“What was the most memorable meal you ever had?” a friend asked everyone at the dinner table.
One by one each person described an experience of eating extravagantly prepared food in an exquisite setting. But it was hard for me to listen. Many spoke of restaurants Fred and I can’t afford–or think we can’t. But it wasn’t just thinking of eating at high-end restaurants that made me anxious. I remembered a few a fancy dinners out, but I couldn’t remember what was on my plate or the pleasure I enjoyed.
I was hoping no one was keeping track of who’d said what, but then I heard, “Esther, what about you?”
I offered a vague, adequate response and the conversation continued. But that feeling of being less than–the only one who didn’t measure up–lingered. I’m not generous enough, playful enough, present enough.
That’s the cost of being with friends: you get an instant report of where you fall short. At least, I do. It made me want to retreat to where being who I am is normal, but this damned report card has followed me home.
It takes me a day or two before I can share my feelings with God. In the presence of love, I know God isn’t confronting me about my inadequacies. Something more is going on here. I sit uncomfortably waiting.
My mind drifts back over the two days I spent with these friends. I remembered the tears each time someone courageously admitted what was hard or painful for them.
A thought emerged. What if I did that? What if instead of giving an answer to fit in, I said what was really going on for me?
I pictured myself at table and this time saying, “I’ve eaten some amazing meals in my life, but I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been so distracted that I can’t clearly remember a single one.”
If I’d said that I know I would have been met with the same compassion and acceptance I felt when I heard their honesty.
The gift of being known and loved, that’s what God’s inviting me to receive.
Jesus looked at him and loved him.–Mark 10:21 (NIV)
Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:
- When have you felt led to tell a trusted friend what’s going for you?
- What was it like to experience compassion and acceptance?
- How might that open you to experience the same from God?
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“Godspeed tells of the places and people who taught me the pace of being known,” writes Matt Canlis (left). “My desire to modernize the church ground to a halt in a Scottish parish. But the first speed bump occurred in a class with Eugene Peterson, which I expected to be fresh and innovative. Instead our textbooks were dated and the lectures slow. My concern was for the future of the church. We didn’t need to slow down, the church needed to catch up!
“The second speed bump was arriving in Scotland for further education, and putting aside my dreams to plant a church. Instead, I found myself pastoring a small Scottish parish which had been founded 1600 years earlier by St. Ninian. That’s when I discovered I had entered a new seminary–the school of the parish–and my teachers were the parishioners and their ordinary lives. By God’s grace and the patient mentoring of a mature congregation, I began my real formation not just as a pastor, but as a human being.”