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.

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Thursdays

I love Thursdays. It is my day to be home, to catch up on housework and laundry, to rest and read and think, to take life at a slower pace at least for a day or part of a day. Mondays I spend grocery shopping and cramming preparing for Bible study. Tuesdays I teach Bible study and go to lunch with the group and generally make yet another grocery store run for whatever it is I forgot on Monday. Wednesdays I am at the crisis pregnancy center. Plus we have basketball every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings with church on Wednesday evening so on Thursdays I take a few hours to slow down, I take a deep breath, I recover and rejuvenate, I catch up, I (at least make the attempt to) take care of the homefront.

I remarked to someone this week that I am in my heart of hearts a case study in introversion. The person to whom I was talking chuckled a little in disbelief but it’s true. Friends and fun, two things I value and enjoy, don’t come easily to me and quite frankly wear me out. Hermit-hood is my default.

I am particularly tired today, a good kind of tired, the kind of tired that comes from an overflow of both friends and fun and a generous dose of gratitude for each. Our last session of Bible study for this fall was Tuesday. Despite my aforementioned unqualified introverted status, I love teaching Bible study. I love it. I love the studying and the preparation and the learning and the wrestling, yes indeed, but, for me, my passion finds final, full expression in the outpouring, the teaching, the telling. It’s the strangest thing, someone like me who would really much prefer the anonymity of the back row, assuming the teacher’s chair and liking it, wanting it, needing it even.

And so another session of Bible study comes to a close and I am my usual sappy self. Longtime readers of the blog know well my effusion of gratitude and humility at the end of a study. My teaching is a compulsion and that my friends and fellow Bible students would come alongside me for the journey is the Lord’s grace to me, grace in such abundance that I am overcome. In a good way.

And Tuesday night was our church’s annual ladies’ Christmas party. We had a great time! I love those women, my friends, my sisters in the Lord, godly women who love each other well. I love celebrating our Savior’s advent together with great food, good fellowship and fun gifts and games.

So with such a week of study and preparation and release and celebration, I am moving slowly in my introverted induced fatigue but I am also savoring the goodness and grace of my good and gracious God who gives me good gifts of friends and fun and both in such abundance. I am grateful, I am humbled, I am tired. But in a good way.

On typing, live blogging, and silly introverted worries

I am typing this on my iPad, practicing in case I end up as industrious as I hope and do some live blogging from The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference next week. So far it’s not going well, the typing that is. My husband is a fairly proficient iPad typist but then again he never had Coach Perez for tenth grade typing class and is therefore skilled in the use of only a few fingers, something that would have never passed muster under Coach Perez’s tutelage.

Speaking of typing class, it was typing we learned, like on real typewriters. None of this keyboarding stuff with the backspace and delete key. I member being so stressed when we learned to type carbon copies. No room for mistakes then! Kids these days, they have it so easy–unless of course they did happen to learn proper typing skills and then attempted a composition via the iPad. In other words I wouldn’t say my current effort is particularly easy. Maybe I will take the laptop with me to Orlando instead.

I am excited about the conference and about hanging out for a few days with my friends who are making the trip with me. I am certain we will be learning lots and will have lots to talk about and there are few things I enjoy more than hanging out and talking about the things of the Lord with dear friends passionate about His glory.

I am also excited about meeting some of my fellow bloggers, “pixels becoming people” as I’ve heard it said. Some of us “pixels” who will be attending have been chatting it up on twitter and I’m looking forward to us meeting and chatting in real life! We’ve mentioned the possibility of a blogger meet-n-greet and I really hope that happens.

Don’t I sound so very social? If so, it’s quite unlike myself, I assure you. I love my friends, don’t get me wrong. I really am excited about the fun we will have together. I also love meeting new friends, in particular those friends I’ve only previously known via the Internet. But I must also admit to you that, as a full fledged introvert, conferences and the corresponding amount of social interaction tend to overwhelm me just a little. Ok, maybe a lot. I asked my husband the other day if he thought I could maintain a healthy, robust level of socializing through the course of the conference. Let’s just say we both hope I don’t inadvertently offend (smile).

All kidding and silly introverted worries aside, the conference is going to be great and I can’t wait to not only experience it for myself, from the teaching sessions to the meeting-and- greeting, but I’m also eager to share some of the fun here on the blog, maybe via live blogging, maybe just with a recap post or two.

Are any of you planning to be in Orlando next week? Let me know and let’s meet!

P.S. Well, it turns out that if there is any live blogging to be done it will have to be done via my laptop. It seems I can only write a post in HTML on the iPad which means there is no formatting excepting what I put in and unfortunately I’m not HTML-smart, not in the least! In case you were wondering, I’ve edited this post on my laptop otherwise it would be one long (very long) unformatted paragraph. So much for that experiment!