Paula the Perfectionist and I have been buddies for 10 years. Her quest for perfectionism has carved furrows between her eyebrows.
On our drive home from an outing, she said, “I want to ask you…do you…I’m not sure how to say this…”
Her hesitation was uncharacteristic. Her perfectionism demands knowing ahead of time what she’s going to say and how she’s going to say it.
She went on, “I’ll just ask you straight out. Do you share your faith with others?”
“What if people don’t want to hear it?” she asked. Paula has been a devoted Christian for a long, long time. I should have known that she had already tried every approach that I was going to share with her (and then some), but my ego was thrilled to have been asked for my opinion.
And that launched us into a conversational tango that most of you are familiar with. The dance goes like this:
Person A poses a problem.
Person B provides a solution.
Person A slams it with, “Yeah, but …”
Person B provides another solution.
Person A stomps it with, “I tried that. It doesn’t work.”
This promenade continues for several rounds. Usually Person A ends the dance with a platitude such as, “I’ll think about it,” or a perfunctory, “Thanks.”
As one who’s danced this pattern too often, I regret not having asked probing questions before I started prescribing solutions.
Her furrows revealed that Paula was still deeply frustrated after our little tango. She told me about her brother (Larry) and her sister-in-law who debate her when she shares her faith with them. She said, “When Larry brought up wacko evangelists, I told him, ‘We don’t worship evangelists! We worship Jesus.’”
“Oh, great answer!” I said.
Paula said, “When my sister-in-law said she’s a ‘good person,’ I asked, ‘How will you know when you’ve made it? How will you know when you’ve done enough good?’”
“I bet that stopped your sister-in-law in her tracks!” I said to Paula.
“She didn’t have anything to say after that,” Paula admitted.
We were getting swept up in rush hour traffic as we approached our neighborhood. Late-afternoon sun glared off the cars ahead. Paula maneuvered smoothly around a slow truck.
“I think I’m going to write my brother a letter,” she said.
“What will you say in it?”
“That I want him to come to faith in Jesus, because I want him to be in heaven with me, because I love him.”
Wow, I thought. Wow. And then I said, “Don’t give up. I know Somebody who wants your brother in heaven even more than you do.”
Paula’s face lit up. Briefly, she lifted her gaze off the road and onto me. No furrowed brow. The smile was the brightest, most genuine and yet softest smile I’ve seen on her face over the decade of our friendship.
“Let’s stop at Mack’s for ice cream,” she said.
“Yeah! Let’s get some ice cream!”
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.