Dark sunglasses hid my tear-stained eyes as we made our way into the church. With a wad of Kleenex in one hand, I tried to creep in quietly because I wasn't in the mood for small talk. Honestly I don't like banal small talk to begin with as I dislike superficial conversation and yesterday was certainly not a day for idle chit-chat.
We currently attend a small, start-up church so it's not like we walk into a sanctuary or a fancy building. Our church is actually an elementary school. There is no organ music or choir, our chairs are not pews but just folding chairs. It's fairly modest and it's hard to "disappear" into the crowd.
But I safely made it into the gymnasium which is where the service is held without really saying anything. Whew! My emotions were very raw and close to the surface and it was all I could do to not bawl my eyes out. Maybe some people thought I was a rock star or something because I kept the sunglasses on as I waited for church to begin. Wait a sec, is that Hannah Montana? No, it's just Cindy the crying West Point mama! HA!
I certainly wasn't giving off an aura of "hey, somebody talk to me." I have always been the kind of person that for some reason doesn't get accosted by the people at the perfume counter. Even though I am rather petite, I guess I give off the impression that I shouldn't be squirted with the latest fragrance. I don't usually have to worry about people approaching me in an unnecessary manner.
But here I was, hurting, crying, sunglasses on, my treasured parka covering my aching mama's soul and suddenly I got blessed.
Someone hugged me.
She took a risk and hugged me. Her tender words reached into my sad heart and made it feel a little better. It surprised me, quite honestly because it was a beautiful single woman. We don't really talk too much although she is a very nice person. Heather didn't know why I was crying, why I was so sad but she took a second and reached out. And I noticed that I hurt a little less.
Then to my horror, the pastor asks everyone to stand and greet each other. "Puh-lease! Today is NOT the day! Can't you see I'm falling apart!," I thought to myself. I reluctantly stood up because it would have been looked more awkward to remain sitting on my gray, plastic folding chair. I felt sorry for the new guy who shook my hand because he had no idea how to respond to a crying lady in sunglasses but heck, at least he tried.
And then it happened again.
I got another hug. This time from Jessie, beautiful single woman behind me. In a broken voice, I told her why I was so sad and although she has never had a child, I felt like she sincerely cared. And I noticed that again, I hurt a little less.
Church was over. My sunglasses had come off during the sermon and I was gaining composure but I felt the tears surfacing again as we were leaving the gym. All I wanted to do was bolt for the exit but before I that happened, another woman came up to me.
This time it was Tricia, a mama and she asked if she could give me a hug. I gladly accepted and dutifully deposited some tears on her nice, clean shirt. Yes, I was still sad but something had changed.
So why am I writing this post? Because I want to encourage you, I want to challenge myself, to reach out. I wasn't putting out the welcome sign for any of these women but the love of Christ gave them the unction to see past my exterior. Despite the sunglasses and the withdrawn attitude, these ladies reached out. They weren't full of nice-ities and platitudes, they didn't pat me on my little head and say everything was going to be all right. They didn't placate me and give me some worn-out clique. In fact, they didn't even say they understood what I was feeling but those few seconds it took for them to be nice to me, I'm telling you, it ministered to me in ways they cannot understand.
In my work, I purpose myself to reach out to hurting teenagers. They are everywhere. In every classroom, auditorium where I speak, I can spot them so easily. Their personas can be hard and intimidating. Some have a seemingly inpenetrable attitude and I admit, I can be afraid to extend myself but I try to move beyond my insecurities and touch their heart. Sometimes with a motherly pat on the shoulder, other times with a listening ear. I have been blown off and it hurts but I still must do it. Interestingly, Sunday, I was on the receiving end and three people extended a hand of kindness my way.
Check out this Scripture found in Matthew 25. Jesus says, "For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was in prison and you came to me." Then he says to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it for me."
The physical hugs from these women lasted a short time but the impact of what they did is still with me. For that, I give great thanks. Go do it, dear friends.
PS. Shout out to my sister Lorri for letting me use her pics!