The Unexpected Reply
We all know “those” people. They aren’t really evil or stupid or even ugly. They just rub us the wrong way. Recently I was in a meeting of sorts with two of them. One is a very social person and it is hard to remember that she is “one of those”. However, at some point, she will say something and then I remember…I really don’t like to be around this person. It isn’t that she says crazy things or even offensive things. What she says, though, is not consistent. In other words, she says it is cold to one person and then turns around and tells another it is hot. I don’t like to be around people that I don’t think are honest or trustworthy. She isn’t evil; I just know that what she says at 2:05 is not going to be what she says at 2:06.
The other person, the other “one of those”, is a different matter altogether. We are not exactly contemporaries so perhaps that has something to do with it. I do have friends her age so I can’t put all the blame on the age difference. We just are really, really, really, different people. We have different likes and dislikes, different priorities, and – most importantly – a different definition on what constitutes rudeness. She also is not evil per se; she is just someone I do not like being around.
After having spent all day with both of these people, I confess that I was a bit short on patience when I happened upon one of them today. Again, I was involved in meetings but this time, the meetings were with other people. So, when I saw one of my “those people” from my weekend meeting, the one who is always rude, I was not happy. “Really, God?” I asked.
If prayer in a conversation, then I pray a great deal. My supreme deity is an entity I call God. I don’t get too worked up about knowing this deity’s sex or facial constructs or hair color, etc. Sometimes my God looks like something from the Sistine Chapel and other times like George Burns the actor who starred in a delightful film by Carl Reiner entitled “Oh, God!” (I found it perfectly understandable and delightful that a Jewish movie producer made my favorite movie explaining Jesus.)
Perhaps my conversations with God are not exactly prayer. If they are praying, then I will readily admit they would probably fall under the classification of selfish prayer. Often I give thanks, sometimes for the smallest of things like a parking space or long green light at the traffic signal that lets me make that left-hand turn without waiting. Usually, though, they are just what it was this morning: “Really, God?”
I admit I pray this particular prayer or have this particular conversation with God a great many times. Usually it is when I have been “chosen” – i.e., told I volunteered for something – or when I end up needing to make sixty cupcakes in four hours, etc. Sometimes that is my response when the sink backs up, it snows thirty inches, the heel on my shoe breaks just before an important function….You get the drift. Some people respond to these types of things with curse words. I ask: “Really, God?”
So today I have several meetings and very little time and suddenly I spy this person who is, I will confess, very near the top of my list of “those persons”. This time I am not meeting with her so…Yea! And, even more to my delight, she is at the end of a hall with her back to me so I can easily avoid her and I do. Double Yea!!!! I have my meetings and they go smoothly. I take home more work but it is interesting work so I start to leave thinking it has been a good morning. I pause to be cordial to the secretary on my way out when…Bam. Guess who walks up behind me? Yep; my “one of those persons” person. “Really, God?”
Now if you haven’t already figured out by reading this blog and all my typos, I am not a perfect person. I am not the smartest, prettiest, tallest, most talented, most secure, etc., etc., etc. What I am, though, is of a definite mind. When I do not like someone, I am not wishy-washy about it. I do not confess this bragging. I am not advocating anyone follow my example. I am just admitting it to let you know that I really did not want to see this person. Moreover, I did not want to be nice to her. The problem is….My faith requires it; I have to treat her as I would want to be treated. I think this person is rude but I cannot, should not be rude to her. Sigh… And she is walking up with her hand held out saying “Hello!”
Oh. Joy. Hello. That is not exactly how I said it. I put on a quick smile and returned her greeting and handshake. Still, my mind is screaming that she is one of “those” persons and I am fervently trying to think of a reason I can give her to get out the door. Suddenly, this person who never shares anything personal but is always quick to criticize others starts sharing a story from her past, a very personal story. Sigh….“Really, God?” Clearly I am going nowhere anytime soon.
The first part of the story I did not quite catch because I was too busy mentally conversing with God, praying – this time an actual prayer “Please let me leave here very soon, Lord.” Suddenly I realize she is talking about herself when she was around twenty or so. This very straitlaced, rather rude, never thinking outside of the box (and it is a very small box), is telling about being…well, something of a hippie!
All of a sudden my “Really, God?” is not something said in exasperation but something said in wonderment! I mean, who would have thought it? This woman, who this weekend was very rude to a fellow meeting attendee because she is a bit of a narrow thinker, has a history that is not narrow-minded at all.
I never expected God to make her tongue stick to the roof of her mouth so she’d stop talking and I could leave, although that probably was very close to what my subconscious was thinking when the woman first approached me today. I am not even sure how I thought or expected my deity to extricate me from conversing with her. I just know that I really wanted to be anywhere else but talking to her. The reply I got to my mental prayer, however, was an introduction to another side of this women I would never have expected.
Sometimes when we pray we know exactly what we hope for, exactly what answer we desire. Sometimes, what we want is not what we need. I still do not think I will ever be BFF’s with this person but I have moved her from my “those persons” list to my “Don’t judge a book by its cover” list of learned lessons. Did God get me out of the conversation? No. Did I gain from staying? Definitely. The real lesson was not in learning of this woman’s past. It was in learning about my present.
The real answer to my prayer was in being reminded that everyone has a story. Every prayer has a back story and a future. We may think we know how that future should be written but often we don’t. Answers come in the most unexpected of ways and times. Who would have thought that one of my “those persons” would have given me such a great lesson?