One word. That's all it took.
All it took to reach a deep and distant need I didn't even know I had. One two-syllable word to sooth a throbbing place in my soul.
If words are ever music to the ears then this was a symphony. A long and pleasing ballad played by an exquisite hundred-piece orchestra in the round. My heart seated right in the center, embracing all the depth and richness of a myriad of notes all infused into two simple syllables. The healing word he spoke?
Simply, my first name.
Called across a crowd.
Called out, despite my back to him.
I was walking down the row to make my way out of the worship center, so he had to call out to me if he wanted to speak with me. And he did. He could have dismissed it, but apparently it was important enough for him to pursue.
I was important enough.
With an about face I was greeted by the warm smile of an old friend. Yep, that old Young Marrieds class strikes again. We'd started that class with good friends many years ago, with hearts anxious to serve, anxious to encourage, and anxious to provide a nourishing place for these couples to call home during their new season of life. 13 years later that's exactly what God is offering MY heart through many of them.
He called out to me because he wanted to celebrate with me. Apparently, every time he and his wife see me in church, they are so encouraged with and for us. Six years since my initial health crash and they still recognize that it remains a monumental victory for me to be at church on a Sunday morning. Life moves pretty quickly and people lose track, but somehow they've remained in tune with our ongoing reality.
Which is pretty amazing in and of itself because how DO you stay in tune when you only see somebody sporadically at best, let alone rarely have a conversation opportunity to stay current?
You guys, it felt like somebody had just drenched refreshing, cool water on my parched and weary soul living in a hot, dry desert. Drenched. You know, like when NFL players pour the drink cooler over the coach in celebration of victory. That drenched.
The part that soaked me most was simply when he initially called out to me from across the aisles. It's been so long since another adult called out my name to get my attention that I can't even recall the last time it happened. I hear my name, Mommy, called out plenty. Sacred music to my ears.
But Tanya? No, that's not one I hear.
Amidst a long season of feeling isolated from our church family, and therefore, wrestling with my value in the Body of Christ, this friend's simple choice to reach out to me that Sunday morning was a profound gift from God.
And God's a generous God, isn't He?
Because after our church's Christmas program days later, I was talking to somebody in the lobby and heard my name again! A friend actually came back in specifically to seek me out and hug me. (Me!!)
Christmas hadn't even arrived, and my heart was tearin' into the presents like no tomorrow.
A month or two prior, a different friend made her way across the worship center to say hi and catch up. You guys (yes, I'm from Chicago), that may sound like an incredibly ordinary scene and sentence:
"My friend made her way across the worship center to say hi and catch up."
Likely doesn't sound terribly significant, does it? I understand. So here's a little excerpt from Accepting the Sidelines to give you some context:
Whenever you haven’t seen somebody for a considerably long time, there’s an enthusiastic reunion, right? And the typical catch-up questions come naturally. Then on the opposite side of the spectrum, when you see somebody frequently, like every Sunday morning, you get to go beyond those surface questions to dig into the day-to-day grind, and walk through life with them.
But my husband and I, we’re in this awkward frequency of the in between. We’re not seeing these folks regularly. But it’s not like it’s been 5-10 years since we’ve seen them, either.
It's awkward for most. Understandably. Yet those friends I just mentioned?
They came anyway.
And THAT's what's significant.
Their genuine interest in our friendship prevented awkward from cultivating, which let love grow instead of distance.
Remember the women's gathering I told you about recently? Boy was that night ever tangible evidence that joy and sorrow aren't mutually exclusive. Because while it ended on a sobering note, it began with much sweet celebration in my soul.
When I arrived and entered the room, I spotted another old friend from that Young Marrieds class. She was in the middle of a conversation, but her eyes about popped out of her head when she saw me. In other words, she got it. She got that it was a big deal for me to show up.
Shortly after bumping into her, another dear friend had the same reaction, only add to it her hands over her mouth in shock. (Truly, I wish I could share the awesome picture of her in my mind. Hands over her mouth and all. The cutie above's the best I could do.)
Between the two of them, I felt like a celebrity. I really did.
And it's not about feeling like a celebrity, of course. But let me tell ya, where there is pain and isolation and doubts about your value, there is great need for healing and grace. Lots of it. The Lord blessed me with both that evening. And each of the other times the other friends called out to me.
It was as if the Lord was saying through Bob when he called out to me across the church aisles,
"Tanya, you still matter here."
As if He were saying through Sandy when she made her way over to me that Sunday morning,
"Tanya, you don't have to contribute to be enjoyed."
And saying through Shannon over Christmastime,
"Tanya, Who I am IN you is ministry. You DO minister."
And through Kristen's wide eyes,
"Don't ever minimize 'simply' showing up, Tanya. It is NOT trivial for your journey. Your presence alone is enough."
And through Melissa's hand over gaping mouth, I believe He wanted me to hear,
"THIS, Child. This is how beyond delighted I am every. single. time. you draw near."
Each a gift I unwrapped from the Lord, reminding me that I am still consequential,
That I still matter at church,
That although we have not been involved,
we also have not been forgotten.
We are still valued,
And even celebrated!
Healing salve for my soul.