It is a beautiful thing to write with others. As Lisa Jo Baker says, “it’s like free therapy.” And after the week I’ve had, I need some therapy. And after a year with my husband in grad school, it had better be free.
Five Minute Friday is a community of writers who write without worrying if we are getting it just right. No editing, no over-thinking, just a one-word prompt and a timer set for five minutes. The rules are here. No blog? I actually started this just so I could participate; today is a great day to start!
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, art, civilizations—these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” C.S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory)
I hung up the phone, shaking. Adrenaline was coursing through my body and I felt waves of nausea. Did I really just say that? Did she really just say that? Who was that talking? That did not feel like the “me” that I regularly experience, the me that is married to Joel, mother to Isaiah and Asher, sister to Doug, friend to some, acquaintance to others but very rarely enemy to anyone.
Did I really just get into a fight over the phone with a woman I never met? A woman who was not in customer service at Verizon, that is? I’m in a daze. It has been years since I’ve experienced something like that. Yes I sin. I use words that are harsh when gentleness is the true answer. I opt to count myself first in line when I should step behind in service. I do selfish and stupid things daily and I confess with the church: “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”
This was very different (although likely very much the same). The details don’t really matter. A friend’s words ring through my head: “It is much easier to take offense than to pause for self-reflection.” So I breathe and I pause and I ask, “Was that really me? Why was I drawn out in that way? What exactly just happened?” The answers are a mile long. But the keystone in the answer is that I forgot what Jack taught me. (Disclaimer: I have no personal relationship with C.S. Lewis (who died when my mom was 13 and I was 17 years away) but I still like to call him Jack.)
That woman, her attitude, her unwillingness to be honest, her name-calling and inability to hear me, her defensiveness, the ugliness that came forth from her is not in line with who she actually is. At least as far as knowledge is available to me, she is the embryo of an everlasting splendor. I had a chance to draw her deeper into the love of God and, while I pray that some of the difficult truth I spoke will do that, I missed that boat. Or perhaps it’s more true to say I kept one leg on the shore of having the last word and stretched with the other leg to the boat of love setting sail, splashing uncomfortably in the ocean of sinfulness as the boat gentled away from the coast.
And me? I’m guessing that the future phone conversations she will have about me will not reveal that she saw me as the beginning of an everlasting splendor. (One of the things I did without gentleness was point out that these phone conversations that were previously had do, in fact, fall under the category of gossip; my best friend said as I shared the wrong I had done, “Wait, wait, did you just think that or did you actually say that?” Her head was in her hands as I nodded yes to actually saying it.) I was a horror to her and without the work of God in her heart, I will remain so in her mind.
So I choose to intentionally put this woman and these words and the whole situation in the hands of Jesus, who graciously receives such a terrible gift. He holds her for me; he holds me; he holds all the brokenness that spilled out from two daughters.
My eighteen month old screams “Zay-yah!” with disgust. He runs to find me in the kitchen pointing and repeating his version of his brother’s name. He rubs his head and the injustice of it all pours forth from his tiny face, those precious eyes. I don’t laugh even though I want to. I call to Isaiah and ask what happened. Offended at the unjust accusation, he defends himself. It all comes into view. I’m sad that they are fighting, not experiencing one another in love. I’m also amused a bit at the righteous indignation of a very adorable 18 month old who still speaks in mystery. I see us both from God’s view: these two women, both partly right, both wholly wrong, both holding tightly to Jesus only to find we are gently held by him. Lightly cupping his hands, he holds us, wounding and wounded at the very same time.