An Exercise in Grace and Relationships

 

 

“My son didn’t find someone until he was 36.”

I was traveling out of state and visiting a friend of mine who is a youth pastor.  He is pastoring near a Christian college where I still have a number of friends processing through various levels of higher education, and it is great to be able to see a concentration of friends in one locality that normal life situations do not allow.

My friend came to me during the start of the church service, and told me that there were lunch plans if I wanted to tag along. “Sorry for not telling you sooner.” Of course, he hinted that I might be more interested in staying at the church and maybe the opportunity to get to know some young lady would pop up.  However, I was feeling a bit burned by two recent close encounters of the female variety, and was hoping for some quality friend time, so we left to head over to a local house for lunch.

The host was a very gracious lady who had been tipped off that I was coming as an extra guest, but quickly made a spot, and never conveyed in any way that she was put out by having me there.  We were very well taken care of, and I have to say, that of all the memorable dishes we had, the spinach put on a Leonardo DiCaprio Titanic performance. If I had to eat that spinach as part of every meal for the rest of my life, I would die happy.

Besides my friend and his wife, two other young couples rounded out the lunch party.  If I had to guess, I’d peg the three as mid-20s, 30ish, and mid-30s.  All still basically young, with no children.  Our host was a widow who had been married to a remarkable man, and I could still see his picture around the house.  And then there was me.  The hostess and I were seated on the ends of the table, with the couples across from each other, interestingly composed of an all-male side and an all-female side.

Our dinner conversation very quickly turned toward marriage and relationships.  Each of the three couples told the stories of how they had met and fallen in love.  I always love to hear the stories of romances, one, because I like the stories, and two, because maybe lightning will strike and I’ll hear some new facet that will finally help me sort this area of my life out.

My friends, and new friends, were able to share in detail how they met, and how the Lord has led them all the way.  I have to say that I’m grateful for these stories.  I’m grateful for personal stories of God’s guidance, and I am grateful that they each found someone solid to journey through life together with.

As much as I love these stories they felt very much bittersweet toward the end as the last couple was finishing their story.  Here I am, the loner at the end of the table.  I wondered if I was going to have to give some history of my relationships, or perhaps provide some justification as to why I am still single.  That, fortunately was not the case.

However, as we cleared the table, and moved over to the living room, the hostess asked me to tell her about myself.  I felt somewhat obligated (self-imposed, I have no doubt) to make a statement on my relationship status as a single, and said I hadn’t been so fortunate as to find the right person yet.  I think the hostess had asked me about myself to give me an outlet to contribute to the conversation without having to travel the same lines that the others had.  One or two people around the room said cordial, supportive things.  Some commented on the fact that people are getting married later in life now, and there were other short observations on reasons why people are getting married later now.

I have to say, I didn’t hear those specifically, I just sat there shaking my head in disagreement as my adrenaline started to pump, and I had to talk myself down from getting on some sort of soapbox about the pathologies of modern conservative Christian dating.  A friend noted with a smile that I was not agreeing with the reasons given.

Then our hostess, God bless her, also in an attempt to be supportive said, “My son didn’t find someone until he was 36.”

I had a shotgun blast of thoughts that raced through my mind.  More a surge of feelings than anything else.  Frustration that things haven’t worked out for me yet. Disappointment in near misses that weren’t my fault. The inner fear that any 30-something single feels.  And then I said something I am now ashamed of.

“That’s wonderfully comforting, I’m sure.”

That dear, sweet lady was just trying to be helpful.  My statement was a declaration that that particular attempt was unhelpful, and somewhat insulting.  She was letting me know that God has different paths for people, and that I am not alone in the path that I am traveling.

She graciously allowed a change in topic, and we moved on.  We had to leave shortly thereafter, and she saw us to the door, and she made a point in letting me know she was glad I was there.

As I’ve had time to reflect on the experience since, my reaction was selfish.  I made the moment about myself, and my feelings.  I put my host and the other guests in a potentially awkward setting by my response.  Even if I might not find that type of statement to be particularly helpful, I really should appreciate the attempt that someone else is making to relate, as well as acknowledge the hope they are trying to extend to me through their own experience, or the experience of others.

I regret what I said and hope I have the opportunity to apologize for it at some point.

We need to acknowledge what others do for us in good will.  If our negative reception causes the well of warm feelings that flow to others to abate one drop than they otherwise would, woe is us.  We should encourage others, even as they are encouraging us.

So frail, so ignorant, so liable to misconception is human nature, that each should be careful in the estimate he places upon another. We little know the bearing of our acts upon the experience of others. What we do or say may seem to us of little moment, when, could our eyes be opened, we should see that upon it depended the most important results for good or for evil. – Ministry of Healing, p. 483

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