Talking on the phone and learning to be needy

My friend called me this week and when I first saw her name on the caller ID, I admit my first thought was that she was calling with bad news. She lives out of town and we rarely talk, like with our voices, so for her to call, while welcome, was also disconcerting.

It wasn’t bad news but rather the best sort of happy news and we chatted and laughed and talked, like with our voices, for quite some time. It was great.

I once talked on the phone all the time. Way back when my babies were just that, I had friends with whom I would talk on the phone about everything and anything. For instance, I had one particular friend that either she or I would call the other right at 9 am nearly and we would proceed to talk for an hour, sometimes more. Every day.

This is crazy, particularly in comparison to my current phone talking habits which are nearly nonexistent. I’m not (exactly) a hermit; I do converse with people but with the more narrow medium of text messaging.

And I love it. Text messaging, as I’ve asserted often, is an introvert’s dream. Short, direct conversations which can be easily avoided or abandoned, what’s not to love?

Years ago I was on the phone with a friend, conversing like with our voices, me bemoaning the general state of my life. I can’t remember my specific circumstances but I do know that the laundry wasn’t done and the dishes were piled in the sink and I sighed and whined and complained about both and probably a wealth of other things besides.

About fifteen minutes after I hung up with my friend, my doorbell rang. It was my friend and she walked straight through my front door to my kitchen sink and began to wash the dishes. THE NERVE. Not only that but she refused to leave without taking a few loads of laundry with her to wash. I allowed her the boys’ laundry and some towels but not my or my husband’s dirties. My dignity, what was left of it, compelled me to draw the line somewhere.

I was mortified. And embarrassed. And utterly humiliated.

Evidently I reserved the right to complain but not the right to accept help. And there was no quid pro quo here. Her kids were grown and out of the house and she had all the time in the world for a friend’s need as well as her dishes and laundry. In the end I could only receive her help and I hated it.

In Sunday School I am teaching through the book Side By Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love. Author Ed Welch asserts that in any healthy community, the members both give and receive help. This process of walking with another begins with each of us realizing we are needy.

I am needy and that truth rankles, as was so obvious when my friend administered very real, very practical help to me all those years ago. I don’t think I’m alone in my dislike of my helplessness. We all would rather appear strong and like we have “it” all together, whatever “it” may be.

Admitting our need feels risky. We conceal our neediness, or we revel in it, like some kind of weird misery contest, but in reality, we are embarrassed by our weakness, we are afraid of what others may think, and we fight to appear competent.

Welch states the obvious: in order to receive help I must admit my neediness. But there’s a less obvious dynamic at work: in order to effectively give help, I must also admit my neediness. In fact, my honest admission of my weakness, according to Welch, is one of the greatest gifts I can give the church. Wait. What?

Honestly assessing who I am and living in that honesty make me a better helper. Self sufficiency, on the other hand, may really be arrogance. Our community will grow together in love and humility as we each of us understand our weakness and our need for each other. This is the grace of the gospel, is it not, that I am so weak and flawed I needed rescuing and the Lord did just that. It is humbling and humiliating to be so weak and so needy but it is also beautiful.

Help is given and I only receive. I cannot earn it and I cannot repay it. My friend taught me as much all those years ago and I am grateful for her example of friendship and of gospel grace.

The truth about Twitter…and me

I love Twitter. Though I do maintain an occasional presence on Facebook, checking in on my friends there from time to time, posting the sometime status, and linking to the rare blog update, I find I much prefer the simplicity of Twitter. There I see all of the tweets and updates of those I follow, and in chronological order too, something you don’t seem to always get via Facebook. Plus I kind of like the challenge of creating a pithy, 140 character tweet (and I refuse to admit how long such a composition takes me).

I’ve been thinking about the phenomenon that is Twitter and the accompanying benefits and pitfalls therein. Quick aside: today I had the weirdest experience in which a college “friend” (a fractious friendship at best) shows up in my Twitter feed via a RT (“retweet” for you non-Twitter types). This after over twenty years of zero contact whatsoever! Isn’t that weird? Maybe it is a small world after all.

All such weirdness aside, I find that for all our tweets regarding all things mundane and the not-so mundane, Twitter is sometimes, often, only a one dimensional snapshot of a person’s true personality. For example, I follow someone whose tweets are for the most part declarations of disdain which is rather depressing really. Another fellow Twitter-er seems to only tweet in criticism, rather sharp and shrill criticism at that. I think either of them would be surprised that that is my general impression though I don’t know for sure because, really, I only know them via Twitter! I also follow a blogger whose Tweets are often marked by exclamations of “Woot!” and “Swoon!” and other such enthusiastic verbiage. Is it fair that I think her slightly overexcitable based on her tweets? Probably, though I must admit my own reluctance to indulge in extreme emotion of any sort may color my perception. It’s no doubt unfair and unsound for me to draw generalizations about any of my follow-ees based only on their Tweets.

Over three hundred people follow my Tweets and I wonder what they see of me? Last week I filled my feed with basketball scores and exuberant declarations of team pride and school loyalty. Am I always so obnoxious, like in my real world? No. Quite the opposite. What about when all I seem to Tweet is links to my own blog? Do others think, as I sometimes assume about others who only post links, that I only want your blog traffic? Can my followers glimpse the real me via a few sets of 140 characters posted here and there? Does it even matter? Am I over-thinking Twitter and my place in it?

Perhaps. I do tend to over-think and I know it. I understand that Twitter and other social media is, in its essence, one dimensional. You see what I let you see and no matter my intentions to full disclosure and my commitment to honesty and authenticity you will never see the full me, the real me. Not in 140 characters.

So it falls to the Twitter-er to be careful, to think through how one may or may not be perceived, to be both deliberate and discerning in what she posts as well as generous and gracious and slow to judgment toward those whose Tweets she follows.

You can follow @lisa_writes on Twitter (or click the link there on the right sidebar). Should you do so, what I hope you’ll find is much the same as you see here on the blog: a wife and mom who is completely ordinary, utterly insufficient, and humbly grateful for the saving mercy and abundant grace of Jesus Christ.