I remember the small panic attack I had before I met them.
For a whole hour, my stomach churned. My heart thumped. I fussed at my reflection, sucked in my gut, imagined the dumb things I would say. I played out scenarios in which I would make a fool of myself in front of two women who were so poised and talented.
I checked my teeth for spinach.
I had known Michelle and Deidra for several months — online, through our blogs. Miles away from one another, we had each crammed our hearts into pixels and paragraphs week after week. It’s true: you can get to know a person like that, by reading the words that spill out of a soul and onto a computer screen.
But I was still scared they would be disappointed when the pixels became a person.
What if the woman they thought they knew in this place wasn’t the woman they met in real life? I’d only and always wanted to be true and authentic. But … what if I my actual voice sounded goofy? What if I embarrassed myself? And, I wouldn’t be able to use my delete key if I said something ridiculous.
But here I was, in their city, waiting for them to show up.
I walked down to the hotel lobby, knowing they would arrive any minute.
I sat up straighter than usual on the upholstered chair, fidgeted with my cross necklace and prayed a small prayer: “Dear God, Don’t let me be a doofus.”
The two of them walked through the door, looking radiant and shimmering, just like I imagined.
But they were also just people — regular people with real smiles, warm handshakes that quickly turned to hugs, and hearts swollen with Jesus.
We laughed. We threw our heads back. We moved straight past the small talk, and let ourselves be our real selves — without the delete key. I think my voice did, in fact, sound goofy. I probably was a doofus. And I’m fairly sure I snorted when I laughed. But a really cool thing happened when we met each other face to face: we spoke love right into each other’s lives, just as we’d been doing with vowels and consonants for months before.
As it turned out, they had their own sets of insecurities.
Fast-forward two years:
I dial Deidra today, because I need her advice. It’s not the first time I’ve done this. Before I call, I scroll back through my Facebook messages and find these past remarks to her:
“OK. So I have a confession.”
“I need to be talked off a cliff edge. :)”
“I’m freee-kiiiiing out!!”
“I think I could faint.”
But also this:
“We’re in the process of becoming — from cradle to first step in Heaven.”
“You make my heart happy. It’s good to be loved.”
“I’m praying for you.”
“I love you so.”
So, like I said, I call Deidra–
“Deidra,” I ask. “What were you thinking before we met?”
“I was freaking out!” she tells me.
So that’s the thing. Most of us aren’t out to dazzle; we’re just scared that we’re going to disappoint. We ache to be real, but we’re not sure if anyone will approve of the Real Us underneath the good posture. But in order for Real to get rolling, someone’s got to make the first move.
Over the phone, Deidra’s voice travels a couple hundred miles north to find me in my kitchen, looking out over these Iowa fields.
“The thing is, ” she says, “people just want to know that it’s O.K. to be real, authentic and true. If I say I believe the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love, then I have to put myself out there.”
Deidra tells me that people everywhere have one thing in common: “We are all just trying to figure it out, you know?”
And, she says, people mostly want to know that they are loved. Genuinely loved.
We talk a bit more — about writing assignments, kids, a recent doctor’s visit. We laugh, because in some crazy-cool God-incidence, Deidra and I are now work colleagues. Before we hang up, we tell each other, “I love you.”
I don’t think I snorted when I laughed this time.
But I do know I was a doofus.
And both of us were perfectly fine with that.
(More meetups with friends like you…)
Do you know how often I think of you — marvelous, wondrous you? I pray for you as I write. I read your emails, your stories of heartbreak and pain, victory and freedom.
Regularly, I speak from the bare-soul places, because I know that you’ve “been there” too. And you want to know you’re not alone. I want the same thing. Like Deidra says, we do this as a way to express our faith through love.
And I really do love you.
Grace and peace,
We write in community every Wednesday about the God-Things that make you go, “Hmmm…”
Some call them coincidences. We call them God-incidences. And those goosebumps you get sometimes when you know the Holy Spirit is at work? Yep. They’re God-Bumps.
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