scattered, long-winded teedbits deconstructing my vast array of insecurities and sinful timidities and the glorious redeeming grace of Jesus amidst all of it because I miss writing so freely like this:
I know it’s Ettie outside the stall – I recognize her by her soft and gentle voice as she greets her friend. We often run into each other in the bathroom as we dip out right as the pastor leads the congregation into prayer, bladders uncomfortably full. I greet her when I exit my stall, waving to her and heading to the sink behind her. She opens her arms towards me as she says her hello and I am momentarily confused for a good one and a half seconds before I realize she is initiating a hug. Awkwardly, I shamble closer to her and give her a shy side hug, holding my arms gingerly in the air, not wanting to touch her without washing my hands first. We exchange small talk and the smile on my face widens as I take in her thoughtfully put together outfit, her hair neatly tied back, her look: sophisticated yet kind. She enters an open stall slowly, still conversing with me, and I wash my hands with a growing warmth in my heart. When I’ve found my way back into the pews, I ponder over why I was so surprised that she hugged me.
The girls in our community group are an especially huggy type. It’s our way of saying hello. I’m probably one of the least touchy, as I only initiate hugs with people I feel comfortable with (aka people who I know without a doubt would not feel weirded out with me hugging them) or people I want to warmly welcome. Others fall into the category of “way too cool for me to even fathom becoming close with” and I tend to just wave hi to such a group, maintaining my distance and guarding my heart. But, Ettie hugs me and it makes me want to cry as I treasure and turn over that memory in my heart (yes I’m such a sap that little things like this make me so happy) and it made me feel so much more valuable than I usually feel. Because in my eyes, Ettie is charming and beautiful and talented and most importantly, loved and accepted by the community group. There are times when I feel very out of place in this family of near 45 but when Ettie wrapped her arms around me, it was like she transferred some of that love and belonging into my body.
I thought about it some more as I stood there singing and prayed that I could hug her more warmly next time. That I could hug more people warmly when I see them. That I would not be such a coward in loving people.
Judy ambles out of her room and approaches me with a shyness I’m not used to from her. I am cutting up strawberries in the kitchen when she wraps her arms around me in a loose, side hug. I continue dissecting my strawberries and surgically removing the bruised portions of the fruits, cool and composed as can be as I contemplate over the fact that Judy’s hugging me (I remember only one other time in which she hugged me, though I swear there were more, but the most clear and sharp memory I have last is back in September when she wanted to comfort me in my depressive slump). She thanks me for the card I made her and I feel that little excited, pleased feeling I have when people like what I give them bubble up in my chest. She informs me she cried a little bit as she lets go of me, like a hesitant afterthought, and the statement surprises me (because I’ve never seen Judy cry and she’s not the type I’d normally expect to cry over sentimental things) and delights me (yes I’m masochistic – if I can make you cry, I revel). I ruminate over her words and try to remember what exactly I wrote in the card that could have made her tear up. My heart swells as I think of my roommate – I don’t remember if I wrote her I love her but I do – so much that my mind stutters in confusion sometimes because I want to show her more affection but I’m not quite sure how to convey it properly. She feels like the older sister I never had, never knew to want (since I always wanted an older brother instead – to protect and fight for me), but now that I have, I feel like I’m so, so lucky.
I remember her pouring out her edamame chips into a tupperware and calling me over to help me eat them. She holds out the tupperware for me patiently as I pick at them – not crazy about the snack but wanting to eat it anyway because she’s offering it so generously and so I can sit with her on the couch and munch together with her. I remember her observing me pull out my baby carrots from the fridge and asking me if I want to eat hummus with that and to help myself to it. As if what was hers was also mine to have, like she was willing to share anything with me like we’re family. I remember Pastor Dwight’s words that morning about how there is no such thing as a stingy Christian (an oxymoron) and I immediately think that he’s talking about me, and Judy is the role model that Jesus has placed in my life to show who I must strive to become like (besides Himself). I evaluate how I have grown considerably in being more gracious and free in giving since I’ve started living with her and thank the Lord.
An hour later when I’m sitting on my bedroom floor, I realize I should have hugged her back. I should have put down the knife, left the strawberries, and hugged her back.
I’m carrying a tub of hubba bubba gum with two bags of an assortments of chocolates on top and another brightly colored bag of candies when Stone asks if I need help. I laugh when I say no (um excuse me, I got this) but he grabs the top bag anyway which miffs and pleases me simultaneously. I’m almost out the door when the top two bags lose their friction and start to slide off and I halt to a sudden stop as I try to restore their original balance on top of the tub. Josh chuckles at me over the tray of sandwiches and chips in his hands and asks if I need help and I say no yet again (um excuse me, I got this) but Stone treads over and swipes the top bag off my (already tiny) load without a word. It is only after I’m out the door, stepping carefully down the stairs do I realize that I am very pleased and quite touched. To have a need met (no matter how tiny and insignificant), without me needing to vocalize it, makes me feel incredibly loved (as if I were not so in fact, tiny and insignificant).
I trudge after Josh as we walk to his car with candy and food in load, bickering back and forth as the little entourage behind us (consisting of Meesh, Erica, and Stone) snicker and chortle as he garners sharp reactions from me. The boys continue to poke fun at me on the car ride as my reactions become more animated. Josh tries unsuccessfully to convince me to go watch the game with them in his strange way of flatly assuming that I will go and Stone points out that if Josh would just ask in the form of a direct question, then I would not be able to say no (and here he throws in some quip about how I’m unable to say no to people in general and I huff at this). Erica defends me on this point: I’ve already stood my ground and indicated firmly that I don’t want to go, but Stone counters that Josh didn’t specifically ask thus invalidating my “no”. By the time we get to chinatown, Josh has dropped the subject, Stone has laid off on his good humored jabs, and Erica is warm and inviting beside me, having not moved over from the middle seat after Meesh was dropped off at church, choosing instead to sit right next to me in the back. I hop out of the car and head towards my apartment after waving goodbye, not looking back.
I haven’t even made it a block when I belatedly realize that Stone was right. If Josh had asked directly for me to go, I would have had a very hard time saying no, no matter how tired and unwilling I felt. When someone indicates that they want my company, my heart leaps with hope and validation (oh what, you want to hang out with me??) and I am loathe to turn down such invitation. Two more steps and a part of my heart wishes quietly that he did ask. Hours later, I wish that I had vocalized that I do quite in fact want to hang out with them. I always want to hang out. I just never feel quite secure in the fact that such feeling is reciprocated so I hide it away, distant and safe.
I wake up discontent and heavy. My heart seems to match the sky – filled and covered by clouds. I’m not quite sure why I feel such a way besides the fact that my mood always seem to imitate the weather that day and perhaps the fact that I went to sleep feeling quite discouraged and left out. It is with a startling jolt of horror that I realize that I do in fact feel left out of my community group. I feel forgotten at times, passed over, out of place, and cast aside for brighter, more entertaining personalities. This is by no means through any fault of my community group (I love them, I adore them), but through the deep insecurities that still stubbornly lie in the cracks of my heart that causes me to feel such a way.
I steal a glance towards the large crowd conglomerating in the middle of the church that forms my community group in early service and balk, too afraid to approach them. I see Stone walking my way and abruptly scurry in the opposite direction, terrified lest he not greet me when we cross paths. I pretend not to see Esther and Meesh and avert my gaze when they don’t seem to notice mine. I panic when Hannah steps in to hug Ash and I don’t know who else to talk to – everyone else is paired or grouped off already and I have no idea how to invite myself into a conversation (isn’t it rude to just barge in? would they be surprised? would they be annoyed?) I am friends with almost all of them, some of them very close friends, yet when they are in a group together, I feel like I have no place there. As if collectively, they have fulfilled every need and want and dynamic of the group by the assortment of persons already there and there was no room for me. No need for me. No want for me.
And perhaps this is why I felt so much turmoil and heartache as I tormented myself on whether or not to step up as a leader. I’ve always done things based on need, not want. I’ve always wanted to feel needed, because it seemed far too out of reach to be wanted. So when a need arose in my CG, I asked to lead. I wanted to lead. Because if they needed me, then surely they will accept me, no? Surely I will have a place here if I have some role to fulfill, a burden to carry..
But, the Lord patiently and gently reminds me: I do not need you. When I look at my own shortcomings and weaknesses, I know the Lord can do much better than me as a CG leader. There are so many better candidates who could fill the role (I’m not exaggerating: there’s E, L, J, C, T, etc). When I scrape at my stubborn insecurities, I know that I still fall so short in owning my own identity and security in Christ. When I think about my prideful nature and foolish way of thinking, I shudder at the fate of my community group in the incapable, shaky, and cowardly hands of myself.
I do not need you, but I want you anyway.
The Lord informs me that even though I will mess up and do a shoddy job of serving as a CG leader (and as a human being in general), He still wants me to stumble clumsily along and do my best in trying. Ultimately, it is the Lord who will do wonderful works out of me and were I to do everything perfectly from the get-go, then who gets the glory? So, if the Lord is telling me that there’s no need for me, that He’s got everything under control without me, yet He still wants me and creates a space for me in His kingdom…then shouldn’t I apply this to my understanding of CG, trusting that this is the body of people in the church that the Lord has prepared for the purposes of loving on me, and know that regardless of whether or not there’s a need (or even want) for me within my CG, that there will always, always be a place for me?
Ways the Lord loved on me today, in addition to the aforementioned teedbits:
 God answers my morning plea for Him to cast away my clouds of gloom – I make my way to church in sunny spirits despite the overcast in the sky.
 God must know I hate entering church alone because Denise arrives right when I do and we step into church together.
 My scarf wraps perfectly just the way I like it around my neck and I realize I’m dressed in a grayscale and it makes me ridiculously happy.
 Sung lifts up his hand up for me to high five and I hit it just right so that there’s that satisfying smack when you know you’ve executed the perfect high five.
 Church provides Greek Lady for lunch plus cheese puffs. Man, God is good.
 Erica announcing that she bought me mini sweet potatoes because of how many times I’ve raved to her about my newfound addiction to them.
 I don’t miss the meeting for the registration team for easter egg hunt as I previously thought I would have to being double booked for welcoming duty.
 Meesh finally opening my card and telling me she didn’t text me right after because she was crying (yes, I revel in her tears.)
 Chris introducing himself to me for (debatably) the first time and firmly asserting that this was indeed the first time we formally introduced to one another because he would have remembered if we already had.
 Josh provides us girls a ride home without us having to ask (wait, did I forget to say thank you? Thanks, Joshua).
 Strawberry, blueberry, spinach salad with goat cheese, sunflower seeds, toasted almonds, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil with a touch of italian seasoning for dinner. There’s my healthy quota for the day, score.
 Clouds clearing late afternoon and the pink of the sunset filtering into my cozy bedroom.
 Sophia and I texting each other back at the speed of light and it’s like she never left.
Many things I want to improve upon but most pressing after today’s sequence of events is this: I want to be brave – and this encompasses a myriad of things. I want to hug people first. I want to hug people back. Without second guessing whether they’d welcome my hugs or not. I want to be honest about how I want to be wanted. I want to love more freely and graciously, not withholding anything in fear of being rejected. I want to not be so much cool and composed as I am warm and excited to see people. I want to love more. I want to fear less.
I want to trust the Lord.
I want to trust the Lord.
I want to trust the Lord.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for loving me so well.