent out, we don’t get a do-over…and we have revealed who we are.
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Matthew 15:18 NIV
Over the last year or so, I have been broken by the hateful things I’ve seen posted on social media by people that I wouldn’t consider hateful. And there were times that I spoke up against the unjust words in a gentle way in order to not escalate the hurt. And other times, I kept quiet because it wasn’t my turn to speak. Some times I saw others speak up in ways that brought people’s hackles down. And other times I saw others speak up in ways that just threw a hand grenade into an already tense situation. And it occurs to me that what we are putting out there is what is in our heart-space…it is the mark that we are leaving on the world…and it matters. Now, some will say that is why they don’t post or comment…and to them, I say…have a voice of truth…don’t be silenced. Others will say that they encounter so much friction because they are standing up for something…and to them, I say…stand up for someone instead of something.
I think our mouths were meant to communicate what is in our hearts…and hearts were meant to love people. So how are you doing with this? What comes out of your mouth? Is it loving? Is it truthful? Does it build people up? Does it encourage others to do what is right? Do your words accept responsibility for what you’ve done wrong or do you make excuses? Do your words encourage the hearts of the discouraged? Do your words gently speak truth into broken spaces? Do your words stand against injustice? Do your words represent truth about the one who is The Word?
My prayer today is that we would ask for wisdom and wait to receive it. I am praying that we would speak when we are meant to and that we would shut up when we should. I am praying that we would learn to be gentle with our words and that our words would be guided by a heart-space that is taught kindness from God. I am praying that our words would be a tool for healing instead of breaking…that we would build things instead of breaking them…and that we would, once again, love well. Finally, I am praying that we would honor God with what comes from our mouths…because then, we would also be honoring him with what comes from our hearts.
Much love friends,
“I think it’s all in your head. If you just quit thinking about it, you’ll realize that you are fine.” My body shook with rage as I listened to these words and felt this person slip away from my inner circle. My face was hot and my breathing got faster and I was very aware of my heart beating fast and hard…so hard that I was sure that it must be moving my shirt on my chest. The only thought I could pull together was “You are not a safe person for me anymore. You simply are not safe.”
This interaction happened in the year following the poisoning when I was going through hell. At the time, I was trying to regain my health through very extreme measures…I was dealing with bitterness and anger toward the man who had stolen my life from me…I was mourning the loss of the life that I had before…I was spiraling in a spiritual crisis…I was facing the isolation that accompanied my decimated health because people simply didn’t know what to do with me and consequently quietly pulled away…I was feeling guilt and shame for not being able to contribute to the family in any way…and I was already battling thoughts of suicide. And then I had this person tell me that all of my health issues were make-believe. What he really wanted was for me to get over it so that he didn’t have to feel any awkwardness. But if I could have just made it disappear with positive thoughts, don’t you think I would have? If I could have taken any shortcut out of this…anything that would make it end…I absolutely, without a doubt would have taken it…but there was no shortcut…there was only through.
Why am I writing about this? Good question. I think that we have an epidemic today. I think that we are so busy being busy that we don’t take care with our words…we are careless and we injure people. I think that we are so stuck looking at things from only our own point of view (and surrounding ourselves only with people who will validate our own point of view) that we think we are qualified to pass judgement on things that we honestly don’t know anything about. I know that my story is extreme…I haven’t ever come across anyone else who has experienced it…but I’m using my story to make the point…nobody could even get a glimpse of what I was experiencing unless they took the time to hear me…and in my brokenness, I found that people didn’t want to hear me…what they wanted was for my experience to be simple and neat and tied with a bow so that they could consume the cliff notes version, file it under some already existing category in their minds, and move on. And I frustrated people because their pre-made categories didn’t work with my story.
The thing is, I don’t think my experience is unique (the poisoning…yes, that is unique…but being helpless to have people understand before passing judgement…well, I think that happens to people every single day.) I think that this happens when a new mother is dealing with depression and people tell her that she has no reason to be blue. I think this happens when someone makes a political statement and we dismiss them as a crazy/stupid/illogical/heartless person from across the political aisle from us. I think this happens when a person of color simply makes a truthful statement that black lives matter and people scream back that all lives matter. I think this happens when a person struggles with mental illness and people ignore it because they look ok on the outside.
I guess the point that I am trying to make is this: In a courtroom, not just anybody can be brought in to speak about certain matters…people who are qualified to speak on a subject…experts…are brought in (and their credentials are heavily scrutinized)…so why do we think we are qualified to pass judgement about things that we don’t know about? Why do we try to negate the experiences of others when learning from people that are different from us can only broaden our knowledge and deepen our compassion?
This one was hard for me to write. Not only did I struggle with reliving that memory and the feelings that go along with it…but I also struggled with facing my own guilt in this area. How about you? How are you doing with this? Do you spend time with people who are different from you? When you hear a perspective that is different than yours, do you take it in and crunch on it a while or do you begin to mentally rip apart their experience so that you can negate it? What do you have knee-jerk reactions about? Do you actively seek out people who stand counter to you on those subjects so that you can have a deeper understanding or do you surround yourself with people who will agree with your current stance (making it unnecessary to allow your self to become uncomfortable and brave enough to lean in to the discomfort?) Are you still learning something new every day or have you embraced becoming stagnant?
My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who are confident enough to allow others to be authentic also…that we would love people enough to listen and really hear them…that we would step away from our battle stances and step closer to someone who is different from us. Friends, I am praying that we would each draw closer to God and allow him to move us closer to each other. I am praying once again that we would love well.
Much love friends,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
I was blown away! This man was making such a generous gesture…I know it wasn’t purely selfless…but it certainly was generous and the reason it spoke so clearly to me…it was to benefit my kids. (If you ever want to love a mother well…just be kind to her children.)
I had this under control. My friend’s car battery was dead in the Kroger parking lot and I have a “dummy-proof” jumper cable kit. (It labels exactly how to jump a car with pictures and everything so that you don’t do something stupid and electrocute yourself…perfect for a distractible gal like me!) But before I got the first clamp on the dead battery, a man that I didn’t know walked up and began to help. And then another man walked up and began to help. And then another! In under a minute, my friend’s mini-van was up and running and then all of the men just sort of disappeared…not in a mystical way…but they quietly left as suddenly as they had come to help.
“No, no. That is a mistake. I didn’t pay you that $800 yet.” What?! I sat there staring at him. He is a man who struggles quite a bit financially (is currently working several jobs to support his family) yet, when I made an $800 error in his favor on a transaction, he very quickly pointed out the error and made sure that I didn’t give him credit for paying more than he had.
These three events all happened Monday afternoon. Some of these people I know and some were strangers. Except for one, I don’t really know much (if anything) about how they view God. Yet, all three events were ways that God breathed life and love into me:
– Finances…there aren’t many topics that people find more personal than finances. How much money we have (or don’t have) affects almost every aspect of our lives and allows (or limits) the choices we get to make. Finances impact us strongly because we are confronted with them several time per day. There really isn’t much in our lives that isn’t touched by our current financial situation.
– Kindness…I honestly had the battery-jumping under control. I’ve done this before and, those of you who know me, know that I really pride myself on being an independent and strong woman who loves an opportunity to shock people by defying expected gender roles. (For example, just this week, I worked on projects that required all of these tools: a crochet hook, a power saw, 3-foot long bolt cutters, an impact drill, yarn, a sewing machine, multiple drill bits including several spade bits, and countless other things.) All that to say, I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to do things myself (kind of like a toddler.) But when these men appeared out of nowhere to help jump my friend’s car, all I could think about was how kind they were to help…not because I needed the help…but because they were willing to offer it so readily. (Think about it…there is no way they were all hanging out in the Kroger parking lot with nothing to do. They were certainly all moving about through their busy day when they saw us and offered help.) These men allowed themselves to put their days on hold just to offer kindness to a stranger.
– Character and Honesty…I had made a large ($800) mistake in this man’s favor. (While this could be grouped with the first occurrence (finances), what touched me the most, was how this man’s character was unwavering. That $800 would have meant a lot more to him that it did to me and he still went out of his way to correct my mistake. (I’ve seen people sell their character cheaply…compromise their values for tiny monetary gain…it seems such a waste to me.) “Your character will always go ahead of you and speak words – good or bad, words will be spoken.” – Gladys Lawson
The point? Well, first, as I have said many times: What you do and think matters. How you treat people matters. AND when you have opportunities to invest in someone else, I think God multiplies your efforts. None of these people were personally costed anything huge. The first and last didn’t take money AWAY from anyone…it just didn’t GIVE them any additional money. The second scenario only cost those men about 60 seconds…but the impact on me was huge because I was so touched that they were willing to stop their day…they SAW us and responded to a perceived need.
All of this just gave me some hope about the state of people’s hearts. In a world full of people who are always “looking out for number one,” it is nice to see kindness…and I would go so far as to say an abundance of kindness. I think we can all contribute to this mission. (Although Christians…please hear this…this is what it looks like to live out the gospel…it’s not just an event…the gospel is meant to be lived and shared through agape (selfless) love.) You don’t have to change all the things you are doing, you just have to change your mindset while you are doing the things you do. Look for opportunities to serve…to bless…to love well.
So, how are you doing with this? Do you often get chances to bless others but find that you aren’t able to? Is your schedule so packed tight that even if you were given a perfect opportunity to minister to someone, you wouldn’t be able seize that opportunity? Are your finances so lacking in margin that you couldn’t minister to someone or…even worse…might be tempted to violate your conscience in order to make some gains? How can you create more space in your time and finances in order to have those resources available for these spontaneous opportunities to love others well? These things can be spontaneous or planned…or even both. How are you loving others well in your life?
My prayer today is that we would seize opportunities to love well…that we would live outside of our own circumstances enough to see the circumstances of others…that in doing so, we would show Jesus to the world. Much love friends,
This morning I felt like the topic God was giving me was about the value in encouragement. I have experienced encouragement in some of the most beautiful and unexpected ways in recent days and weeks. But instead of musing about it today, I feel that I need to just do it so I am spending my musing time this morning reaching out to a few people I love and letting them know what I see through them. I may muse on this topic later…but for now, I am just going to go do it. Who could really use your encouragement today? In what ways could you be the loving voice of God speaking truth into someone’s life? There is no other investment in life with returns as great as taking a few seconds to express kindness and love to others. Have a great day! Much love!
A few days ago, I was observing an interaction between my two kiddos. It was going how interactions at this age frequently go: Michaela was choosing to be offended by some minor thing that Caleb was doing and was picking him apart. Then Caleb responded by being snarky and the result was that they were both bristling. Later, they toned it down to being more passive aggressive. Nobody was being overtly ugly…it was just something subtle that I could “feel.” I talked with them and said that since Team Massey has defined our core values (We love God, we love each other, we love others, and we have fun) part of how we love is by being “kinder than necessary.” They looked at me with confusion and said, “…but we aren’t being mean.” *Face-palm* I’ve let them down if they are under the impression that showing Jesus to people means just refraining from being ugly.
We’ve had lots of conversations since then about the difference between “not being mean” and “showing kindness.” As adults, we experience this kind of thing all the time (or at least I do.) You know what I’m talking about…like when you have made a hard decision and then you find that others who disagree with you aren’t actively attacking you, but they refuse to interact with you in any way more than the bare minimum that polite society requires…or failing to be invited to something that everyone else in your group gets invited to (but of course you discover that you were the only one not invited when you look at facebook the next day…or (and this one is my favorite) someone refusing to eat something because you are the person who made it and they are mad at you (as if you are trying to poison them with your food!) Not speaking, not spending time, and not eating are not, in and of themselves, meanness…but they aren’t kindness either.
So as I was trying to explain all of this to the kiddos, I had to use an example that they could understand: “Let’s say I am mad at you. If I punch you in the face, that is being mean. And if I refrain from punching you in the face, that is not being mean. If I want to punch you in the face, but instead, help you get your chores done, that is showing kindness. Kindness isn’t just the absence of meanness…it involves our motives and actions…wanting good for someone and altering my behavior, in such a way, that allows them to receive that goodness.”
Kindness, like love (in my opinion), is not passive. It doesn’t just happen. We don’t fall into it or out of it. It is a decision that we either make or don’t make: We decide whether or not to include the person who is having a hard time developing relationships, we decide whether or not to pick up that name off the Angel Tree and invest in someone, we decide whether or not to let that other driver in front of us (even when they are basically cutting in line), and we decide whether or not to be friendly and loving toward someone who is actively being ugly to us.
So how are you doing with this? Have you ever had someone show you undeserved kindness? How did it make you feel? Are there people in your life that you are supposed to be kind to but are settling for just not being mean to? How can you model kindness to others? To your kids? How does your kindness (or lack of) reflect what you believe to be true about God, the world, people, and life?
My prayer today is that we will honor God by being kind to those he loves (everyone.) I am praying that we would remember that God wants to lavishly love people and that we have an opportunity to be an instrument that shows them that. I am praying that we will not settle for “not being mean” but that we will actively seek out opportunities to be kind. Much love friends,
It hit me like a punch right in the stomach: I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I knew every word she said was true. Let me back up a bit…I briefly had a roommate in college that was not a Christian. I would go so far as to say that she was an antagonist to just about every belief that I held as a Christian. The event that I am referring to is the moment she called me out on my legalism. See, back then, I had lots of head-knowledge about Jesus and the Bible…however, I didn’t have the experience that I think is necessary for that head-knowledge to move into the heart-space. I didn’t truly understand grace because I had never really required it…I was a pretty good kid and didn’t get into much trouble. I kept my nose clean and kept my rebellion contained within certain, carefully-crafted parameters. I drew lines in the sand for what was “going too far” and I made sure not to cross those lines. But within those lines…well, I did anything that I damned-well pleased…so you can imagine the state of my heart and how I treated people…I was one of those Christians that makes people cringe: arrogant, judgmental, hypocritical, and I behaved in a way that reflected my thoughts: “If what I say or do causes you pain, it’s due to your own weakness…you should probably deal with that.” Yeah, I was just…lovely. Anyway, the moment that I am talking about is when my roommate, whom I held in a place of disdain and to whom I am sure I had condescended to, called me out on my bulls#!*. She did it to my face and only to me…there was no crowd assembled to watch my ego take this hit…she was to the point and did not exaggerate…and she was dead on. I wanted to debate her back into “her place” and I couldn’t because every single word she said was true and hit the mark. I haven’t seen her since that night but I have often thought about her over the years since then because she caused my life to take a completely different path…and I owe her gratitude for that.
There are several things that I learned from this girl; I’ll call her Mindy. First, Mindy spoke directly to me about the issue she had with me. She didn’t go behind my back and get a committee assembled to talk to me in a “safe group.” She spoke directly to the offender in her life…unfortunately, it was me. Secondly, Mindy did not exaggerate her points in order to make her side “more right.” I see this a lot when people fight/argue…we exaggerate things in order to show a larger difference between us and the enemy. Mindy didn’t do that…she kept her emotion out of her statement and stuck to only the facts. (I have since tried to emulate this when I have a disagreement with someone…if you don’t exaggerate or “amplify” what happened, then you are able to maintain your legitimacy when disagreements occur…exaggerating can cause you to be disregarded as easily as straight-out lying.) Finally, she didn’t compromise who she was…she simply stated who I claimed to be and how it conflicted with who I was being…and those two people were not compatible…in fact, they were in stark contrast.
I have often thought about that moment: my breath caught in my lungs and…for once, I had no quick-witted and harsh response. I could feel my face getting hot and I knew that I was turning red. I felt my fists clench at my sides and I could hear my rapid heartbeat in my own ears. My throat closed up. I could not have said something even if a retort had come to mind. It was as if she had held a mirror up directly to my face and I had to stare at the person that I truly was…and I did not like what I saw…what I saw was ugly…what I saw was the person that I was showing others…what I saw was a nasty mis-representation of “Christian”…and it reflected very poorly on the Jesus that I claimed to follow. That day, this girl who did not love Jesus, was a better representation of him than the girl who claimed to love him and be changed by him. “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15 NIV) Mindy did this…and it changed me…and I owe her a debt of gratitude for it.
My point? Glad you asked. I think that we often over-estimate our place in the world and under-estimate people from whom we can learn. Mindy was the last person in the world that I thought would help set me on a path to grow closer to God…but all these years later, I am still thankful to her for doing just that. I am grateful that she held an unbiased mirror to my face and made me take a look at the nasty reality of my life. I am grateful that she still took the time and energy required to invest in me in a way that I didn’t deserve…even if she wasn’t doing it for my good…even if she was just trying to knock the wind out of my over-inflated sails…good came from it. God can redeem absolutely anything and anyone for good and he did that night. I will forever be thankful to Mindy for allowing herself to be a tool in the hands of God that day.
So, how are you doing with this? Have you ever had someone hold a mirror up to you for you to get an honest and clear look at who you are? Did you like what you saw? Is there someone in your life that you need to learn from but your pride is in the way? Is there someone that you are called to hold the mirror for (maybe in a more gentle way than I described here so that relationships can still be salvaged?) What can you be doing to build into those around you? How can we better be tools of refinement for each other? What quality about you has God laid on your heart as an area for you to work on?
I’m praying for us to get honest looks at ourselves today…not so that we can become self-obsessed and ego-centric…not so that we can be falsely humble or self-deprecating…but so that we can be a better example of Christ and his love for the broken all around us…and sometimes, the broken is the person staring at me in the mirror. Much love friends,
I know it’s weird, but I’m going to share this with you anyway. I eat my emotions so it stands to reason that I also think of different people’s personalities in terms of food. Stan, for instance, is chocolate. He gets along with everyone and people always seem to be glad he’s there. You can mix him in with nuts, other sweets, or even savory and he will get along just fine. I, on the other hand, am a work in progress. I used to be habanero…people either loved me or hated me. I had a very harsh way of speaking and didn’t pull any punches which sometimes left those closest to me battered. I felt that if I injured someone with the things that I said that it was their fault for being weak. Yeah…that was me…there has been a lot of change in me (at least I hope there has been) in the last decade or so. I would say that now, I’m more like cilantro…people still either have a taste for me or not but I’m not as offensive as a pepper that will smack you before you know what happened. Some people find me refreshing and some people don’t care for this flavor but it’s less offensive now.
Why am I talking about food and abrasive personalities? Well, I’ve noticed over the last few days how divided people are (once again) over happenings in politics. While I believe we should be informed about decisions in our government, I don’t think that it gives us the right to lose our humanity with people who disagree with us. Gentleness is a characteristic of God and people who follow him closely:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, GENTLENESS, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV)
To the Christians who are reading this, please understand that you are a Christ-follower first and foremost. Don’t let your connection with a political party, club, group of people, work-place, or anything else cast your connection with Jesus in the shadows. I’m not saying that you should boast more about your religious affiliations…I’m saying that you should boast less and, instead, live out your religious convictions. If you are a Christ-follower, the verses above describe what should be flowing out of you…not unkind things about people’s character. I seriously doubt that people on either side of this debate “hate women” or have “zero respect for life.” I don’t believe that the two sides of this debate are as polarized as we would make this out to be. I believe that both sides of this debate truly believe that what they are pursuing is ethical and upright…but they are looking at it from different perspectives. When we imply that anyone that disagrees with us is morally bankrupt and thus is against God, we are making very strong statements on God’s behalf…that is very serious and I think that he takes that very seriously. When we make those statements absent of the fruit of the Spirit flowing from us, we are the hypocrites that drive people away from Christianity and Jesus.
The point? Simply that we all represent what/who we stand for. Let’s make sure we are representing accurately. If someone represented you incorrectly, you would get pissed. Let’s not do that to God please.
Praying for kindness and gentleness for all. May we all pursue a better flavor in our lives. Much love friends,
Saturday evening, Stan and I were able to enjoy a wonderful and unexpected date night together. We were supposed to go out with friends, but illness caused the friends to cancel and we already had babysitting scheduled…so we decided to use a gift card that we had and go to Mi Dia’s. They were out of reservations so we had to take our chances with a walk-in which meant when we got there we had to wait about 45 minutes. We were in no hurry and just were enjoying time together so we figured…no problem. In true Bekah-fashion, I struck up conversation with a couple that was also waiting for a table. (My mom still says to this day that I have “never met a stranger.”) After about 20 minutes, our table became available and the other couple was still going to be waiting about another half hour. I asked the host if our table would seat 4 and he said yes so I invited the couple to sit with us. Everyone was in shock: the host, the couple, and everyone who witnessed it. Realizing I had made a faux-pas, I told them to ignore me and not to allow me into bullying them out of their date night…that I hoped that they enjoyed their dinner and good night. A few minutes after Stan and I were seated, the couple sheepishly approached us and asked if they could still join us until their table was ready. Of course we both scooted over and enthusiastically invited them to sit down. We had a lovely conversation for the next half hour and got to know each other. By the time their table was ready, we had exchanged information and decided to get together in the future. Right before they left, the woman told me that the host had commented about us inviting them to eat with us: that he had never, in all his time working there, seen a couple who had been waiting for 45 minutes just invite strangers to dine with them…that he thought that was maybe the nicest thing he had ever seen happen in the restaurant. My first thought in response to the host’s comments was “That is so tragic!”
I think that is tragic because I don’t think that being nice to strangers should be unusual. I think it is tragic because I think that we don’t do “community” well. I think it is tragic because we don’t invest in others the way we ought to. I think it is tragic because I believe we are surrounded by people who are screaming out in their quietness that they are alone, and lonely, and dying in their silence for someone to care about them…for someone to see them…to see that they exist and that they matter. I think that in our pursuit of our own happiness and comfort, we seem to think that it somehow means the exclusion of the happiness and comfort of others. It doesn’t.
After that couple left to go to their own table, Stan and I were both energized and animated. We were thrilled to have gotten to invest in another couple (this couple was newly engaged and…in case you don’t know it already…we run the marriage ministry at our church.) We asked them to tell their story and encouraged them as they move forward. It was lovely and I think God was there in the middle of the conversation. I kept telling Stan “I was made for this! This right here! I was made for this!” We couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces…and it wasn’t just because of the margaritas…it was because we were doing what God wanted us to be doing and it felt amazing.
So, my question is this: Why don’t we do community better? Everyone likes having friends…why don’t we make the effort to be friends more often? Why is is so insanely weird to be kind to strangers? What is holding us back from knowing and being known?