The room was full when I walked in to find a seat that night. My eyes were scanning the rows of chairs searching for a seat next to someone I didn't know well. I wasn't hoping to meet someone new. No, on this night I wanted to hide.
I knew I'd be in a roomful of ladies I attended church with and would normally enjoy engaging in conversation with, being the extrovert that I am, but on this night I was fragile. I knew God wanted me to be filling one of those seats, and I truly wanted to be there. But a vulnerable place in my soul left me wanting the opposite of what I normally seek.
I wonder if you've been there too. Your world feels heavy and conversations are hard. That was me that night as I sat down between two women who would be neutral. Do you know what I mean? They wouldn't know me well enough to be able to see through my smile, and I would be safe for a time.
When I pulled into the parking lot, I almost turned around and left to wander Target for the second Thursday night in a row. For a few moments, I let fear mess with me. But instead of high-tailing it out of there, I decided to be a big girl and face the unknown inside the building.
I'm usually an engager. One who is eager and happy to connect. And I'm not usually one to shy away from a challenge, or run away from a difficulty. This time it was different. I wanted to run. Oh, how I wanted to run.
When I sat down, I realized that the woman on my left was one I'd seen around our community through the years, but had never had the pleasure of meeting. She was a little younger than myself and sat by her mother. A mother who was protective, though proud of this daughter of hers with special needs.
As we sat through the event, my new friend watched my every move. She tried to be sly, peering out the corner of her eye with her neck turned ever so slightly my way. She watched me take note after note in my Eiffel Tower notebook. She would occasionally crane her neck to investigate my scarf and necklace. She laughed when I laughed. She won my heart without saying a word.
After sitting by me for forty-five whole minutes, she leaned in close, pressing her arm and shoulder into mine, and whispered, "Hi...." It was the longest, most beautiful "hi" of my life. She saw me. She liked me. She welcomed me.
I knew right then and there I was supposed to be there that night, even sitting there in my un-brave and neutral spot so God could show me He sees, likes, and welcomes me.
After the class wrapped up, I stood and shook hands with my new friend as I introduced myself. We chatted about her favorite shows on HGTV and I learned about the crush she has on one of the hosts. Then she said three little words that held big meaning. She looked me square in the eyes and said, "I... love... you."
Twice. She said it twice to make sure I was listening.
Her mom smiled and even seemed a bit embarrassed. But I knew this girl was a messenger. She looked straight into my soul and delivered Jesus to me.
We all have lonely and painful times. We've all felt so vulnerable we want to run. I can even bet the next time you're sitting in a roomful of ladies, you don't have to look very far to find someone who needs your smile, who needs to know she's seen.
Will we show her we see her, we like her, and we welcome her like my new friend did for me?
I left the event with my head held high. Sure, I snuck out without making any intentional connections or eye contact (I'll have you know), but I'd received what I'd come for. Along with some stellar Bible teaching, I'd seen the face of God.