When my kids were little, I was perpetually five to ten minutes late everywhere I went. It was usually the children’s fault-a sound signaling that a diaper needed to be changed, a fight erupting, a meltdown. Sometimes their dad was late getting home and I couldn’t leave when I needed to. It seemed it was always something, and no matter how hard I tried to plan and prepare for every potential delay I never could get it all together.
My lateness didn’t prevent me for volunteering, but I’m sure it frustrated people. I know without a doubt it irritated our Sunday School coordinator, and I know she didn’t have a problem making sure I knew.
One Sunday I was the designated Sunday School substitute, and I believe I was especially late that morning-a good ten minutes. I burst into the room, only to find another teacher already in full swing. I hesitated, confusion clear on my face. The woman smiled and said, “Margie asked me to sub for this class last minute.” Then she kept right on teaching, never missing a beat. I backed out of the room and shut the door, too embarrassed to reply.
I was already terrified of Margie-she’s extremely brilliant when it come to theology, and always very direct in her opinions. Those kinds of people make me nervous, probably because I feel a constant need to please them. I knew I had let Margie down and that I needed to apologize, and I wasn’t looking forward to it.
I caught her after Sunday School and rushed up to her, starting my apology six feet before I actually reached her. Margie listened patiently until I took a breath. “Yes, well, that’s fine but when a teacher is ten minutes late, I have to assume she is not coming and I need to find a replacement. When you became seven minutes late, I brought in another teacher.” And that was that. I offered another quiet “I’m sorry” and slunk away.
A year later Margie and I actually roomed together at a women’s retreat-God sure has a way of forcing us to resolve conflict, doesn’t He? I had the absolute best time of my life, as Margie and I got to know each other. She had brought some cards and we invited some ladies to our room to play Spades until the break of dawn. Oh, that woman is a card shark!
I brought up that fateful Sunday morning to Margie the next night, and again apologized for my tardiness. Margie truly looked surprised-she confessed she didn’t remember that day at all, and had never held it against me. “I only have one child, but I remember when he was small and we couldn’t get out the door on time for anything,” she consoled me. “I’m sure I did say those words to you in that tone, and I am very sorry for that. I can be very blunt without meaning to.” Whew! I was literally blown away that this woman our pastor called The Presbyterian Princess was apologizing to me! (Side note: she was called the Presbyterian Princess with love because she studied the Bible and related books with great energy and attention. She also taught the most wonderful Thursday morning ladies’ Bible study.)
Soon after that retreat I was asked to coordinate a women’s event with a speaker. I suggested Margie. “Oh no-we can’t ask Margie! She’s so busy and wouldn’t have time for something so small and unimportant as our event. Besides, who would ask her? She intimidates everyone because she’s so smart and practically perfect!” I almost laughed out loud as I remembered my fabulous weekend with Margie the Card Shark who told us stories of her most embarrassing moments in her life. I hadn’t laughed that much in a very long time.
“I will ask her”, I replied, and the other ladies looked at me with fear in their eyes. “Okay,” they said, “But please tell her this was all your idea. Please tell her we didn’t want to bother her.” Internal eye roll on my part but I agreed to their conditions.
I called Margie that day and she was over the moon to be able to speak to the women in our church. “Why, no one has ever asked me to speak at one of our events! I’ll start working on my presentation this weekend. Thank you so much for this opportunity!” I told her if she kept her presentation reasonably short, we might even have time for a game of Spades, and Margie laughed.
I also began to prepare my introduction speech – I knew I had to bring up our initial meeting and our fun at the women’s retreat. I needed to spread the word about how wonderful Margie is, and that no one should be intimidated by her.
A few weeks later I stood in front of my sisters in Christ to introduce our speaker. The room was packed-everyone wanted to hear the Presbyterian Princess. I led our prayer and began my introduction. I told the story of that fateful Sunday morning and confessed my feelings for Margie at that time. I told the ladies that I walked away from my conversation with Margie thinking to myself Hmmmm…..I really don’t think I like that woman at all! Everyone laughed, except Margie-she looked uncomfortable.
Then I told of our wonderful weekend and that I brought up our first meeting and Margie remembered nothing. I told how she apologized and told me her own stories of being late and feeling she had failed as a mom. I told everyone about our lengthy Spades tournament and how much fun we had. The women were mesmerized – they definitely couldn’t believe Margie was as imperfect as they were. Then I hugged Margie and said I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to be our speaker that day. The ladies began to clap and many stood up. I think Margie had a tear (or two) in her eye.
Margie’s presentation was about the spiritual gifts God gives us, how each of us has them and that we are duty bound to figure out what they are and use them for His glory. She taught us how to discover our gifts and what we can do to use them in the church. She received a standing ovation when her presentation was over. I just had to hug her again!
Many women came up to Margie after her presentation, and I think it’s because they finally saw her a person and not a princess. They had figured out like I did that Margie might know more about the Bible than they do, but that’s a gift and not an intimidation tactic. Later Margie thanked me for asking her to present and she hoped we could have coffee soon. Wow-me and the Princess having coffee. That is just so cool.
I try to find lessons to learn in every story, but I feel pretty confident I don’t need to summarize here at the end. I think we all understand it pretty well. Now let’s go apply it.
Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post. Have you known a person that on the surface was someone you didn’t like but later decided you were wrong?