“Silence is golden.” Well, not always. I am thinking of an older lady in our church. She was in her 90’s when we came here and just a couple months away from 100 when God called her home. Quiet, to herself, hardly no eye contact, Ms. Pauline. It makes me sad that I knew this lady better in the 4 or 5 years I was around her than people who knew her for 70-80 plus years. It saddens me that her own family didn’t know her. They would call and check on her but they didn’t know her.
She worked jobs, many jobs but no one knew her. She went to church with the same people for years and they didn’t know her. They didn’t know her because she wasn’t an open book. She wasn’t even a closed book. She was more like a locked, guarded diary and she may have even thrown away the key!
Enter the new pastor’s wife, me! I found out why Ms. Pauline was so quiet. She told me very plainly one day that her late husband made her feel like she had nothing to say, worth saying, so she just quit talking. Everyone just assumed she didn’t talk because she didn’t want to.
When we first came to this church I asked some basic questions about Ms. Pauline and I was quickly told, “She doesn’t like company over in her house,” but that wasn’t true. She had just been quiet and to herself for so long that she didn’t know how to open up. She didn’t know how to converse with people. She had shut people out for decades and everyone just assumed it was because she didn’t like people. And no one even tried to get in. No one even tried.
It wasn’t hard for me to get in. Someone just needed to try. It didn’t happen immediately, but it wasn’t that long either. I just straight up told her one day that these one-way conversations weren’t working for me. She laughed out loud at me and that was the beginning of our friendship. She never became an “open book” or a big talker, but she let me in, and honestly, it broke my heart to see the damage she had inside of her.
But by her letting me in, I also got to see her really, really happy and laughing about stuff, sharing funny stories about her childhood and places she had worked and lived. She never became a “people person” but I thank God she let me in. I am not patting myself on the back. I am not. But I honestly think part of the reason God brought us to this church was for her. God saw her loneliness and He knew she just needed a friend and the bond we had was something I don’t think she had experienced before. It was sweet. She even (kind of) told me off a couple of times. I didn’t mind. I was just looking out for her. It was love for both of us in many fun, memorable, honest ways.
I share this story because I know people can be difficult. I know it’s easier to turn a blind eye or put up walls around your heart rather than take a chance on people, but that’s not what we are called to do. Look what I would have missed out on if I had not taken a chance on a gloomy, quiet woman. Just as Jesus in love met us in our mess, we are called to do the same and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Would you?