Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fraidy Cat Fences in a Fraidy Cat World

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I'm in a relationship with life. It's complicated.” The words of her Facebook status jumped up off the screen at me grabbing me by the heart. I winced at her vulnerability. I knew all the successes and failures that led to that post. Her comment resonated with me because I felt her summation perfectly expressed my own sense of life: messy, complicated, and, often times, lonely.

Our paths crossed some years ago. We were both homeschoolers. I'm not sure we ever met face to face beyond more than just in passing. Despite that thin line of connection, technology has allowed us to keep in touch. She'd asked an occasional 'how to' question. I'd send along some info with a quick pep talk and wish her well. And so it went.

One frightful day, I got an urgent note that her family was in some distress. Danger actually. They were in hiding with police protection because of domestic violence. My husband and I went into emergency mode and extended help thru intermediaries. She got in touch when she could while the courts did what was necessary to protect her family. It was scary for all of us. Sadder still given her husband's reputation among their friends and church family. 

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
In time, she reported that life was more settled. She and her children were struggling but happy and safe. Time did what it does and meandered along at lightening speed. My preoccupations caused my memory of her to dim without my even realizing it. On a particularly perplexing day when I was feeling as if I was a tired, old rug no one wanted anymore, her name popped up in my inbox.

“You may not remember me, but I wanted to write and thank you.” She reminded me of the chaos she had survived and wanted me to know she was about to complete nursing school. She thanked me for the long forgotten help we had once extended. She spoke of how I had encouraged and inspired her. I cried like a baby. I still do when I think of it. A fraidy cat like me inspired a courageous young woman like her? Kinda takes your breath way, doesn't it.

Courtesy and in Loving Memory of Christina Jones Hooker
Last May when I launched this blog, I was mesmerized by those little pictures as they popped up one by one signifying another person had elected to 'follow' my ramblings via one mode or another. At first, I recognized my loyal friends. Then, the day came when a little mystery face popped up with a code name meant to maintain privacy. It took some sleuthing on my part until I was finally able to email her and ask, “Is that YOU?”

I could almost hear her laughing over the internet. “Yes. You got me.”She admitted she was a fellow fraidy cat. I cried again.

How improbable this complicated thing called life? Our lives mix and mingle, and then life moves us along to different places and times. Yet, the connection remains. She could not have known that, in just the moment I've needed to know I was significant, she would reach from the quiet and darkness of cyberspace to lift me up. In her darkest times, she had come looking for me knowing I was 'safe' to run to. Fraidy cat friends do that when masks are no longer needed.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
More recently, her life has been tough and lonely as the days of a working single parent have taken their toll. My instant message box popped up. “Pray for me,” and her fears, loneliness and fatigue leaked across her screen and into my heart. I told her I was and would. I told her that I expected to hear from her again over the next few days with updates. I kept checking back till it seemed the worst was over.

We have taken turns being each other's band-aid. Because we are in a complicated relationship with life. If you are reading this post, you know that reality as well as do my sweet friend and I. In this fraidy cat world, we are presented with far too many opportunities to separate ourselves from each other. We do it with as much expertise as the craftsmen who erect back yard privacy fences.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Christians raise the expertise to a fine art, I fear. We do it for honorable purposes because God's word says things like, “flee from all kinds of evil.” So, in the interest of raising uncomplicated children who are unsullied by the world, we wall ourselves off from families who make different choices or whose children struggle to find their way.

We justify the ostracism in spiritual terms and tell ourselves how much better off we are. We go another step and proclaim that the object of our ostracism will be better too because of our courage in distancing them. 

We forget, I fear. Jesus mingled with the publicans and sinners alike. He called a tax collector down from a tree and said, “I'm going to your house for lunch.” He said, “Be in the world but not of...” indicating we were to be active in our communities. He expects us to develop relationships with others whose faith-driven choices differ from ours knowing we can only do HIS work if we are out among the 'worldly world' to do the work required.

Yet, our fears drive us to put ourselves into the gear called 'protect' and make sure we keep a safe distance between us and those whose lives indicate a different level of spiritual growth and discernment.

Courtesy B. Creasy

We forget that God's word says, “There is no fear in love because perfect love drives out fear.” Love you long and strong fraidy cat. Consider the walls you have in place. Which ones serve you well? Which ones are there for your comfort but keep you from fulfilling your primary directive in life: love your neighbor as yourself. 

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