From One Hermit to Another

hermit crab

Last week my daughter Katherine had a package to deliver to a friend. But her friend had left town early so it had to be dropped off at someone else’s house. We had never met this woman before and when we were about ten minutes from her house, I suggested to Katie that she call and give a heads up. Just let the lady know we’d be there soon.

This suggestion created a sort of panic in my daughter that caught me off guard. I felt it was such a small and simple thing, yet she really, really didn’t want to do it. I think she would have rather crammed a hot poker in her eye than pull out her cell, dial the number, and have a short 60 second conversation.

At first I couldn’t understand it. But then I remembered The Funeral. The one that happened when I was about 8 years old. I remember staring (from a respectful distance, I hope) at the widower. He sat on a chair and greeted  friends with a polite smile on his face and agony in his eyes. My dad walked up from behind and whispered in my ear, “Why don’t you go over there, give him a hug, and tell him you’re sorry for his loss?”

A small and simple thing, yet I really, really didn’t want to do it. It wasn’t comfortable. It felt weird. And at 8 years old, I definitely cared more about my own comfort than someone else’s…grieving or not.

But, honestly, sometimes I still feel this way. It takes a great effort for me to engage in a one-on-one conversation with someone I don’t know too well. It’s gotten easier as I age, but it’s still a struggle. Imagine my anxiety over our recent move when I had a whole new congregation full of people to meet. I wish I could be more like my husband, Nathanael. He’s a natural at striking up a conversation with a total stranger, and he never met a person he didn’t like. I told him once that he was lucky it came so easy to him. To which he replied, “It doesn’t come easy at all.”

So, if Nathanael, the peopliest of people persons, struggles with this, I guess I don’t feel so bad. And I’d be tempted to give in to my hermit tendencies were it not for one thing: The Great Commission of my Savior. Ah, yes. It’s sort of hard to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel…” if I don’t know how to manage a simple  face-to-face conversation with someone.

That’s why I pushed my daughter to make that phone call, and why I push myself as well. We’ve become so comfortable with texting and facebooking and instant messaging that we don’t know how to have a real conversation anymore. I really like the Debra Mayhew who’s on facebook. She likes all kinds of things, seems really outgoing, is even funny once in a while. But I could have a gazillion facebook friends and we could always like each other’s stuff, and it wouldn’t be as real as one personal relationship that consists of face-to-face, respectable, caring, give-and-take conversation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for my facebook connections, but I view them as kind of a springboard to a more meaningful friendship. And more than friendships, which are wonderful, Christians are called to witness. How can we do that if we never pull out of our comfort zone and take the first step? While I believe it’s possible to witness online (the Holy Spirit works miracles of faith everyday) I also think it’s more effective in person. Jesus tells us to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). That love is easily lost in online conversations which have tremendous potential to be misunderstood, and tend to spin out of control with alarming speed. And the simple fact is you’re often conversing with a complete stranger who doesn’t know you as the caring, kind, compassionate person you really are.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him you are his sincere friend.” I would hope to win many to my cause, and not because I have all the answers or because I feel superior to others. Rather it’s  because Christ has won me to the same cause even though I was his enemy. His love for the lost (you, me, all mankind) is that of the truest friend.

So this is me, standing behind you and whispering in your ear: Why don’t you go on over there and say hello to that person? Why don’t you offer a hug? The Great Commission can be as simple as making a new friend and opening the door to a conversation that may not only strengthen your faith, but may also save a soul.

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13 thoughts on “From One Hermit to Another

  1. Well, that was lovely, Deb. I particularly like your description of Nathanael being the “peopliest of people.” 🙂

    Now why don’t you go over there and see what SCBWI people are doing in your neck of the woods? 🙂

  2. Great post! It is hard to put yourself on “Front Street,” as my stepson Paul likes to say.
    My mom dragged me to a funeral home when I was a teenager for a visitation for my old babysitter. She and her husband had lost their first child, a little girl, to SIDS. I didn’t want to go because I was afraid I would see a baby in a tiny little coffin. My mom kept assuring me that I didn’t have to go near the coffin — just give my condolences to Mary Frances. We do the funeral home, and what is the first thing I see? A baby in a tiny coffin. But in retrospect, I am glad I went. Mary Frances really appreciated it. I saw her several years later with a little boy and little girl, and it gave me such a joy that God had blessed her and her husband with more children.

    1. Wow, Ann. That would be hard to see as a child! But you’re mom is such a wise woman and I’m impressed with her compassion. And she must’ve been right, too, because you turned out to be one of the most thoughtful people I know, with such a big heart.

  3. Hi, Shannon! It’s so nice to hear from you! Thanks for leaving a comment – I would’ve suspected you and I are alike in this kind of thing. I remember you making me feel better about so many of my home school insecurities! 🙂

  4. Hi Debra,
    Sometimes I have to force myself to make connections, speak up, reach out. I once read that most writers are introverts even if they think they are extroverts. May be some truth to that. Hope you are settled in and enjoying winter.

    1. I would never guess that about you, Linda. You make it look so easy! And apparently your efforts are paying off – with the many connections you’ve made through your writing. You amaze me!

  5. I love to read your writings which I didn’t know about until after South Eastern Women’s retreat where I got to meet you in person. After hearing you speak and meeting you I would have never guessed you have trouble putting yourself out there. You are very inspiring.

    1. Hi, Christy! Thanks for leaving such a nice comment – you made my day! I’m looking forward to seeing you again at the retreat this September!

  6. It’s tough to put ourselves out there. I’ve actually become more introverted as I’ve aged rather than the other way around, and as you said, social media makes it easy to have connections from afar. It’s a struggle sometimes. The funny thing is that most of the time, when we do put ourselves out there, we end up glad that we did.

    1. You don’t seem introverted, but I suppose that’s not too surprising that you are given you’re a writer as well. I think we tend to get more comfortable with the written, rather than spoken, word. But I like what you said about being glad when we do put ourselves out there. I’m always glad I did, even if it’s just a feeling of relief when I’m safe back in my shell. 🙂

  7. So well said, Debra –Thank you — I have to remind myself of this every single day of my life. I pray for God’s grace to lead me where He wants me to go and be a help and light to others.

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