We missed her birthday.
For the last ten years, I have met fairly consistently with a small group of women for book studies, prayer support and social outings.
In February, I set up a coffee date for the three of us to meet on the 19th. We sat around the table, shared our hearts, laughed and left knowing better how to pray for one another.
A few hours later I got a text from one of the women sharing that she’d just been reminded that it was the other woman’s birthday. On the 19th. That day.
We didn’t just miss her birthday. We were together and we didn’t acknowledge it at all! We blew it.
It feels like there was plenty of room for our friend to be offended.
I now know that she did not leave our February date brewing and pouting over our misfire. Rather, she said she chose to accept things as they were and give thanks for the chance to be with us on her special day!
When we recognized the error of our ways and apologized profusely, she admitted that she was surprised during lunch that we weren’t acknowledging her birthday (a new version of “surprise party,” I guess), which I appreciated. She didn’t deny her feelings and sugar coat the reality, and she also didn’t attempt to “make” us feel worse. Just honesty, authenticity and grace.
The experience reminded me of a sermon our pastor recently preached on giving up our right to be offended.
Pastor Craig shared an illustration from Andy Stanley by placing three music stands on the stage. The left one held a sign saying, “Expectations,” the right, “Experience,” and the middle a placard with “Believe the best” on one side and “Assume the worst” on the other.
He explained that when our experiences with others don’t line up with our expectations, we have a critical choice to make. When your friends don’t even say happy birthday, a decision is required.
Will I believe the best or assume the worst? (I do appreciate Stanley’s proviso that we continue to believe the best until it’s unwise or unsafe to do so.)
Fortunately for us, our friend chose to believe the best. She knows that we love her, that we had no ill intent, and that we simply forgot her birthday. We’ve apologized, talked it through, laughed heartily and… set reminders in our phones for next year.
It’s been a bold reminder how every day I get to choose: to be offended, or not to be (and extend grace). Having so recently been a recipient of extravagant grace, I hope I can offer the same to others.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst