Monday, August 29, 2011

Faith vs Hypocrisy - part 2

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Ever walked a tightrope without taking your feet off the ground? Sheesh! I had just watched umpteen thousand smiley faced women file out of that auditorium. I prayed it was just me and the cleaning crew left. Having waited so long to leave, I was afraid they were going to come throw me out and report me as a homeless squatter. Surely, I had waited long enough to be alone. Well, if I was the prettier girl with the fancier blog (no...I'm not mentioning the name Ree Drummond here but you know who I mean),
I'd have turned around and had that fancy schmancy sky box all to myself. But, NOOOOO!

I wanted to: Roll. MY. Eyes. (Don't you just love that Facebook has made it ok to write like that and throw grammatical convention to the wind when the situation calls for it?) There they were all rocked back in 'my' private kitchenette like they had no place to go and plenty of time to get there...all 2 of 'em. I choked back the desire to let out an exasperated huff as I rolled my eyes because I remembered where I was. For all I knew, those fine ladies were my husband's bosses' wives. Shoot. For all I knew, they were above him in the management food chain and WERE his bosses! So, I smiled, made my sweety-pie face, and put on the southern charm. Just in case.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Hey! How ya'll?” I chirped 3 octaves above my norm. “Don't ya'll just hate fightin' with awl that traffic after sumin' like this conference? Ya'll mind if I sit a spell and wait for stuff to finish clearing out? I thought I'd write a little bit while I kill time?”

Of the pair, one was obviously the 'line leader' and nodded her assent. It was then I noticed that the quieter lady was fighting to hold back tears. (To be fair, I had also noted her state earlier in the day but averted my eyes and minded my OWN business.) Awkward, as my kids would say. I had enough trouble of my own. I didn't need or want to know her story. But, you know how southern women are? I was doomed as soon as I turned around and locked eyes with them. Shoot! Shoot!! Shoot!!!

Don't ask me now how it got started because I was scared to death to open my mouth lest I be outed as the imposter I was. I was an other-worldy alien in a world of Jesus freaks trying to figure out what happened to the girl who had always tried to be his head cheerleader. I guess it is my mamma's fault. She never met anyone that she didn't ask in the 1st 5 minutes: 1) “Where do you go to church?” and 2) “Do you love Jesus?” She also taught me to respect anyone older than me and anyone in uniform. 
 
These ladies were older. Given my advancing years, that is a smaller segment of the population than it used to be. Mind you, I noted that fact and found myself even MORE irked than when I realized I was not alone. Anyway, I minded my manners and started making the appropriate mouth noises for the occasion. It must be in the genes.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I really fought not to say ANYTHING and just bury my head in my notebook. Instead I said, “Where ya'll from? Ya'll work for the company? My! Isn't this box somethin'!” Lord have mercy! They were from some po-dunk town about an hour from the convention center. If I told you, you wouldn't even know how to find it on the map. Me? Roll. My. Eyes.

Not only did I KNOW where it was, I found myself explodin', “Do ya'll know Eulalia Smith (*named changed to protect the innocent)? She's from ya'll's hometown and was my next door neighbor in college. Why, I was just thinking about her the other day because she is one of my all time personal heroes!”

Now, you might have guessed I was as syrupy as southern sweet tea as I spoke, and I was. But, I'm a tell you the truth, I meant every word of my admiration for her. She single-handedly gave me a higher bar to aim for in my early 20's. You can imagine that news was all it took for tongues to come loose at all the root-hinges. Next thing I knew, the quieter, more reserved lady was a boo-hooing. Her life story was pouring out like I was her long lost best friend capable of fixing every thing that had ever gone wrong in her life.

I didn't need her to tell me pain is relative, but her story merited flannel board figures in a Sunday school class. As shattered as I was, I was rock steady on my feet by comparison. She had just been discharged from one of many admissions to the very psych hospital where I had worked so many years ago. The one I feared I might end up in on the other side of the admissions desk!

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
As her history and admission would have recorded it, her precipitating events were the discovery that her husband of 20 some odd years had been unfaithful for many, many years. Within a couple months of that horrifying discovery, her talented, successful, handsome, popular 16-year-old son had committed suicide and left no note. He was home alone with his pre-teen sister while the mom and older sister had gone to the grocery store. Her family had once been pillars of the church and business community and quite prominent in their small town. I stared in the eyes of someone who could write my book entitled, “Who in the World Am I Now and Was I Ever Who I Thought I Was” with subtitle, “God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

I steeled myself to remain emotionally distant as she poured out how isolated she felt. She explained how her church family couldn't understand nor go the distance required for her to recover. After many years absence, she had only recently begun to attend again. The 'line leader' was one of the few that had reached out to her upon her return. The others, I guess, had been fraidy cats. What she had might be catching if they got too close?

Her family was in shambles. Her former husband had married the object of his illicit affection. Her remaining 2 children couldn't understand why, after 10 years, she had not moved on past the pain of betrayal and loss. As hard as they were trying to forge a relationship, they could not bear her struggles. To be fair to the kids, they probably needed a mom who was present in the moment for them and found her too consumed with her own grief to register theirs adequately. I'm no Dr. Phil, so that's just my guess after listening to her story. All I know is she knew my pain and had experienced it to the 3rd exponent. She'd get the fraidy cat in me if I told her.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
She paused in her woe and looked at me expectantly to see if I would reject her pain or the character of it. It was clear she was used to knee jerk responses from people who had 'a word' for her. She was poised to take it like a woman. If not that, she expected me to say, “God is good....AAAAAAAALLLLLLL the time...” in my most insufferably sanctimonious voice and then sing “Alleluia” stretched out to 3 paragraphs of syllables. Ha! She didn't know who she was messing with: Her Royal Highness, Queen of the Fraidy Cats.

I let the silence hang there for a bit while I wagered how big a hypocrite they would indict me as being if I did what I knew to do. My inner set of eyeballs rolled around in disgust with me. “Yea, they gone be REAAAAL impressed onc't they know all 'bout how strong yo' faith is Missy Miss. Whatcha gone say now?” I arm wrestled with myself. “How can I encourage someone like her when I'm here as an imposter?” I slammed my mental opponent down on the buzzer and declared the match over. I told myself what I was about to do was an ultimate act of faith and a victory over my pain vs the act of a divine hypocrite.

Ma'am? I know a bit about being lined up in front of the Christian firing squad. We Christians have spiritual ADD and can rarely hold on with folks to the end of the story God is writing. I'm so sorry for your loss and for the pain you've endured. I'm sorry for the further pain you have endured at the hands of those who ran out of patience. If you'd allow me, I'd love the privilege of praying with you before we all make our ways home. May I?”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
You could hear a pin drop but for the sound of her subdued weeping. Because I knew what a hypocrite I was, I asked God to perfect my imperfect prayers on her behalf thru the ministry of his Holy Spirit. Honestly, that is about all I remember of my prayer because I was so acutely aware of how horrified they might be if they knew who was praying and what my story was. I dreaded opening my eyes after the 'Amen' for fear the Holy Spirit had instead given them the 411 about you-know-who while I prayed.

The 3 of us took a collective deep breath and sat in silence together licking our collective wounds. Line Leader spoke up and said, “I think...I think you must be an angel...I've never...I've never heard anyone pray like that, and I've been in church my whole life.” (I started to ask if she'd been in an infant seat on the piano bench while her Mamma played the piano by day 3 of her life.)

The Broken One looked at me thru tear glistened eyes and said, “No one HAS every prayed for me like that. I've never heard that kind of understanding in anyone's prayers. Who are you?”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I took another deep breath and smiled a hurt and broken smile silently chastising myself for my hypocrisy. “I am simply someone who understands great loss. I understand that no one can really grasp the depth of your loss. In the span of a few weeks, you lost your identity as a wife, mother, member of the church, member of the community, and daughter of God. You had no time to recover from one blow before another hit. If you have not endured it, you cannot understand it no matter how much someone explains it. It takes one who has experienced great loss to understand it without explanation. Unfortunately, I fit that definition. And now, if you will excuse me, I believe I'll begin to make my way home. I hope you will look back on today and remember it as a turning point in your life. I will remember you and pray for that reality.”

I quietly slipped out of the sky box wondering who the angel had been that day...me...or them?

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4
(Bible in Basic English) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Genesis 28:16 (Bible in Basic English)
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it."

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful post as usual--just like you.

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  2. I thank you kindly...and your check will be in the mail shortly. ;-)

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