This morning I got an answer to a prayer from nearly a year ago. You may have read my blog about my friend Carolynn last year. Well, I had an encounter at her memorial service that had me asking for answers. The service was lovely and well attended as she had many friends and has a fairly large extended family as well. Afterwards, we were invited to greet the family, and then proceed to the fellowship hall, where there was a luncheon set up buffet style.
Well, I’m not big on waiting in receiving lines, and knew we would be seeing more of her husband Bob. So I wandered out into the foyer and spotted a couple we used to sing with, in a community group. They weren’t from our church, in fact the woman worked with Bob, and perhaps came only to support him. Wanting to be welcoming, I went over and said hello. We had some discussion about the singing group, which has yet another new director. They encouraged us to come back, but we were noncommittal, since it really put a lot of pressure on our schedules. After a while, my husband came and joined us, but then he wandered off, speaking to family members he knows and I don’t. I decided to join him and had one of those moments.
I don’t know if younger people experience this sort of thing, since the world has become so much less formal. When I was young though, we were quite concerned about minding our manners. It would be awful to be caught in some mistake. There were rules for proper behavior and one was supposed to know what to say in a given situation. Well, I often found myself in situations where I felt I was supposed to know the polite thing to say, but I was completely clueless. Whether I knew the right thing and could not call it to mind, or was so concerned about what others would think of me that I had performance anxiety isn’t so clear. The point is, I have only too often found myself stumped as to what to say, especially in larger social settings. I am an introvert and being polite is how I get through these crowd scenes.
At any rate, we had talked for some time and I wanted to break it off, but somehow it felt awkward, perhaps because they clearly didn’t know anyone else in the room, so I could not exactly pass them off, which is the easy way. So I made some excuse about catching up with my husband and moved over in that direction. Well, in a few minutes, the man made a big scene, because he took offense at that. He called across the room to say something to the effect that it was nice talking to you. Mind you, this is aimed at me, not my husband, who would be expected to have more of a relationship to the men in the choir. I wouldn’t say I was all that close to either of them.
I just smiled and waved, and then went home later and prayed about it. I was, after all, trying to be welcoming, and apparently instead he was offended and they will never come back. Nice talking to you… why didn’t I think to say that? Or did I say it and it wasn’t enough? I can’t recall now. At any rate, when I prayed, I did not really get any answer as to what should be done about it. All I could do was forgive him and hope he would forgive me as well, since I was not likely to run across him anyway. It had been years.
I’m sure though, that I asked God for insight, maybe a direction for prayer. At the time, I got nothing. Today, I could not tell you why it came to mind again, but it did. I realized that this man had always impressed me as being a bit judgemental. Who, after all made him the arbiter of all things involving manners? Shouldn’t he have mellowed out a bit with age? But he hasn’t. We were around him for around a decade and even went on tour with both of them a time or two, so it’s not like I’m simply jumping to conclusions. This man has definite ideas of right and wrong and he gets angry when someone doesn’t do something the right way, in his mind. That was probably why I was a little anxious about talking to them in the first place.
Now I was thinking along the lines of how I could apologize because clearly, my being raised in a somewhat Aspy family has left me with gaps in my manners. However true that may be, I’m not likely to have that opportunity and he might be unwilling or unable to listen. Still trying to catch what God wants me to know here, I went with the next impulse, that perhaps it’s not about me at all. What does he need?
Well that brought it around to how I could pray for him. You see, I realize he is one of those types, the enforcers of correct behavior. The world was full of them, when I was growing up, but most learned along the way, that the point to having good manners is to make those around you comfortable, not to use the rules as a club, enforcing strict conformity. I bet that he at one point was on the receiving end of that sort of enforcement, and set his mind to learning all the rules, so he wouldn’t ever be embarrassed again. But he never realized he became just like his tormenters, because he learned the rules, but not the reason for them. So I can pray that he learns to forgive, which will neutralize his anger, and that God will give him a heart of compassion.
Thank you, Jesus!