With every step toward the door of the restaurant, my heart pounded and the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach nearly overcame me. Just keep walking. And smile. They are watching you, after all. I wish they weren’t watching me! Just. Keep. Walking. If I hesitate, they will bail. Who am I kidding? Let's bail! That's a great idea!
Our family was there for a dinner meeting with my recently-divorced-a-second-time ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Did I mention that she had been my best friend? That’s right. My recently-divorced-a-second-time ex-husband was dating my used-to-be-best friend. The two of them had just welcomed a new baby, which, by the way, we only heard news of about a month before the arrival. We put the meeting off as long as we could. But now, we had to make introductions.
When I say that the kids were stressed and opposed to the introduction, I’m putting it mildly. The last time their Dad introduced a woman into their lives it ended badly. His last wife was, well, I can’t quite find a word that fits. She didn’t care for the kids, and they suffered emotionally at her hand. Even worse, the relationship between the kids and their dad was strained and damaged. He had barely started making an effort to reach out to them, and then, this. They just were not ready. What I really wanted to do was pitch a fit and tell him that I was disappointed and that he was on his own. There was no way I was going to help him out with this one! No way. Nope. Forget it.
But there was a not-so-gentle nudge to invite them for dinner. You know what that means, right? Now, because of that not-so-gentle nudge, inviting them to dinner was a matter of obedience. And that’s how we ended up in this mess!
Am I alone here? Have you ever felt like the right thing to do seemed the most unfair, impossible thing to do? Have you ever been standing in a moment with a decision to make and thought “There is absolutely no way I can do this!"? Yeah, that was me. Exactly. But, here's the thing: when you know the right thing to do and don't do it - it's sin.
Still, this was not exactly something I was looking forward to. But, wait.
God sent Jesus. And the last words that rolled off the tongue of the Savior as He died on the cross were “It is finished.” His work on the cross was done. He won. And so did we. It was the most lavish display of love the world has ever seen. In that moment, we were granted access to everything we would ever need to do those impossible, unfair, and uncomfortable things. Sometimes it seems the implication of that truth is lost on us. Do we really know what it means to have access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead every moment, every day. Death-to-life power. In us. I mean, come on now. That's huge! You know, He is constantly working in us to make us more like Himself. That means He doesn't leave us hanging on the edge of any situation left to figure it out on our own. Even the most impossible, unfair, and most uncomfortable situation.
We finally made it into the restaurant. We stood in the corner - still trying to decide if this impossible thing was possible. What seemed like an eternity passed before we walked toward the table. Both my daughter and son were trying to make themselves invisible behind me. But, we walked on, stumbling over each other.
And there they were. My ex-husband. My used-to-be best friend. The new baby. And, three other children from his second marriage. Lord, help me do this. This is beyond the worse case scenario. She was my best friend. She was my best friend, and it didn't end well! I can’t do this! Do you think they noticed us? Maybe there’s still time to duck behind a table! Yeah, in that moment I'm sure we were all thinking the same thing. If only we could make ourselves invisible!
But, no. They saw us. There may have been a faint whisper of a cuss word in my mind before I managed to pull myself together. Lord, please. Help. Me. Before I knew what happened she had both her arms wrapped around me and tears forming in her eyes. And I was hugging her back! It was a real hug, too. It wasn't me trying to squeeze the life out of her. Dinner was as good as it could have been given the circumstance. Conversation was easy-ish. And, the kids were ok-ish. We didn't knock it out of the park, but we did the right thing. This time it just so happened that the right thing was really hard. It would have been so much easier to hide. But, I'm glad we didn't because God reminded me of something through the process.
See, God had already been in that moment. Long before I dragged my kids into the Chick-fil-a, He was there. I only had to choose to see Him. I only had to choose to access the power of the Holy Spirit that was available to me by saying yes to Him. When you push through the fear and anxiety and obey anyway, God will enable you to do what He's asking. God reminded me that when we are standing on the edge of something impossibly difficult searching, doubting, trying to find a way to run, that not only is He with us, but He’s already been there ahead of us, fighting for us. And He won. It. Is. Finished. Our job is to fix our eyes on Him and to do the thing He’s asked us to do, even if it means doing it with teary eyes and trembling hands. Just obey. And, when you do the thing He's asking, do it trusting that He's got it all under control. Of course He does. See, God loves us so fervently that He sent Jesus to die for us so that we would never have to do these hard things alone. Be brave. He knows exactly where you are every moment. And, He’s there too.
And, in case you're wondering, things still aren't perfect or easy in this particular situation in our lives. But, there is a peace that is beyond comprehension. For that, I am thankful.