“I’m going to do it this time.” I said to myself.
Being a writer led to a hermit lifestyle. When I realized I was withdrawing from society, I applied to the local newspaper. It’s a tiny thing, hardly a window in the building. When I was handed an application, I stared at the blank spaces, desiring to represent myself well but having nothing to say. Life was blowing by me while I huddled in a blanket and created worlds which did not exist. I could lie, but I did not do that sort of thing. I could phone in a favor with my rich father, but once more, I did not do that.
Leaving mostly emptiness on the form, I migrated to the reception desk and turned in my resume with it. I saw the man himself approaching, the one in charge.
I encouraged myself to speak up, “Come on, Ellie, you can do this. Best foot forward.”
He spoke first. “Hello there. I’m Tom Hanford. You’re applying to be a content writer, I see. Do you have any experience?”
I nudged myself. “Not really.” I instantly regretted my closed-lipped reply.
“I understand. Do you have any work with you?” Tom kindly proceeded.
Thankfully, this was something I could do. I never left my house without three ideas stuffed into my oversized tote. I thrust them at him, feeling a piece of my soul transfer to him as I did so. Why was it so hard to communicate? I could not break free of this voluntary muteness.
“Wow! These look great.” Tom had a good eye. “I’ll review the forms and give you a call!”
I mumbled a farewell, and off I went, confident I would never receive that call. I was proven wrong a week later, and I had my extrovert outlet. Problem was, I possessed not one single extrovert gene in my body.
“Listen, Ellie. You were chosen for this. Not to hide from the world but to go into the world. Not to be like the world but to show the world Jesus.” I would regularly berate myself.
That was a month ago. Now here I was, sitting in my Corolla, drumming up the energy to enter my place of work yet again. I loved writing the articles. I loved researching the information. I loved living vicariously through my stories. I did not love talking to my coworkers.
“Just start with, ‘Hello!’” I gave myself a pep talk. “Follow that with, ‘How are you?’. They will say, ‘Fine, and you?’. You can do this, Ellie! It’s Monday morning, a clean slate! Remember what Pastor Cortez spoke about yesterday? The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say when it’s time, but you have to open your mouth. You have to try!”
I sighed and pushed out of the car. Would today be different than any other?
“Morning!” Jeremiah called.
“Hey there!” Mary sang.
In my head, I was saying, “How’s it going? Y’all have a good weekend?” Did any of that come out? Nope. Not one word exited my lips. My bobbing nod was all I could manage.
The remaining crew, Jacob and Peter, stood by the water cooler near the restrooms. Fortunately, they merely waved. I shuffled to my desk in the far corner, mumbling as I went.
“When Mary comes over, at least mention Sunday. Mention your church’s name. Mention your Pastor’s sermon. Something!” I argued with my introverted nature.
Per the usual routine, Mary sashayed to my desk, bright and bubbly. “Elizabeth! How are you, girl? Get out much over the weekend?”
Why had I never corrected them and told them I preferred Ellie? I forced myself to respond. “Good, not much.” I grimaced. Even for me, that was sparse. I had to do better if I were going to tackle witnessing next. “And you?” There, I had inquired after her wellbeing.
“Oh, you know me! Around town on the weekends is what I live for!”
Internally, I pondered if she was getting true satisfaction from those outings. Did Mary feel loved and protected? What came out was quite different.
She hopped away. I heard Jeremiah’s squeaky swivel chair lean towards Mary. The good-natured banter continued for an hour. I could consistently ignore that. However, suddenly, the mood seemed to shift. I glanced to Jeremiah’s body language and observed his clinching fist and tapping foot. Was he nervous or what? I had never seen him unsure but always overbearing and confident. Straining, I caught some of his whispered words to Mary.
“…got 3 months to live. How am I going to move on? Taking care of my mother has been hard, but I would prefer her here with me than gone!” He mussed his hair desperately.
Mary’s cooing comfort portrayed her lack of understanding. “She won’t know anything after she’s gone! Won’t you be ok with her not experiencing anymore pain?”
I choked on my thoughts. “But does his mother remember an occasion when she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior? Has she repented from misdeeds and looked to God for forgiveness?” I could say this aloud, right?
Just as soon as I had convinced myself to rise, Jeremiah scurried for the bathroom. He must be sincerely torn up about this. Maybe, tomorrow I could catch him early on his way in to work. Having this conversation off schedule would be the wisest decision for my job too.
The idea had merit, but it never came to fruition. The next day and the next turned out the same. I would gear up for my great reveal at 6:30am.
“I’m a Christian!” I would announce to my bathroom mirror, but by 8:00a.m. my courage had vanished.
Two weeks later, I arrived in time to notice Jeremiah going through the front doors of the news building ahead of me. I approached cautiously, hardly containing the electric excitement coursing through me.
“Ask about his mother before anyone else comes in!”
The pushing and prodding from deep within began to unnerve me. I felt compelled, like this was my last chance. That made little sense, considering Jeremiah had mentioned the 3-month life expectancy. When I entered, I glimpsed him filling his canteen from the water cooler. Each step towards him painfully gutted me. What if he laughed? What if he got angry? What if he reported me to Tom?
With deep breaths, I put gumption into my voice. “How are you?” That was a start.
Jeremiah jerked, sloshing some brownish liquid over the side of his bottle. Was he adding water to his tea or something? He evaded eye contact. “Alright, I guess. How about you?”
“Good, I…um… wanted to ask…” I stumbled. How was I going to phrase this again? My brain raced through disaster scenarios, never landing, never quieting. “…Oh, never mind! It’s not important.”
I hustled to safety, right as Mary barged through the front doors.
“Not important??” I hissed to myself. “That was going to be the most important topic he discussed… EVER!” Not wanting to further upset myself, I ignored the continual poking inside and finished my day without completing this Holy assignment.
Tomorrow dawned on my new resolution. “I will not leave that building without talking to Jeremiah about God!”
I beat a fast pace to my workplace, determination flowing. What killed my momentum was the lack of Jeremiah. Where was he? He was never late!
“Mary!” I approached, finally ready to begin my new role. “Where’s Jeremiah?”
She raised her eyebrows at me, shocked at the inquiry. “Well, unfortunately, he will be out for a little while. Called Tom to share his mom had passed away, but…” She halted for dramatic effect and leaned closer. “…he said he needed to seek help. He wasn’t dealing with it well.”
I gasped. An invisible fist clenched my throat. Forgoing a reply, I booked it for the restroom stall. How could I have been so naïve? Believing I had all the time in the world, I wasted the precious moments presented to me. The whirling chaos inside could have been silenced by the Holy Spirit’s guiding words, yet here I stood on this side of eternity, too late to breach the gap between an unsaved soul and hell. Poor Jeremiah! What I had deemed unnecessary had become his only hope, but I had passed on my opportunity to share it with him.
“Oh, Lord! Forgive my fainting humanity! I throw myself on the seat of Your mercy! Empower me to show Your love.”
I wiped my tears and humbly returned to Mary’s side. Her eyes searched my own, looking for the reason behind the change she saw in me.
“Have I ever told you about the One who saved my life? His name is Jesus. I would like for you to meet Him as well. Can I tell you what He’s done for me?”
My aching regrets were being soothed by the Lord’s forgiving grace, but the proof of true repentance came from my transforming rhetoric. May I live each day as if it were my neighbor’s last!