There are a lot of dangerous prayers out there. Right near the top with praying for patience is praying for humility. I'm not sure when I prayed it, but God sent me lots of lessons this past year. I've learned that the more I listen, the more I learn. I recognize the irony of now speaking out here to try to tell the world about that... so I'm not actually going to do any sermonizing on my humility. This blog was started as an expansion of updates on my recovery from breaking my back to include stories of ministry to keep supporters in the loop. This week has no updates on my physical progress or serving students. I did some, but nothing noteworthy.
Instead I wrote 42 thank you notes to the regular financial donors on my support team. I was humbled. Several of these people joined my team eight years ago when I signed up for a two year commitment. That's humbling.
I'm not here to sermonize on that, easy as it might be. Instead, since we're coming up on the summer solstice, I'm going to humble myself and tell you a story that starts last summer solstice at a borderline legal gathering outside my house. Sit back and get a glass of lemonade to watch my inner judgemental jerk face come out and be exorcised over the course of a year. I'm aware I'm posting this on the internet where anyone can find it, but I also know that of the people involved, anyone likely to read this post knows the relevant identities and has heard my mistakes and growth - and apologies when necessary.
So once upon a summer solstice in German pseudo-lockdown, my housemates hosted an outdoor gathering where a number of staff members were invited to our picnic table for some drinks and dinner and face to face interaction we all thought we were starved for (we'd not yet experienced the coming winter lockdown). I was friends with a couple people, but Amanda and Emily are much more popular and connected than I am, so there were also several staff who I knew by name only and had barely exchanged more than a few sentences with. At one point, I was seated near two people I wasn't familiar with who were talking about changing roles at the school. One was asking the advice of the other as she shifted from one position to another. I listened as the second person offered what I considered to be terrible and damaging advice. I bristled. I didn't know these people, and I didn't feel safe jumping in with a counterargument.
One of the things I've learned about myself is that in my worst moments, I withhold information from those whom I deem unsafe or unworthy of respecting my input. At my best I keep from opening my mouth when I need not; at my worst, we get to what happened at the end of the party... This was only evening time, though, and we were going late into the night as dusk settles late in the summer here, and the party would go on until past eleven. So back to my narrative where Emily steps in to correct the misguided information with gentle and wise words for the newer staff member. I kept quiet as much as possible without looking completely disengaged as the night carried on. However, I pretty much had shut down emotionally realizing that I wasn't in a group I feel safe with, and my own insecurities and social anxiety make me feel awkward at most parties without those kinds of triggers where people come across poorly. People drifted off in the dusk, but since the party was literally happening outside my kitchen window, I stayed at the picnic table til the last couple stragglers remained - including the one who'd made the comment I'd deemed "dumb."
As the stars came out and the last bottles and dishes were brought inside, this person was talking to someone else about middle names. "What's your middle name, Laura?" It was a natural, inclusive, normal human interaction.
I'm not a natural, inclusive, normal human, so I said, "That's a very personal question," and turned and went inside my apartment door three feet away.
It's one of my lowest moments. Not for the social awkwardness - I'm known for that. No, this was a low for me because I didn't deem this person worthy of knowing my middle name. Not only did I think they were dumb for offering bad advice, I refused to even share the most basic bit of information about myself in return. This came from layers of prejudice and judgment of someone who I knew had hurt one of the closest students to me and had very close associations with people who have hurt me and others I love very, very deeply. This person radiates hurt, and I responded with hurt.
I knew the significance of why the Lord asked me to have that very person pray for me to stand up and walk just a month later. I knew sitting there in that thunderstorm last August that the Lord was revealing my darkest parts when I was told so clearly this person was the Jordan River and I was arrogant Naaman asking to bathe back in Syria. I knew the Lord was humbling me when I was woken up the night after the interaction where this person said, "I don't know what Laura has to learn about suffering and lamentation before the Lord will heal her." I knew that lesson on humbling was still working out every night moving forward for the next six months where I couldn't sleep through the night without being burdened to pray for this person. I knew that God had more work to do when I moved my prayer time to waking hours and started to sleep better. I knew that God was working good fruit in me when I learned to speak well of this person I still have never had more than a handful of conversations with.
I've got a lot of evidence of the hurt they have inflicted and damage left done in this community, but I'm learning to undo whatever damage I create and to stop the cycle of hurt when I interact with lava monsters waiting to be restored into life giving goddesses. But I told you I wasn't into sermonizing this story.
When I felt prompted to ask this person to come pray for me, I texted the request and added, "My middle name is Diane." It was meant to be an olive branch, an apology. I don't know how it was received because beyond texting back their own middle name, I never learned any personal history directly from this person. Oddly enough, over the year, with only a small number of people who know specifically who I'm praying for faithfully, I've learned a string of disconnected facts that show a complex person who deserves a lot of love and compassion.
It was a great step of humility for me to actually reach out to that person in August and ask for prayer in line with what the Lord prompted me to do. It was a great step of humility for me to text them again after the hurtful words about God punishing me to teach me a lesson and ask for clarification. It was a great step of humility for me to try to confront them about it six weeks later after getting no response to my messages. In between interactions, I had all the time in the world to think the worst and ponder all the reasons they were dumb or arrogant or a jerk face or any other number of things. In one small group setting I may have shouted at three of my friends about how this person is an incompetent dummy... and I may not have used the word "dummy." I apologized to my friends soon after, recognizing regardless of what I think of someone, I should never speak so rudely - and was particularly apologetic that it was about someone who I don't really know. My comments were based on what very well could have been two of the worst days of their life - two bad days doesn't make a person's character.
Just last week, I sat at my table talking to a recent graduate about how he tries to give grace to others when they are rude because he hopes they will give grace to him if they encounter him on a bad day. I want to live out that same lesson in humility. My words may not always communicate perfectly, but I hope to be careful in speaking the truth lovingly while living it out intentionally as well. I've gotten back into the habit of sharing baked goods, and it's a tiny way I want to live well. I share them generously as I have been shared with generously by the 42 people who financially support me and the countless others who generously spend time in prayer for me. I'm so grateful that every person on my support team cares for the whole of me and doesn't dismiss me for my very real mistakes. Instead, I'm forgiven and offered opportunity to walk humbly in my ministry, partnering with other broken people to point students to Jesus.
I'll have pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies ready to share in a bit.