Saving a Stranger from Imminent Danger

I don’t know. Maybe it’s my old age or my big city ways, but my sense of personal boundaries has been steadily eroding since I graduated from college and moved to Dallas. Sure, it’s always been the case that if you say to me, “Man, I really hurt my back yesterday”, I will inevitably punch your spinal cord, even though I’ve never done anything like that before. My subconscious latches on to the fact that you’re hurting and wants to intensify that pain. I can’t help it.

But now…my husband needs to purchase a wife leash so he can stop me from touching people I don’t know. Like that time we ate at Cristina’s. Our waiter was AWESOME and I wanted to let the manager know so I walked right up to him (from behind), grabbed his shoulder, and gave it a good, firm squeeze. Alex said that when he turned around, the manager’s facial expression revealed he was expecting a punch instead of an attaboy for one of his waiters.  Oops.

Last Christmas, we went with my immediate fam to my grandmother’s church’s Christmas Eve service. Pretty much every time I go to a church service now, I find something to giggle at. Maybe it was the fancy dresses or the special occasion, but I got so tickled at this Christmas Eve service that I was shaking the entire pew from my efforts to contain the laughter that boiled within. There was a woman at the end of the pew who did not appreciate being bounced like a baby while she was trying to sing Christmas carols.  In Methodist churches, to take communion, everyone stands up and you file down the sides of the sanctuary, eat your mini meal, and then you walk back up the middle. Well…somehow this lady got in front of me and was already seated in the pew when I went to return to my seat. For some reason, known only to Jesus, as I was squeezing behind her, I also patted her on the butt…which started that ugly cycle of pew-shaking giggling all over again. That poor woman probably asked Santa for a Christmas Day that was void of inappropriate laughter and butt-touching strangers.

Well, here’s my latest story. To be honest, I don’t think that it’s weird but Alex does. I’ll let you be the judge.
My cousin’s adorable baby got baptized in Frisco this past Sunday.  Including all of the friends and family that were there for the baptism, our group numbered about 50,000. So we all lumbered down to the first 10,000 pews, where the important people sit. I was on the fourth or fifth row. After the baptism, half of the people (most of whom I didn’t know) stood up to leave. I’ll give you a glimpse of what was going through my mind at that point:

Oh, what a lovely event. This baby sure has a lot of people that love her. Great. Oh, some people are leaving. I like that girl’s dress. She’s giving that guy a hug, I guess he’s her fath….OH MY GOSH! HER DRESS IS CAUGHT AND HER BUTT CHEEK IS HANGING OUT. SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW. SHE’S NOT WEARING GRANNY PANTIES. SHE’S STANDING UP IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CHURCH AND WE’RE ALL SITTING DOWN. EMERGENCY! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DISASTER AHEAD!

Cut to real -life: My emergency brain kicked in and I started to hyperventilate a little, until I took off, climbing over pews and stepping on heads to reach the uncovered butt.  I left my poor husband in the dust and in the dark.  I decided that trying to communicate my panic to her would take precious seconds, so I did it. I just reached down and yanked her dress to cover the offending cheek. The weird thing is that she didn’t acknowledge that I had done that. This could be for one of two reasons:
1)      She was so involved in hugging her father and saying goodbye that she literally didn’t know that her dress was pulled up and she was causing a stranger to panic on her behalf.
2)      She knew. She just wanted a little peon like me to have to touch her butt.
Because touch her butt, I did. My finger grazed skin and thus (according to my germophobia) was contaminated for the remainder of the service. So, not only did I have to explain to Alex and my cousin Michael what I had done and why I had fallen out of my chair to run up to the front of the sanctuary, but I had to be mindful not to touch my face (or anything I own) with the fourth finger on my right hand because it had germs on it.
So, now, ye judgey judgersons, judge away. Was I right in correcting this girl’s skirt without her permission? Or is that completely weird and awkward?  No self respecting woman wants to have her butt hanging out and thus, would appreciate anybody, stranger or no, coming to their rescue. Heck, I don’t care if Oprah touched my butt and then wrote a book about it… as long as I didn’t walk out of that CHURCH SERVICE with my underwear on display.

Maybe my inclination is wrong. I have observed a shift in the societal take on friends and what their role is in your life. We are all so very standoffish these days. Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what I do is right or wrong. Either let me do what I want or butt out.  Nowadays, the definition of friendship seems to be, “a relationship in which both people say exactly what the other person wants to hear in order to avoid awkwardness or hurt feelings”. Our PC (politically correct) culture has warped into an AC (amicably correct) one. We are so afraid of offending people or hurting their feelings that we end up saying that everything that person does is so wonderful.

“Oh, your new boyfriend was just released from prison for beating his ex-wife to death? Well, as long as he says that he’s sorry, I’m sure he’s a wonderful guy. By the way, that front tooth you’re missing is so chic.

“Yes, I definitely think you should quit your paying job and pursue your dream of being a professional toe juggler. It’s totally reasonable.”

“Of course, you should wear that bikini top to church. Side boobs are so in right now. ”

“You were so adorable last night when you were throwing up the entire contents of your stomach in the neighbor’s gardenia bush. It wasn’t embarassing at all! I even posted pictures of it on facebook, see?”

Doesn’t all that seem shallow to you? I mean, isn’t the benefit of having people that care about you knowing that they can offer an outside perspective because you’re in the muck and mire of the decisions that you’re making? It’s hard to see your mistakes when you’re making them but family and friends can see it from a mile away.

Here’s what I’m not saying: that we should seek out people who only criticize us. It’s not very much fun to go hang out with someone and from the moment you arrive, have to field insult after insult with a dash of unsolicited advice and a dab of “I’m going in for the kill!” No one wants to be constantly reminded that the decisions they’re making are under scrutiny. Friendship is supposed to be a place of safety, where you can say what you’re actually thinking without being acutely aware that the person across the table from you is ready to rip your heart out and stomp on it.

Here’s what I am saying: It makes me sad that so many people do not have friends that are honest because they love them. You see the difference there? You can certainly find people that will tell you the truth-  I think you’re a total and complete idiot for getting your haircut that way. You look like a sock puppet. But the real deal people will tell you the truth because they love you. They don’t put you down to make themselves feel better. They don’t want you to make a decision one way or the other because it will reflect poorly on them. They won’t lie to you to avoid conflict. They tell you what they think because they love you and care about you.

 These kind of friends are increasingly rare. Everyone is so afraid that the other person will “get mad at them.” I have some friendships where I have said, “I am worried about you and the decisions you’re making. I’m saying this because I care about you.” Guess what? They did get mad at me and didn’t speak to me for a year. But now we’re closer than ever because I think they realize that I will be honest with them. There are seasons of friendship. If you’re lying to someone to preserve your friendship, then are you really friends?

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I pray that I’m the kind of friend who will be able to tell you when I think you’re about to make a big mistake, but that I’ll be able to convey to you that my objection is coming out of my love for you.

If you are the figurative girl with her butt hanging out in front of church, I want to be the person that takes a risk and pulls your skirt down, even if it makes you angry or embarassed. Heck! Even if you wanted  to be bare-cheeked in front of everyone I would pull your skirt down. Why? Because I care about you.  

In Ephesians 4, you find these verses:

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Jesus was an expert at speaking the truth in love. If you read the story of the woman at the well , you’ll note that by today’s standards, Jesus was super-harsh and way overstepping his boundaries. He was not AC. But if you look at the transformation, at what the Truth He gave her did for her, then you’ll see that, while it might have been uncomfortable or embarassing for her to hear Him say those things, it ultimately changed her life and the lives of the people around her.

Do you see how speaking the truth in love leads to maturity (read: depth, instead of shallowness)? I would gather that accepting the truth that was given in love also leads to maturity. We weren’t meant to be an island unto ourselves. We were made for community with other people, which means that we should give credence to the opinions of people that care about us.  That’s the flip side of this coin. If you pray for God to put people in your life who will care enough to be honest with you, you must be humble enough to hear what they’re saying and value it.

I am nowhere near perfect at this. I still end up not “rocking the boat” to preserve the peace, even when someone is making a poor decision. This is a skill that takes practice and discernment. I don’t use “truth in love” for everyone I know because I know that some people just aren’t ready for the truth yet or that I’m not close enough to them to have true influence in their lives. If you can’t speak up, you can always pray for someone.  God is the ultimate “truth in love” user and He knows how to do it like a pro.

So where do you go from here?

1. Judge my actions at the baptism and tell me if I would be better off leaving stranger’s skirts alone.

2.  Consider your friendships. If you’ve surrounded yourself with people who only tell you what you want to hear, then you’re missing depth in your life. Depth in relationships means opening yourself up to someone else, but it also means experiencing so much more life because you know that someone has your back.  It’s what we were made for.

2 thoughts on “Saving a Stranger from Imminent Danger

  1. Beth! I found your blog thru a post on fb! Just wanted to let you know that I’m really enjoying reading it 🙂 and to say “hi!” -Zimo

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