The “Undate”

I suppose you could say God arranged this one–we certainly didn’t! It’s about as far from anything we would’ve planned for time together as we could get! It was Final’s week and my prince (the teacher) had the presentation for adult ed (on top of a mountain of schoolwork!), so he suggested saving our date for Friday, by which point we were both too worn out to even remember it! But we did spend a significant amount of time connecting on a personal, fruitful level. It went like this…

When the weather finally cooperated with my getting out to dig the garden, I dug up a lot of herbs that had gotten into the vegetable beds (mostly lemon balm, perennial green onions & horehound). Rather than kill them, I potted/bagged them up & offered them (along with a few other plants that were overpopulated) on Freecycle & several people responded. So far, so good. Then things rapidly spun out of control. One of the respondents needed directions (we meet people at the school where my prince teaches, since we live an hour away). I hadn’t the faintest idea what to tell her (I’m not a driver), but I looked up the address in the phone book, sent her that & said I’d have my prince get her something more specific later. He wasn’t fast enough for her. She protested (with minimal tact). So he looked up directions on the internet (she’s coming from the opposite direction & we have no occasion to go that way, so we don’t know the route) & sent her that. She protested again–she doesn’t live on that highway & he was sending her way out of her way! We were really short on time that morning, so he only had time for a quick reply, asking her to be patient & suggesting that she could look up the directions herself if she needed them sooner. She launched! Internet directions weren’t good enough & she was busy & disabled & how dare we hold out on her when we lived there & she didn’t?!

Up to that point, I’d been cutting her a lot of slack. I knew she had trouble getting around & some people just get abrupt on email, so I didn’t let it phase me. My prince was the one getting annoyed. But with this fireball I saw red. I really didn’t want my prince to even see it! I tried to reply tactically, explaining that we did not live there & had no way of knowing the information she was so imperiously demanding…but I was shaking so hard I could barely type. My prince (who was buried in grading papers behind me) looked over my shoulder, sized up the situation & asked to take over. I’d rather have spared him, but I was in no position to fight him for the privilege! I went out to finish digging a garden bed while he typed (good for working off the adrenaline!).

While I dug, I prayed (talking it over with God and praying for her) & pondered. Yes, there was some fuming, some trying to explain myself and the utter irrationality of it all. But I didn’t stop there. I’ve been reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus, by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, and the point that most caught my attention was his recommendation of seeing in each person an irreplaceable facet of the Body of Christ–that is, of Christ Himself–that is revealed to us in no other way. That takes some digesting! In this particular application, I compared Jesus’ Incarnation, the union of His perfect divine and human natures, with this “incarnation”, the union of His perfect divine nature with a very imperfect human nature. When Jesus walked the earth, His human nature knew only what His divine nature revealed to it–what He needed to know at any given time (that’s why Scripture can say “He grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men”, Luke 2:52). I could think of this woman as a new “incarnation” (as St. Paul says, “Christ is living in me,” Galatians 2:20), in which Christ had sacrificially taken to Himself an irascible human nature which was again without full knowledge. He’s done that with me! (boy did that give me something to be compassionate about!) Going on the lines of “Whatever you did to the least of these, You did to Me” (Matthew 25:40), I conceived of the idea of writing a response starting, “Dear Jesus,” saying what I felt needed to be said, and then going back and changing the name (and pronouns, as applicable). At the very least, I wouldn’t regret it!

Back in the house, my prince was taking precious hours away from his work to write draft after draft of a reply. The fourth one finally passed his standards of being mild enough and went winging its way through cyberspace. I didn’t ask to see it!–but he basically explained that we’d given her the best we had & if that wasn’t good enough we could just give the herbs to somebody else. It really wasn’t worth that much fuss. He also set the computer so any possible reply would go to his personal email folder so I wouldn’t have to see it.

He’d been doing his own pondering, asking what it was in this lady that reminded him of himself (it’s been well said that if something really gets to you about someone else, it’s probably reflecting a part of your own personality that you hate). That’s not a meditation for cowards!

The next morning there was a message in his folder. He told me she wouldn’t be coming for the herbs. Apparently her husband got into the (one-sided) “battle”, with more of the same. My prince pulled the plug–end of communication with them.

It was sad. I wanted to do something nice! I wanted to give this lady the herbs. I wanted to make her happy. And I couldn’t…and over something so trivial! And how dreadful to be in this poor soul’s shoes–feeling abused when in actuality someone was bending over backward to do her a kindness! Heaven help her if someone really was “out to get her”! She’s driving away love, feeling like the world’s a hostile place, and never realizing how much of that is her own doing. Lord have mercy.

It made me think of Jesus, Who still gives Himself totally to us and for us, yet is still so often cruelly accused and rejected. He still tries to do us good in everything that happens, and we think He’s “out to get us.”

I also thought of my history with Mittens, the more “irascible” of our kitties (the one most like me!). Although she’s usually pretty cooperative, if she feels “pushed,” she will dig in her heels, hiss & even nip me when I try to get her to go somewhere (even if it’s for a treat!). Early on, when that happened, it hit my anger buttons big-time. I flew into a rage! This happened several times. I wrestled with that…and over time (I can’t quite explain how, except that grace had a lot to do with it!), finally got to the point that I no longer took it personally. Mittens can hiss and nip and flail with her claws all she wants and it doesn’t phase me. It doesn’t turn me into someone I don’t want to be. No, I don’t enjoy it, but I can calmly call her a sweet kitty (calling forth what she is at heart) and firmly get her where she needs to be. I haven’t quite figured out how to transfer that ability to relations with people. With a cat, I’m the superior. I know what’s good for her better than she does–and she’s small enough that I can just pick her up & put her where she needs to be! That makes it a lot easier! And it’s not true with people. I can’t assume that I always know what’s best for them, or that I have all the information or that I’m always right. I think the key is that I do have the God-given ability to be who God made me to be, made in His image and likeness–to not let another person turn me into someone I don’t want to be. That’s still very much a work in progress!

That day I went to school with my prince to spend the day in the chapel with Jesus–and to meet the ladies who were still coming for plants. Normally I start my prayer time on the hour-long drive, but my prince & I were both emotionally keyed-up over this exchange so we talked instead. He was feeling the accusations that had been leveled, among other things. I remarked that we’d just been spewed with toxic shame. It’s not about us. We just happened to get in the line of fire. I suggested he apply “spiritual rainex” to his soul so the crud would bead up & slide off. I was reminded of the drain he’d unclogged recently–the gunk he pulled out reeked & he wasted no time in washing it off of himself. This was spiritually/emotionally just as noxious. He liked that image–it made him want to run into the other room to wash it off! It got us both to laugh :). We talked about the sense of entitlement and the utter incapability to recognize another person’s perspective that had so train-wrecked this woman’s attempt to interact with us. Seeing it “writ large” made its ugliness stand out, where it’s not so obvious as a lesser version in ourselves. It was motivation to ruthlessly root out “baby vipers” (cute, harmless-looking versions of a deadly vice).

A week or so later, while following links from The Generous Wife, I came across this page, which had a pretty good description of what we’d just encountered. Having a reasoned description of what we’d experienced made me feel better–although the description of how hard it is to heal just gave me more incentive to pray for this poor soul! (and everyone who encounters her) “For man it is impossible; but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). I hope to see this woman in Heaven!

This whole experience has given us a lot to talk about and has been an opportunity to grow together. Although it wasn’t a date “per se”, it served much the same purpose!

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