Saturday, March 26, 2016

Tough Love is Hard

Some of you know we don't really have any family here in Ohio, except a couple of aunts who for the most part have their own lives and big families with grandchildren to care for. We seldom see them on holidays or any other time, really, except for a couple intimate dinners a year and a yard party or two in the summer.

So, for holidays we invite two people, who happen to be single. One is an elderly lady who walks extensively in this neighborhood and befriended my girls to start, due to them being out in the yard so much when Mary walked.

The other is a single guy my husband knew from California (I met my husband through the church singles group). Dean and my husband were roommates and they often invited the whole singles group over to their house for fellowship. Dean married after we moved to Ohio, and subsequently divorced, and we only got in touch with him about three or four years ago after learning he moved to Ohio. We have enjoyed his Christian fellowship in our home once a month or so, and for every holiday, but soon he is moving to Delaware. My children love him and vice versa, and we are very sad he is moving.

Now getting to the point of my post: Each time we invite these two singles for a holiday meal, they reply that "they don't know what they are doing yet". It doesn't matter if we invite them two weeks ahead, or two days before...the reply is the same.

Now, we've gotten this from single people before over the seventeen years we've been married ( we used to head up a singles ministry). I don't know if single people always wait for what they deem the best offer, or what. I never did this to anyone, and I was single until age 33! I was raised to have better manners than that.

You either say yes or no, not..."maybe-I-don't-know-yet". Occasionally there might be a compelling reason to do that, but certainly not every time. And these two never give any details explaining the delay.

We've also had them not confirm at all, and then show up as much as an hour late.

This is always very inconvenient for me as a mother of four and the one responsible for the meal. Many of you are probably like me in that if you know you're having guests, you spend a little more on the food and time on the preparation than when you're just cooking for your own family.

Well, for Easter dinner this year these two singles did the exact same thing. Mary, who is nearly eighty but fit and active, has no family here and is lonely, which is why I always invite her. She appreciates having the fellowship and is always thankful. In that way she is a gracious guest.

We also drive her to the store and help her out as much as possible, and pray for her salvation. Since she is not saved, that is another reason I have put up with the rudeness over holidays. I wanted to present Christ's love to her; I decided that I didn't need to insist on her respect. Not to mention, I am just not an assertive person anyway.

However, as I heal from a dysfunctional family upbringing, I am trying to do better in not playing the martyr so often. What good does it do anyone, anyway, when it's ongoing? It only perpetuates a bad situation. Plus, I shouldn't complain about the way people treat me, if I don't plan to do anything about it, right?

So, my friends. I did what was for me, a very difficult, heart-wrenching thing. The kids made an Easter card for Mary and we sent it over with some chocolate and a note saying that since neither she nor Dean could commit to coming, that we were not going to have a dinner, but just celebrate quietly after church, and that I needed to work on a teen Bible Study I have coming up, anyway (very true and I do indeed need the time before AWANA class on Wed.). I wanted her to know that there are lots of things I can do with my time...lots of ways I could bless people, and if she wasn't interested, that was fine, but that other people need my time.

As for Dean, I sent him an email telling him Happy Easter and that we are still praying for him regarding his house hunting in Delaware, and that since neither he nor Mary could commit to coming, that we weren't having anything on Easter, except for church and a quiet day at home.

I tried to be very gracious to both of them, and I hope it was taken in the spirit I intended it, and nothing more. I will still continue to invite them each holiday, and I can only pray that they either reply yes, or no, but no..."maybe-I-don't-know".

I came up with all kinds of reasons not to do this over the last few years--most of them Christian reasons about sacrificing and not insisting on being right, or treated well. And what is hospitality? Is it having something spiffy that takes extra time or money, or is it just opening your home and heart and sharing what God has graciously provided? That's another reason I've done nothing to prevent this ongoing treatment. Shouldn't I be willing to open the door to people, even when it's last minute?

But I thought seriously this time about the wisdom from the Bible that says, "So far as it depends on you, get along with everyone." Romans 12:18

When people are rude, but we have done our polite, gracious part, then we have fulfilled this, I believe.

We have hard things to deal with here, and I'm very often stressed. OCD, in particular, is a very stressful thing to endure, so I need to make hard choices about other sources of stress in my life.

This was one of those hard choices.

Mary, who is very assertive and has hurt my feelings more than once, handled it strangely. She walks extensively, as I said, and when I was driving to the dollar store this morning to get a large pan for my turkey--which I decided to make today because church would interfere tomorrow--I saw her walking back with a bread bag in her hand. Oh, great, I thought. She is going to come to the door with some bread, and I am going to feel terrible about the note we just dropped off.

On my way back, I didn't see her walking, so I assumed she was back at home and had seen our note. Not fifteen minutes later, she came to the door with the bread, saying it was for tomorrow. I asked her if she had been home yet, and she said no. I told her we left her a note saying that because neither she nor Dean could commit to coming, that we weren't having anything on Easter, except for church and my working on my Bible study quietly, while the family enjoys a day at the park, which my husband is aching to do.

She then asked if she could have half of the bread back. Yes, folks, that is what she said. I told her to go ahead and take all of it because we have rolls, but she insisted I cut some of it. So I did, feeling more awkward than I ever have in my life, but I was determined that she not do this to me again, for another holiday.

The first time is always the hardest, I suppose, when you try to stop being a doormat.

I believe Mary had already been home, and was being manipulative, trying to get me to change my mind about what was written on my note.

I love working with children! They are such a breath of fresh air compared to adults. I hate to say that, but I find it so true.

Now, what are your thoughts? Am I being a jerk?...And don't be afraid to say so. I can take another perspective. Thank you, friends.

And Happy Easter!

P.S. We are sending turkey down to Mary later today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're not being a jerk. Happy Easter!