On Grace and Listening (and Toddlers)

During lunch on Mondays, we fast and pray for God to raise up men to lead His church and families, for women’s hearts to soften and for marriages to be given to those who desire them. 

While recently serving in the church nursery, I met one of the other helpers and, while getting to know one another, she asked me, “So where are you in life?” I was caught off guard by the question — what did she mean?? What was I supposed to say that wasn’t awkward? Does she see that I’m not wearing rings and is drawing conclusions? Do I have to try to explain my confusing life to a stranger?

I still have no idea what she meant, but since she followed it up by asking if I was in college (bless her), I decided to let it go. She then proceeded to spend the rest of the nursery time chatting with the other helper about their respective children’s “progress” in life, recounting their mutual friends’ wedding details from 20 years ago, and swapping details on the moms’ ministry that meets weekly to pray for schools.

Hear me: all of these things are good things. I would have gladly participated in the conversation if I knew how to. Let’s just say I have never been so grateful for toddlers in my life. I could have hugged all of their dear little Cheerio-covered selves for providing an excuse to get away from what felt like the weirdest nursery duty experience ever.

[Afterwards, the snarky part of me wished I had answered her question by saying “Oh, yes. I’m in the ADULT part of life.” The part where you have to pay bills and go to work and cook dinner and do the laundry and get the raccoon off the back porch. But I digress.]

The story is not about my snark. The story is more about the fact that I quietly told Jesus how terrible this whole thing was feeling. How much shame I was feeling for things that really shouldn’t cause shame. How I felt so utterly out of the cool kids (and moms) club.

A few minutes later, another mom/church staff member came to check on our classroom. She asked me questions about my life. I asked her questions about her life. I shared good things and hard things about being single, having all my siblings married, and exploring new vocational possibilities. She shared good and hard things about being a mom of young adults, of having a child with chronic health issues, and of managing a growing children’s ministry at church. We were able to laugh and be compassionate with one another. I felt completely different at the end of my conversation with her. My heart was lighter. And then I thought of my earlier silent prayer and smiled. I thanked the Lord for His kindness and care.

When I thought about the situation later, I realized how much I want to be like the second woman. How much I want to extend kindness to people whose lives aren’t making sense to them, much less to someone they just met. How much I want to be able to laugh and/or cry with people whose circumstances are very different from mine. How I want to be willing to show genuine interest in people, even when I’m not sure where to start. And even when that other person is my awkward nursery coworker.

I’ve definitely got a long way to go on this journey. Ironically, I think it is partly the experience of unintentional singleness that has softened my heart to want to be more thoughtful at all. This week, I want to be more gracious and kind as I interact with folks whose stories are very different from my own. And be a bit more grateful that God is shaping and teaching and caring for us, no matter “where” we are in life.

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. [Romans 12:9-12]

By His Grace,

Amy

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4 Responses to On Grace and Listening (and Toddlers)

  1. Katie says:

    I always feel embarrassed when I’m with other people my age who are married. It makes me so self-conscious even when nobody says anything about it.

    I wonder if the married people silently think to themselves: “Oh poor her, 35 and still single, I’m so thankful to God that he’s blessed me with a husband and children of my own.”

    I honestly I don’t know if they think that way, but I supposed my self-consciousness, embarrassment and pain in being single comes from the assumption that a lot of them would pity me, feel sorry for me and immediately assume I’m lonely (which I am) and hoping for a husband (I am too.)

    • fast. pray. says:

      Yep. I get that! I think it’s really our shame speaking – telling us that we are pitiable instead of loved, you know? That being said…it can be super overwhelming, especially when surrounded by people we feel have a reason to look down on us.

      The crazy thing is that The Married People (haha) probably have their own shame voices yelling at them too…”Look at those other married people who have more money and better relationships than you. And look at that lucky single girl who doesn’t have to deal with all the headaches of a child puking on the floor during the night or putting up with my husband’s nonstop work schedule” etc etc. And what would it be if we were able to speak grace and truth to The Married People? And tell them we get what it feels like to have the shame monster yelling at you all the time? Who knows. I think it’d be crazy.

      Basically, I just want you to know that I get it — and maybe sometimes we’re right about what they think — but know that none of us are making any judgments, and we’re with you in wanting a spouse and feeling lonely along the way…thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Thank you Amy for this post. It can be very difficult to remember that our lives do not have to be in the same spot or “place” for us to be able to listen and find common ground. It is always so nice to have those conversations like you did with the second woman. Those conversations are a small reflection of what living Romans 12:15 looks like – we share our challenges and joys with others and walk away feeling loved and cared for, even if they are the small or general points of our lives.

    • fast. pray. says:

      Thanks, Rebecca — I agree…I want to be a “second woman” in that sense and live out Romans 12 more fully and kindly and truthfully with those around me. So glad you came and shared your thoughts — thanks for being on the journey too!

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