Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC
The other day Marcel, Joseph, and I took a trip to a new restaurant we wanted to try. Our waiter was friendly, but something was off. He made a pest of himself. He hovered, bragged, invaded space, and generally missed the million social cues I was throwing at him. It occurred to me that he was likely high. I recognized the signs of drugs and I got furious. I hate being conned and I hate even worse when people think they’re getting away with it. I felt he was feeding us a bunch of lies in order to try to increase his tip. (Which in my mind was dropping drastically by the minute.)
My husband and I have been praying for awhile now that God will show us how to love like He does. So even though we were both irritated, Marcel engaged John (name changed), our server. My frustration continued to sky rocket because my nice family dinner was being interrupted by someone I didn’t believe would remember the conversation due to his “flight status.”
But, I was nice.
As John talked to my husband he shared that he was in an outpatient program for heroin addiction but planned to quit and get another doctor because he wasn’t ready to face the emotions it was bringing up. I thought to myself, “bingo.” My gut appeared to have been correct.
As we pulled out of the restaurant, something inside me was wrestling with the entire experience. I began praying about my reaction. I felt my old compulsion as a Christian girl to be “nice” and I followed through with that. And it made me angry. It didn’t feel loving. The actual result was that he seemed to feel we bought everything he said.
God says that the truth will set us free, but I hid every honest emotion I had during that exchange. I also recall that Jesus never let people’s masks stay in place. With love, he would gently and without shame (and sometimes not so gently in the case of the Pharisees) expose their hearts for what was truly inside.
I am quite certain I didn’t love John well. Being “nice” covered the issue.
After several days of processing this and praying about it I came up with an idea of what Jesus might have done. The restaurant was small and he wouldn’t have shamed him in front of his co-workers. Words may have also gotten lost in a drug fog. So I believe he may have written the following:
I sense a deep pain in you that you try to cover. I know you said you weren’t ready to deal with the emotions that were coming up, but I want you to know that God has the answers to your pain and when you’re ready to stop running you will find your freedom there. When you take off your mask you will find that God is not like the ones who have hurt you and you are passionately loved just as you are. Know that you are in our prayers and that if you ever want to talk more we’d love to get together. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noelle and Marcel
Peace came, I didn’t have to fake anything, but I realized this cut to the chase and didn’t buy a lie. The only sadness came from realizing a missed opportunity. So guess where I’m going for dinner tonight and guess who I’m requesting?
What I realize is that loving well is not what I thought it was. It is confounding, confusing, and impossible without a source to draw from. It’s also a little terrifying. But as I look over my life, moments where I was loved well changed the course of my life and offered me healing and freedom. I can’t live with myself if I don’t give it away.
What are the ways love has touched your life?
How do you practice loving well?