Last month, I shared a cartoon about homeschooling that gave me a chuckle because it struck way too close to home for us this year. (My daughter is now scheduled to finish her Algebra lessons about three days before we begin the next school year in a few weeks.)
This month’s true story recounts a touching connection of friendship that was interrupted by an embarrassing rescue.
Several ladies I know and love have put together a plan to have monthly devotional/relationship-building meetings to help all of us learn more about each other and grow closer as friends.
“What a lovely idea this was!” I think to myself while scanning the faces of a circle of women spread across a crowded living room during our second gathering. My attention is drawn to a lady in the corner as she stands up with a couple of sheets of paper that slightly vibrate back and forth in her nervous hand.
I send her a wide smile of encouragement as her trembling voice begins reading the heartfelt words she has so painstakingly prepared to tell us this evening:
“Share your weaknesses.
Share your hard moments.
Share your real side.
It’ll either scare away every fake person in your life, or it will inspire them to finally let go of that mirage called ‘perfection,’ which will open the doors to the most important relationships you’ll ever be a part of.” *
I don’t know if you remember or not, but last time we met we went around the room saying something about ourselves that the others may not know. When it came to my turn, I mentioned me and my family performing at the community theater.
We were dressed as frogs and performed ‘Green-Eyed Lady.’ As part of my costume I wore huge swim goggles, I guess to resemble frog eyes … I also mentioned that the only way I got through that was that as soon we hit the stage my goggles fogged up and I couldn’t see two feet in front of me, much less the audience, so I was good to go and able to act a fool.
Everyone grins or laughs at the image of her and her family, all green and goggled. She glances around the room, smiles, and continues:
I need those goggles today! Believe it or not, my husband likes talking way more than I do. I tend to listen more than speak, which I guess in some circumstances is a good thing, but not for what we are here for today.
For some odd reason, when I get around you all I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged to do things that I would never do; I’m encouraged to be better; I am on fire for God. So when that sign-up sheet floated around last time, I was prompted to sign up …
For the last several weeks I’ve gone back and forth about what I would like to speak about today and over that same time I, myself, have evolved into the subject I’ve decided on. That subject is BEING REAL.
Over the last few weeks I’ve come to know more of you on a deeper level, and in turn it has allowed me to lower my infamous relationship wall. I’ve come to realize that once I got to know some of you better I found out that we are so much more alike than I ever thought.
We are told in James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” I believe that this is a crucial part in forming the relationships that God intended us to form.
I have to admit that you guys SCARE me! When I look at all of you, I see all the goodness that you exude. When we first started attending worship, I was so intimidated by you all. I felt as if I would never live up to any of you and your abilities. That you all were so much further in your walk with Christ, that somehow you all had figured out how to get it all right.
Looks of surprise flash across many faces in the room.
“Scared of ME?” I think in amazement. “ME… ‘having it all together’? Yeah, right!”
I didn’t feel that way because of anything someone said or did, but it was my own insecurities in all of their glory. You all have been so good to me, to my family, to each other. You all have shown me what being Christ-like truly means.
You see, I didn’t grow up attending church. Until I married, I never really had a christian example. So I’ve needed a huge learning curve when it comes to attending church, becoming a christian, and living the way I should.
As the years have gone by and I’ve continued my walk with Christ, I’ve grown to learn that I most definitely am a work in progress, and that is OK! The more I get to know you all, I understand that you feel that way as well.
We all fall; we all need start-overs; we all need examples. What is important is that we get back up; we brush ourselves off, pray to the Father, and start again.
What is also important is who is there when we do fall. My hope is that when–not if, but when–I fall that you all will be there. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.”
A few eyes around the room are getting misty as we all meditate on the meaning of her words that strike so true.
So, I will begin…This is me, being real. Hi, I’m Tabitha.** I often fall short, and I sin. I do things that are against God and His word. Do I regret it? Yes. Do I pray for forgiveness and repent? Yes. Do I need your help? Yes.
Everyone’s eyes are glistening now…
More times than not, I’m a wreck. If you come across me and I appear to have it all together, I promise, I do not.
You may see me smiling while coming through the door on Sunday morning, but there is a high probability that me and family were just arguing in the car. I work 50 hours a week outside the home. I have laundry piled up, and we eat out too often. I watch too much TV, I don’t work out enough, I get too many Pedi’s, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t study enough. I don’t reach out to the lost enough. Although I fail at so much, I try, I strive, and I keep on keeping on. I pray to God for forgiveness and strength. I love God. I believe in Him and His word.
This is me, me being real. I need each and every one of your help. I need you in my life. I need you as my friend. In order to do that, I need to be me, to confess my trespasses, and to know that you will love me as Jesus does…flaws & all.
“And she thought she wouldn’t do a good job speaking to us?” I think as I wipe a tear from the corner of my eye. (Yes, I’m a crybaby. I freely admit it.)
I not only need this, but I believe by doing this we are fulfilling a commandment given by Christ. Church and the christian relationships we form are just like anything else in life. You get what you give.
You can’t walk into the Church building, find your designated seat, listen to the sermon, and then as quickly as the final “Amen” is said, rush to your vehicle. Believe me, I tried; it didn’t work.
Over time, I found myself sitting in the sanctuary with this suffocating feeling of loneliness. As tears fell from my eyes, it occurred to me that there was something extremely wrong with this picture. I was sitting in a room full of the people who loved me most in this world, and my wall was so tall that none of you were getting over it.
If it were not for those who kept pecking and pecking at me week after week
She narrows her eyes and targets meaningful glances at several women, which elicits chuckles from many of us.
and for me fervently praying about it, I would still be covered in that feeling of loneliness.
So, this is me…goggles off, my heart shown, me being real.
My prayer is that this talk has made some sort of sense and it has fallen on loving ears. Thank you for listening; I love you all.
Tears and hugs are shared all around, amid exclamations of praise and approval. Tabitha has opened her heart, taking a risk by reaching out to her friends and allowing us to do the same.
What a blessing friendship is! It requires nurturing and commitment from both sides of a relationship, but what rewards it reaps!
Once our eyes are all dried (for the most part) and all the sniffles snuffed, we are encouraged, in order to further “break the ice,” to share either our scariest or funniest moment we can remember.
The first story involves a misunderstanding in a foreign country: several people yell animatedly at a woman in a vehicle who is waiting for her husband to return. She sits huddled between piles of luggage, weeping aloud with her children pressed to her chest, thinking she was about to be attacked or even murdered…until she finds out they men were only trying to tell her she was in a vehicle where children and luggage are not allowed.
I smile and think to myself, “That was a good one! Scary AND funny!”
During the next story, I notice I had missed a text message from my spouse. I step out of the room to try to contact him, with no success.
Hearing a pause in the conversation, I walk back through the doorway, raise my hand and announce, “I have a funny story to share!”
Everyone settles in and kindly gives me their attention, so I begin, “I just noticed this text message from my husband. It says…’Your husband has run out of gas near the Tinytown** exit. Forgot I was low. Light never came on. If your meeting is almost over I’ll wait for you. If not, I can walk back to Tinytown.’ “
A loud round of laughter and expressions of “Oh, no!” erupt around the room.
“So, where is he now?” one lady asks.
“I don’t know. I tried to call him twice, but he won’t answer.”
“What are you going to do?” “How will you find him?” Other women inquire.
“I guess I’ll drive down the highway and search for a beat-up silver truck sitting on the side of the road.”
I proceed to explain how this is not the first time my dear hubby has been in this situation, and that his warning light probably didn’t come on because the bulb burnt out from being used so often. (I’ve seen him literally roll up to a gas pump because the car engine died as he turned into the gas station!)
“Are you really going to go rescue him? If he has to walk, he might learn a lesson.”
Upon hearing this comment, I can’t resist a brief recount of the time my husband walked seven miles in penny-loafers at 2 a.m. after running his gas tank empty. (Remember those shoes? Those were not built for comfort! Ahhh, the adventures we had in the days before cell phones!)
All joking aside, though, I am beginning to get concerned that he is not returning my calls. It has already been over 20 minutes since he sent the text message so my daughter and I share a few more hugs before bidding an early goodbye to our friends.
Another 20 or so minutes later, I turn off the highway at the Tinytown exit. I turn left to cross over the freeway and ask my daughter to look farther down the freeway from the bridge to see if she can spot her daddy’s truck. Nothing.
After coming down off the overpass, I spot a tiny figure in the distance, bobbing along through the tall grass beside the highway. Relief relaxes my tension and I debate whether or not to blow the horn and watch my husband jump like a scared cat. (Yes, along with being a crybaby, I must also admit I can be a little ornery, too. Lol)
As we draw near, I can see that my poor man is dressed head-to-toe in navy blue and black synthetic dress clothes that are clinging tightly to his sweaty frame. The air conditioner in the car is blasting on high to combat the 98 degree temperature and nearly 100% humidity of the sultry summer evening. I decide to have pity and give only a small beep on the horn to alert him of our arrival.
He turns around with a guilty grin on his face as we approach and quickly climbs into the back seat with a sigh of pleasure at feeling the cool air blowing. He says he decided the 45 minute walk was a better alternative than sitting in the “oven” of his truck.
On the way home to get the gas can, my husband declares, “I wanted to walk more, so I definitely got my exercise today!”
I appreciate his positive attitude. When it’s all said and done, why not try to have a laugh about the situation, rather than letting it ruin your day? He was glad to discover that his new shoes are comfortable (and well broken-in now), and he’s sure he must have sweated some toxins out of his body.
He arrives home later after filling the truck’s gas tank to the brim at a nearby station. I hear him immediately go to the kitchen to prepare a tall glass of ice water; then he steps into the living room where my daughter and I are reclined on the couch, turns sideways, and asks, “Am I thinner?”
I just shake my head and laugh, wondering how long it will be before we get to do this all again.
If you’ve read this far through this post, you are a patient person, indeed. Before you go, I’d like to reward you with the following tidbits of wisdom.
From my husband:
Wow, those off ramps from the highway are SO much longer than they look! They don’t seem long at all when you’re driving, but WHOA when you’re walking they seem to go on FOREVER!
If you run out of gas right after an exit on the freeway, it’s not the best choice to coast as long as you can before pulling over. It just means you have that much farther to walk back to a gas station.
From my father:
Gas up your vehicle when it gets down to a quarter of a tank. That way you won’t suck up into your engine as much of the junk that has settled to the bottom of the tank, and you won’t ever end up sitting on the side of the highway because you ran out of gas.
[*quote by Dan Pearce in his book: Single Dad Laughing]
[**Names of people and places have been changed for privacy.]