In ungrateful moments, I swear I can still hear Brian demanding, “Ten things!” and I remember the first time he did.
“Briaaaan,” I whined.
“Ten things, or you can call me later. Do you want to do that?”
I hung up and sighed, throwing myself against the back of my seat. How did I get to be so ungrateful that I couldn’t even give Brian a list of ten things I was grateful for? Why was I so insistent on complaining? Didn’t I have everything I needed, everything I ever wanted?
I was attending college at beautiful PLNU. The campus was made of historic buildings, the world’s most scenic ballpark, and “my” prayer chapel. It was my last semester there. Shouldn’t I have felt all sentimental to leave? I would be graduating debt-free. I remember the hush of sunset, a time of day when everyone instinctually stopped to watch the last of the sun disappear over the Pacific. I was watching the sun setting as I sat there in my car. Why wasn’t my heart instinctually hushed? Shouldn’t I have been crazy-stupid grateful?
- PLNU, and the opportunity thereof
- Being debt-free
- My car
- The house
“I shouldn’t be alone right now.” I told myself. I had so many dear friends, most of whom I lived with. These ladies loved Jesus like you wouldn’t believe. They were preachers, evangelists, the servant-hearted, the eager and above all extravagant worshippers of the Most High God.
- The girls
- Worship time
- Jesus meetings
We hosted church meetings in our home. We hosted guests. We hosted a lot of dirty dishes, a small sacrifice to a rational person, but to irrational me, the symbolic epitome of my fear; being forgotten about.
I was afraid that people have a finite attention and that they weren’t spending it on me. It seemed to me that the world operated thus: He who cryeth the loudest , receiveth the most affection. I, it seemed, receiveth the dirty dishes.
This thought developed early in my life. It started with my sister who, in many ways, was a fire needing to be put out before I got punched. She cried louder than me. She just did and I started believing that her problems were more important than mine and that somehow, to love her, I had to be loved less. I believed this of everyone; of all the puppies.
I remember a line to a favourite childhood book, in which puppies tore apart a house. The conclusion to every page was, “too many puppies!” Every day I felt like that. I felt like I had puppies on my couch, in my bed, following me everywhere, except here; parked at the foot of the cross.
I couldn’t hide from Jesus. I thought I could hide from everyone else, until one day when I was unearthed, by my sister of all people. She had begun being kind to me and rather protective.
“Why the change? Why now?” I asked.
“I realized,” she said looking me in the eye, “that you must not love yourself very much because you let your boyfriend treat you like that.” She had never looked at me like that before or since.
She had grown up; stopped seeing herself as a Cinderella character in the family, and was for the first time, truly, seeing me. I saw in her a strength that scared me a little bit. My heart seemed to drop into my stomach.
She came to visit and did my dishes.
- My sister; my friend
My guy friends started doing my dishes too. The guys had a ministry house as well. And their dishes didn’t wash themselves either. I’m sure they could have been dealing with their own catastrophes, but they decided to help with mine. I remember coming home to one of the guys doing the dishes.
“I love you too.” I said. He didn’t say anything, but scrunched his face uncomfortably. After that, he didn’t do the dishes anymore. I had lost my dishwasher, but gained the memory of that hilarious look on his face.
- The boys
Brian didn’t live with the boys. He lived with some roommates in a little pink converted garage apartment behind a big pink mansion. I liked the big fluffy cats that were so often in his yard. One day while picnicking on his lawn in December, one of the cats wandered into the life-sized nativity scene.
“Why is the cat just sitting in there?”
“Think about it this way,” Brian’s roommate, Miguel pointed out, “The cat is thinking, ‘These, humans, why aren’t they just sitting there?” Miguel made a good point. I didn’t know how to “just sit” anywhere. I would frequent their apartment, I later realized, to learn how.
It was these “too many puppies”, too many dirty dishes times that I missed Brian. I missed how he would get my attention in the library and soundlessly mouth, “poop” so that I would laugh out loud and embarrass myself. We did so many “awkward” things that no one else seemed to understand.
As awkward as it was, I just didn’t have a better friend than him. Why was he “hafting to” (as he says) move away from his little pink converted garage apartment? Why didn’t he want to be a florist’s delivery boy forever?
I called him back and drove home thankful for ten things. Ten things just made the puppies and the dirty dishes seem so much less significant. I began to pursue significance. I practiced “just sitting there” with Jesus. In that Jesus place, my understanding could accept the verse, “Every good and perfect gift we know is from above” and if I could just sit still enough, I could see the gift of the days I was living.